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10 Facts About the History of Mail Distribution

  • 3 min read
  • Mailing

Mail distribution has a long and often comical history. This week, we look at ten facts you may not have known about where the modern postage system came from.

  1. The first recorded mail distribution system was invented in Egypt in 2400 BC

It was used by Pharaohs to distribute their decrees.

  1. The first widespread use of a postal system comes from Ancient Persia

In 550 BC King Cyrus the Great decreed that every province in the kingdom needed to organise a mail reception and delivery service to it’s citizens. Negotiations with neighbouring countries were also undertaken to extend out the mail routes and a road was built between Western Iran and the Eastern city of Hakha to facilitate delivery.

  1. Mail hasn’t always been delivered in a truck

Homing pigeons or the ‘pigeon post’ was heavily used throughout the Middle Ages and prior. Some other mail delivery methods include submarine, mule, rocket, dogsled, ski, and pneumatic tubes.

  1. The Hope Diamond was sent to the Smithsonian via post

Valued at between $200-250 million dollars, it was mailed to the museum in 1958 in a plain brown box.

  1. The Israeli postal service delivers letters addressed to ‘God’ to the Western Wall

Every year the postal service receives over 1,000 letters addressed to the almighty, but instead of disposing or archiving them workers open them and put the letters in cracks within the Western Wall which encases the Temple Mount, where in Judaism is believed to be the place where God’s divine presence manifests more than anywhere else.

  1. Australia’s postal service was started by a former convict

In 1809, former convict Isaac Nichols was put in charge of mail arriving in the colony of New South Wales. The names of people who had received mail were advertised in the Sydney Gazette and could be collected from Nichols home at a cost of a shilling per letter with parcels costing more depending on weight.

  1. In America, it is legal to send live animals in the mail

Provided the animal can survive in transit without food or water, is not dangerous, diseased, bad smelling or loud.

  1. Until 1915, it was also legal to post a human in America

This was taken advantage of once in 1914 when parents decided to save on the train fare and post their 5-year-old daughter May to her grandparents. She rode in the mail car and was delivered to the house of her grandparents by the mail clerk.

  1. 1872 saw the invention of the mail order catalogue

It was a single piece pf paper measuring 8X12 inches, with pictures of merchandise for sale and ordering instructions.

  1. The Melbourne General Post Office opened to the public in 1867

Visitors however did not go inside the building but rather made purchases from stamp windows along the footpath. The GPO’s bell tower also played entertaining tunes every quarter hour.