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Rowland Hill
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Bureaucrat
    (December 3, 1795-August 27, 1879)
    Born in Kidderminster, England, United Kingdom
    Educator and postal reformer
    Founded Hazelwood School in suburban Manchester (1819)
    Wrote the pamphlets ‘Public Education’ (1822) and ‘Post Office Reform: Its Importance and Practicability’ (1837)
    British Postal Administrator (1839-42)
    He was a child prodigy.
    When he became interested in surveying, he woke up his students at 3 AM on three successive mornings to help survey Birmingham.
    A popular, but almost certainly bogus, story claimed that he became interested in postal reform after seeing a young woman unable to afford the postage due on a letter sent to her by her fiancé. (In some versions, Hill gallantly paid for the letter, after which the woman confessed that the message from her fiancé had actually been written in code on the outside of the envelope.)
    The Postmaster General, Lord Lichfield, denounced his ‘wild and visionary scheme.’
    He became a teacher in his father’s school at age twelve.
    His proposed postal reforms included basing the postage rate on the weight of the letter or package rather than the distance it traveled; having postage paid by the sender instead of the recipient; and the use of prepaid letter sheets or adhesive stamps to show that payment had been made.
    Thanks to his reforms, the cost of mailing a half-ounce letter dropped from four cents to a penny (1840).
    Despite the reduced rates, the postal system made money, thanks to increased volume, clerks no longer spending their time looking up distances between post offices to determine rates, and a massive reduction in letters being returned to their senders.

Credit: C. Fishel


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