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Couriers From The Past

Today's couriers use advanced logistics to keep their customers happy, but their businesses stem from humble roots.

For hundreds of years, people have needed to ensure that letters or packages reach their destination as quickly and securely as possible. Today's couriers and their customers rely on technology and sophisticated transport networks to deliver items with speed and efficiency, but these options simply weren't available to their fore-runners.

Couriers Then And Now

  • Running messengers - for many early civilisations, running messengers were the only form of courier service, taking messages from one tribe or village to another. Some running message services were quite sophisticated, using runners that would meet at pre-agreed places and times and exchange messages; making the most efficient use of the time and effort involved. This was recorded both in the Native American population and in the civilisations of South America, as well as in some Greek history.
  • The post rider - once horses became the primary mode of transport, it was natural that riders should replace runners as couriers. Again, intricate networks of post riders were formed in order to transport messages and packages securely and quickly. A post rider network used dedicated routes, with direction and distance markers, and gradually also with post houses or inns along the way where riders could meet to exchange messages, or rest during a long journey. Of course, other couriers were in use at the same time, and those carrying sensitive or secret information would complete the route 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.
  • Post office couriers - in the mid 17th century, a post service was opened up for general use in the UK by Charles I. Initially, only the wealthy could afford the postage charges, which were generally paid for by the recipient and not the sender, but as time went on, the 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. Couriers at this point were ships and, later, trains, which made the delivery of post and packages far quicker.

Today's couriers - couriers in today's world specialise 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 a specialist courier for your business could make a real difference to you and your customers.

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