Interesting Facts about Courier and Postal Delivery Systems in the Past

Being in the technological age, we send and share things with each other instantaneously every day without giving it a second thought. Email and other forms of communication has enabled us to connect with people everywhere – we can share photos, stories, videos and we can even chat to people over Skype on the other side of the world. However, how did a courier company operates in the past? In old days, transporting goods including letters and packages was needed in order to communicate and connect on this level.

The invention of email and even the ability to share photos and other important things has also meant that less people are sending letters and even packages in the traditional sense. But the emergence of eCommerce and online stores has settled the score somewhat as people are buying more online, meaning courier companies and post offices are busier than ever before.

Let’s take a look at some funny facts about postal systems in the old days:

Carrier pigeons

Pigeons were relied upon to deliver letters for many years, particularly in war times. There is evidence to indicate that this means of communication was used more than 3,000 years ago, with many different cultures and civilizations using them. It is said that this method started in ancient Persian civilizations. Julius Cesar and Genghis Khan were among the great leaders that had well-established carrier pigeon systems.

Although courier delivery time was long, this means of communication was surprisingly very effective and reliable, and flying to a certain location became second nature to a well-trained pigeon, much like does migrating to certain areas as the seasons change for wild birds. Pigeons can carry around 80 grams after training.


Horses have obviously been a hugely important carrier in the history of transport. Before the use of motorized vehicles, a horse was a great asset and could be used to get around, transport many letters/packages and pull heavy weights. A horse and cart could be used to transport mail great distances. The first evidence of a large spanning courier service available to the public was set up the 15th century throughout Europe, and this was completely horse based. However, smaller postal systems had been established, even in ancient civilizations. In the 700’s BC, the Persian people had a horse postal system where riders would ride from one station to another, get a fresh horse and continue. Some people still use horses to relay messages in rural parts of the world.

Other Animals

Pigeons and horses are perhaps the most well-known animal for delivering messages, however many other animals were used to deliver large quantities of mail. Some of the popular ones include camels (in Australia’s desert), dogs and reindeer, each of which have been more effective depending on the climate and area. In colder regions, dog-sleds were commonly used to transport messages, letters and other goods.

Human runners are one of many that have been utilized and it was common in ancient times to send a human messenger to an enemy to plot out terms for a war and our settlement. At times rulers would kill messengers if they brought bad news, hence the phrase “shooting the messenger”.

Corruption in the system

Prior to the 1800’s, even well-established postal systems were corrupt and disorganized. For one, it was very difficult for the lower classes to be able to afford to send goods and correspondence due to the huge prices that were charged. In England, letters and packages would actually be charged to the receiver according to a complicated algorithm that took into account the number of pages of the letter, how long it had traveled and other factors.  The idea of pre-paying for stamps really revolution the industry, making it all the more affordable.

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