From the Pony Express to Same Day Delivery Service: A Brief History of Package Delivery Options In the U.S.

Pull your face out of the window and back to the screen. Two-day shipping means two days, not two minutes.

To keep these kids now-a-daze from thinking anything they type anything into an Amazon search bar will show up at their house within 48 hours, we present a brief history of package delivery.

From humble beginnings on horseback, to a $1 trillion industry, mail service has always rooted itself in one main principle: all mail is created actual.

The History of Package Delivery – A Timeline

Egypt, 2400 BC – Pharaohs sent runners or couriers to disperse their decrees throughout their territory, organizing the first courier service in history.

Early Colonial Times – Native Americans, slaves, and merchants carry messages throughout the colonies.

Boston, 1639 – Mail service is established in a tavern by the General Court of Massachusetts. The tavern acts as a repository for international mail.

New York, 1673 – Francis Lovelace, the governor of New York, establishes a monthly postal delivery service between New York and Boston. Couriers ride on horseback along part of current day U.S. Route 1.

Pennsylvania, 1683 – Governor William Penn opens the state’s first Post Office.

1692 – Thomas Neale organizes a postal delivery system that expands to the central colonies with the help of a grant from the British Crown.

1707 – The British government takes control of the postal system and appoints John Hamilton as Postmaster General.

1774 – William Goddard comes up with the idea of a Constitutional Post for mail delivery service within the colonies. 

Philadelphia, United Colonies, July 26, 1775 – The Second Continental Congress officially establishes the role of Postmaster General.

He 1. definitely has to be a guy, 2. got a 1,000 salary, a secretary and Comptroller, and 3. was in charge of designing delivery routes between Falmouth, New England and Savannah, Georgia.

Benjamin Franklin serves as Postmaster General for the first 15 months. Once the constitution officially declares our country the United States of America, Franklin appoints Samuel Osgood to the position. 

The President of the United States remains responsible for appointing Postmaster General as part of their Cabinet for the next 196 years.

Congress, 1781 – Congress assumes control over “establishing and regulating post offices … throughout all the United States,” (Article IX).

1785 – Stagecoaches begin transporting mail. The Continental Congress attempts to grown and support stagecoach lines by favoring this more expensive and less fitting form of mail transportation. 

1792 – Several laws known as the Private Express Statues restrict package delivery by parties other than the Postal Service, establishing a monopoly over the industry. 

1799 – Package delivery options are by number of sheets and distance. For instance, it costs a quarter to send one sheet more than 500 miles.

Washington, D.C., 1800 – As the new house of the government, the Post Office relocates by two horse-drawn wagons from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C.

1803 – The Louisiana Purchase expands United States territory and package delivery service routes. 

1811 – Rowboats are replaces with steamboats for faster package delivery than ever. 

1822 – Package delivery from Washington, D.C., to Nashville takes only 11 days.

1823 – Post roads expand by more than 25,000 miles in less than a decade. Waterways are declared official post roads.

Honesdale, Pennsylvania, August, 1829 – The Stourbridge Lion chugs along the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company Road, foreshadowing the used of train for package delivery.

1831 – 76% of civilians in the federal workforce are postal employees.

November 30, 1832 – The Post Office Department allows stagecoach contractors to transport mail via the railroad. 

New Salem, Illinois, May 7, 1833 – Abraham Lincoln is appointed Postmaster General.

1845 – Rates are now based on weight and distance. In an effort to save money, some people cross-wrote letters. This means they filled a page from left to right, then turned the paper from portrait to landscape and continue writing over the first half of the letter.

This is also the year that Congress lowered the rate of advertisements and other circulars in the mail. This was an attempt to recoup some lost revenue that now went to private package delivery companies. 

California, January 24, 1848 – The Gold Rush sends some 300,000 Americans to California, expanding the need for mail service to the west coast. 

1849 – The number of letters sent throughout the United States via U.S. mail increases by 37.5 million over the past six years.

California, 1852 – Wells Fargo opens 12 offices to provide national package delivery service. They claim to specialize in shipping gold dust and bullion, and their package delivery options welcome packages and parcels of all kinds. 

1855 – Rates change again. Package delivery now costs three cents for half an ounce to travel up to 3,000 miles. 

April 3, 1860 – The Pony Express is established.

New York, July 1, 1861 – The Pony Express promises your letters will get to San Francisco in only 10 days. $1 for letters weighing half an ounce or less and a dollar more for every additional half ounce or fraction of an ounce. 

October 26, 1861 – The Pony Express is dismantled due to the completion of the transcontinental telegraph line.

March 3, 1863 – 12 Statute 704 sets delivery service costs to be based on weight alone and establishes mail classes. 

  • First Class Mail – Mostly letters
  • Second Class Mail – Periodicals and other regular publications
  • Third Class Mail – Package delivery and anything else that could be mailed

Promontory Summit, Utah, May 10, 1869 – The central and Union pacific railroads join, transforming the model of package delivery across the country.

Congress, June 8, 1872 – The Post Office Department becomes an executive department.

Long Island, New York, 1911 – The Post Office Department conducts an experimental mail flight.

January 1, 1913 – Parcel Post, a service accommodating package delivery for parcels over four pounds. 

Congress, 1916 – Air mail service budget of $50,000 is approved. 

August 1, 1931 – Weight limit accommodated by Parcel Post grows to 70 pounds. 

1971 – The U.S. Post Office Department becomes U.S.P.S. The President is no longer responsible for appointing Postmaster General.

1987 – Need It Now Courier’s Air Freight package delivery service is established.

2013 – Walmart provides same day delivery on packages from their stores. Jeff Bezos announced the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) for a rapid package delivery option. 

2014 – U.S.P.S. ships Amazon orders with same day delivery to 15 cities. 

February 1, 2015 – The first female Postmaster General, Megan J. Brennan, is appointed by the Governors of the USPS.

Present Day Package Delivery

Congrats on being born in the modern era, where services like same day delivery and package tracking features actually exist. 

Need It Now Deliveries operates 24/7, delivering packages to the U.S. and Canada the very same day. Take your business and shipping needs to the next level with superior national and international shipping on all your big ticket orders.

Ship now for world class package delivery your customers will love.