A (Very) Brief History of Couriers
3 Mar

A (Very) Brief History of Couriers

SMEX 24/7 Messenger Service has been around a long time, thirty-two years to be exact. But couriers have existed for thousands of years. We decided to delve into the history of the courier world, going back way before our time to when it wasn’t yet an international industry.

Running Messengers

In many early civilizations young men called “running messengers” were the only way to send letters and packages. These runners were highly trained to cover long distances to deliver news of the time, legal summons, love letters, military orders and any other kind of message. Taking messages from one village to another, many running message services were very sophisticated. Runners from different towns or tribes would meet at pre-arranged destinations to exchange letters and packages. There are few records of these runners, but there is evidence from cultures all around the world, including the Greeks dating back as far as 400 B.C., and many Native American And South American cultures. After all, the English word courier comes from the Latin word “Currere” meaning “to run.” That Latin word also gives us words like “current” and “course.”

Post Riders

Once horses became the primary mode of transportation, the natural replacement for runners was horseback riders. In a similar fashion, post riders used a network of meeting spots to deliver and exchange messages from their respective towns. Eventually these networks became intricate, using dedicated routes with distance markers and post houses. Even inns were a place for post riders to meet and exchange packages as well as rest on their respective journeys. There were also times when wealthy landowners would take on the responsibility of sending their own messages, oftentimes sensitive or secret information. These men would complete the routes by themselves rather than entrusting their package to a post rider. Couriers worked throughout Europe and the rest of the world, providing dynasties from the Romans to the Elizabethans with important communication networks.

National Post Service (By Ships & Trains)

It wasn’t until the mid 17th century that a post service was opened up by Charles I for general use in England. In the early stages, only wealthy families could afford the postage charges, which were generally paid for by the recipient and not the sender. But as time went on, post services became available to all and were pre-paid when the Penny Post was introduced in 1680. Various reforms improved the postal service, including the means to send post to British colonies overseas and eventually to countries outside the British Empire. At this point, couriers were ships and, later, trains, which quickened the delivery of post and packages by a tremendous amount.

Couriers Become Privatized

Wells Fargo was the earliest known private express company and was founded in 1852. During that time, the industry was unregulated and packages were delivered manually from door to door. However with the passage of time, the industry has adapted technologically and now makes use of sophisticated equipment and networks to ensure fast and timely delivery. Globalization and the growth in e-commerce among various economies across the globe has helped shape the highly competitive courier service industry that we know today.

Today’s couriers specialize in delivering packages quickly and safely, offering a speedier alternative to the traditional post system. Couriers use established networks, just as post riders did, and can also deliver packages in one place and pick up other packages for the return journey, using the same efficient methods as the original running messengers. Couriers and their work are continually evolving, which is why choosing the right courier for your business could make a real difference to you and your customers.

In 1984, SMEX 24/7 Messenger Service opened for business. These days we primarily use cars, trucks and vans as our modes of transportation. But we remain just as committed as Young Pheidippides when he ran from Marathon to Athens in 440 B.C. to give the joyous message of the Greek victory over Persia. So do not hesitate to call us when you need a reliable messenger service. Cheers!

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