8 things you probably never knew about the history of couriers

Everybody knows by now what a courier is and what they do, right? That is pretty much a given, but how many people know the history of couriers? Probably not many, and that’s ok because it is pretty boring. However, that being said, there are some pretty interesting things that many do not know about and that we would like to share with you.

From hand-delivering message, on foot, through the streets of ancient Greece to the (inevitable?) rise of large, multinational companies such as UPS and FedEx. The courier industry is now, and has been for some time now, an important and integral part of a functional society.

Here then are our 8 interesting facts about the history of couriers

  1. Do you know why a marathon is 26 miles long? A courier in the times of ancient Greece, Pheidippides went on a little run. Specifically, he ran from Marathon, Greece, all the way to Athens – a distance of 26 miles. He made the run to tell the people of Athens that the Greeks had defeated Persia in the Greco-Persian war.
  1. Courier services themselves originated in Persia. In around 400 BC, Prince Cyrus the Younger enlisted runners, men on horseback and homing pigeons. These assets were put to use delivering important messages throughout the kingdom and further afield.
  2. It was only a matter of time, but the horse finally replaced foot couriers. The Greeks together with the Romans quickly made horse and chariot the most widespread delivery method.
  1. Apart from the obvious (if you don’t know, we aren’t telling), courier services are probably one of the oldest professions there is. By the time Middle Ages rolled around, being a courier was a vocation and the royal courts of the time would pay them a wage to deliver parcels for them.
  2. As old as the industry is, there were not any actual courier services in the west until much later. In the US for example, it wasn’t until the 1800s that couriers became a thing. The first company in the US that delivered packages was established by Wells Fargo in 1982. As you might expect, it wasn’t very timely or reliable – that is, by today’s standards.
  3. Did you know that one of the largest delivery companies in the world was started by two teenage boys? UPS – the United Parcel Service – was founded in 1907 in Seattle.
  1. You may have heard of something called the Pony Express. This was a courier service in the US, formed at the start of the Civil War and the Gold Rush in California. The Pony Express is credited for transforming courier services in the US, in terms of speed and efficiency. Their couriers were able to cross from the West coast to the East coast, with their entrusted parcels, in just 10 days. They were able to move so incredibly quickly because they exclusively used horseback, as opposed to the stagecoach.
  1. An actual employment advertisement for the Pony Express, reads: “Wanted: Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.”. You won’t see a job ad like that in the paper today!

There are many other little titbits about this ancient industry, but let’s leave it there before you get bored. If you need courier services yourself, get in touch with Speed Couriers today for an informal chat about your requirements.

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