A Brief History of Courier Service


We take many things for granted these days, never realizing how great we have it. Past generations did not have many of the conveniences that we use every day. Transportation is one area that has changed drastically over the decades and improvements have affected many areas of life, including the speed at which we receive packages. Evolution of transportation methods has transformed the courier service industry, making it faster and more convenient than ever before.

Early Days of Courier Service

Couriers have been around for hundreds of years, the earliest being runners, horseback riders, and trusty homing pigeons that delivered messages in what was then considered a timely manner. These were the days before mechanized transportation was available so foot messengers ran for miles to reach their destinations, with very little reward. Even exclusive messengers of royal courts during the Middle Ages were poorly paid for all their travels.

This industry played a prominent role in many historical events in American history including the settler migration westward and the gold rush era. Small courier companies were established during the late 19th century, using stagecoaches to carry personal messages to homes where phone service was not yet available. Some couriers delivered packages, luggage, or even gold. The Pony Express was later established to transport these items more quickly.

Motorized Vehicles Improve Courier Service

The inventions of railroads and automobiles took this industry to the next level. Once interstate highways were built, couriers could travel across the country via smooth blacktop with packages in tow. Bicycle and motorcycle couriers began popping up in large cities, transporting documents and other packages from one end of town to the other. Airplanes were eventually commissioned to deliver packages quickly over the longest distances.

Mail-order retail business and increasing postal rates caused couriers to diversify and become more competitive. The lines between transport methods blurred, with couriers performing some of the same services as trucking transport companies and even the U.S. Postal Service. The largest commercial couriers increased the speed of their package delivery and smaller operations offered a wider array of services to meet local needs.

Today, the courier industry is valued at approximately $59 billion, a figure that foot messengers never fathomed. Businesses in nearly every industry use these transport services to deliver documents and packages to each other or to customers. Millions of private consumers use couriers to transport letters, gifts, and other items to each other across the country and across the world.


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