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History of parcel delivery and couriers: most important developments

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Written by Ecoparcel August 11, 2021

Nowadays a good parcel delivery service is taken for granted. When we buy something online, we expect safety, speed and precision when it comes to getting them to us and that 's not without reason.

After all, the shipping industry as a whole has developed massively and the usage of technology has enabled us as courier companies to achieve such high standards.

However, things weren 't always like that, especially back in the day. Today we want to take a look at some interesting facts from the history of couriers and parcel delivery.

Turns out, the historical aspects of delivery are quite vast and fascinating, so we 're sure a lot of readers will find them quite interesting!

Anyway, here are some historical facts about parcel delivery.

Origin of the word courier has nothing to do with packages

People who eventually became known as couriers were in fact runners, who delivered important messages or news. The word itself comes from the latin "currere" which directly translates as "to run".

So technically these runners could be considered as the first "courier service" in the world. Only later on did deliveries become more sophisticated and well thought out and the role of the courier became more important as you 'll see later on.

The courier profession dates back to the ancient civilizations

As historical material illustrates, the first people who 've worked as couriers were those from the earliest of civilizations.

In fact, the first recorded mention of a courier comes from Ancient Egypt dating back to 2400 BC. Pharaohs of the time often used such people as messengers.

Later on, Ancient Greek and Roman civilizations implemented news methods into the industry as chariots and horses became standard for couriers delivering urgent messages, news or even military commands.

Historians generally agree that the role of the courier was permanently stamped during this exact period.

Modern delivery services originated in the US

The courier service as we know today is said to have been in the United States in the 19th century. In fact, the first official package delivery company in the world is considered to be Wells Fargo, which opened its doors in 1852.

Later on of course, the company changed its focus to finance and investments, for which it is quite famous to this day.

However, another important player in the history of delivery services is far less known. In fact, the company went bankrupt in less than 2 years.

We are of course talking about The Pony Express, a small courier service which made its name during the American Civil War and California Gold Rush, where it took upon many dangerous tasks and implemented methods which greatly transformed delivery speed and efficiency.

It 's personnel, for example, could deliver a package from the West to the East coast in just 10 days, which was unseen before then.

Later on, at the break of the 20th century, more and more focus on the delivery industry was made.

In 1907, two teenage couriers founded what was then called the American Messenger Company and proceeded to carry out deliveries themselves by bike or on foot.

Not being afraid of risks, innovation and modern solutions, the business eventually grew into an enormous delivery corporation called United Parcel Service or UPS for short. Considering that the boys started with just a hundred dollars in their pocket, that 's quite an achievement.

All in all

Today we 've talked about the most important aspects in the history of couriers.

Being an ancient profession, it went from delivery of messages and documents to the gigantic industry that we know of today and we couldn 't be more proud being part of it and helping customers deliver and receive their goods!