The History of Envelopes and Mailing
Most people collect the day's mail with little thought as to how it got there, but the history behind today's mail system is fascinating and worth knowing. This article will teach you about the history of mail, envelopes, and the the modern mail system we know today.
The History of Mail
The practice of distributing a written note almost certainly dates back to soon after the written word was invented. The first known courier system came into place in ancient Egypt, where Pharaohs used couriers to deliver important decrees to all the settlements in the Pharaoh's territory.
In the US, mail systems were in place before federation. Messages were passed along by merchants, slaves and Native Americans until they reached their intended recipient. For a short time, a postal service nicknamed "The Pony Express" had riders on 400 horses delivering mail to farther-flung destinations, boasting that a piece of mail could get from Missouri to California in just ten days.
In 1775, the founding fathers conceived of a national mail service, which eventually became the United States Postal Service (USPS) we know today. In the 18th century, mail was distributed in cases; in the 19th century, steamboats, trains and automobiles carried the mail, and airplanes carry most US mail today. The introduction of computerized equipment to help sort and distribute mail was perhaps the greatest breakthrough in mail technology in the 20th century.
The History of Envelopes
In the early days of mail service, people would simply fold their notes over and fix them with a wax seal before putting them in the mail. Until 1845, all envelopes were handmade, but as envelopes came into fashion with the upper classes and eventually the middle class, a large number of manufacturers began competing to build an automatic envelope-making machine. The first patent for a windowed envelope was issued in 1902. Window envelopes have a small plastic pane that fits an address printed onto the letter inside. Windowed envelopes soon became the standard for business envelopes, as they reduce the time and cost required to send mail while still ensuring it gets delivered to its intended destination.
Modern Envelopes and Mailing
Today, the USPS has more than 40,000 post offices around the United States, and delivers 158 billion pieces of mail - more than 40% of the entire world's mail - each year. Although this number seems staggering - it adds up to 523 million pieces of mail per day - it actually represents the lowest volume of mail that USPS has delivered in more than a decade. The advent of email is the biggest threat to the survival of the postal service, as many businesses in particular see huge cost savings contacting their customers via email compared to regular mail. The postal service is the largest civilian employer in the US, with over 700,000 people working for USPS. Letter carriers and truck drivers drive 4 million miles per day delivering mail.
Current USPS Mailing Regulations
USPS offers three services for letters: First Class Mail, which usually arrives at its destination in 2-3 days; Priority Mail, with a 2-day guarantee, and Express Mail, with guaranteed next day delivery. Large or bulky envelopes not sent by Priority or Express mail may be sent as packages, with the appropriate postage determined by weight.