Mail history: from three to e-mail. Pigeon mail. Postcards. Mail delivery

History 2023

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Mail history: from three to e-mail. Pigeon mail. Postcards. Mail delivery
Mail history: from three to e-mail. Pigeon mail. Postcards. Mail delivery

People have always needed to share information. That is why the history of mail began long before the appearance of writing and letters familiar to modern man. In ancient times, voice was used to transmit news. This method was preserved in some regions until the Middle Ages. For example, in the Inca Empire for many centuries there were herald messengers who spread news from the capital, moving around the country using a network of branched mountain roads. Later, they began to use knot writing, in which cords and threads acted as a carrier of information.

Cuneiform Tablets

The first writing system in the classical sense of the word is cuneiform. With its appearance about 3 thousand years BC. e. mail history has moved to a fundamentally new level. Cuneiform writing spread among the peoples of ancient Mesopotamia: the Sumerians, Akkadians, Babylonians, Hittites.

The messages were written with a wooden stick on clay tablets while the clay kept its softness. Due to the specific instrumentation, characteristic wedge-shaped strokes arose. Envelopes for such letters were also made of clay. To read the message, the addressee had tobreak the "package".

The ancient history of mail has long remained virtually unknown. A great contribution to its study was made by the opening of the library of the last great king of Assyria, Ashurbanipal, who ruled in the 7th century. BC e. By his order, an archive of 25,000 clay tablets was created. Among the cuneiform texts were both government documents and ordinary letters. The library was opened in the 19th century. Thanks to a unique find, it was possible to decipher the cuneiform script that was previously incomprehensible to translators.

mail history

Shells and drawings

The Huron Indians made do with shell beads. They were strung on threads and so they received whole letters. Each plate had a specific color. Black meant death, red meant war, yellow meant tribute, etc. The ability to read such colored belts was considered a privilege and wisdom.

Mail history has passed and the "illustrated" stage. Before writing letters, people learned to draw. The rock art of the ancients, samples of which are still found in remote caves, is also a kind of mail that went to the modern addressee for generations. The language of drawings and tattoos is still preserved among isolated Polynesian tribes.

Alphabet and sea mail

The ancient Egyptians had their own unique writing system. In addition, they developed pigeon mail. The Egyptians used hieroglyphs to convey information. Much less known is the fact that it was this people who created the first prototype of the alphabet. Among the numerous hieroglyphs-drawings, they hadhieroglyphs that conveyed sounds (there were 24 in total).

In the future, this principle of encryption was developed by other peoples of the Ancient East. The first alphabet proper is considered to be an alphabet that appeared in the city of Ugarit on the territory of modern Syria around the 15th century. BC e. A similar system then spread to other Semitic languages.

The Phoenicians had their own alphabet. This trading people became famous for their skillful shipbuilders. Sailors delivered mail to numerous colonies in different parts of the Mediterranean. On the basis of the Phoenician alphabet, the Aramaic and Greek alphabets arose, from which almost all modern writing systems originate.


Angarion is an ancient Persian postal service established in the Achaemenid Empire in the 6th century BC. BC e. It was established by King Cyrus II the Great. Prior to this, the delivery of mail from one end of the state to the other could take months, which categorically did not suit the authorities.

During the time of Cyrus, hangars appeared (the so-called horse couriers). The postal business of that era gave the first sprouts of military field mail, which still exists today. The longest road of the angarion stretched from Susa to Sardis, and its length was 2500 kilometers. The huge route was divided into a hundred stations, where horses and couriers changed. With this efficient system, the Persian kings passed orders to their satraps in the farthest provinces of the vast empire without hindrance.

Under the successor of Cyrus II Darius I, the Royal Road was built, the quality of which turned out to be so high thatAlexander the Great, Roman emperors and even Charles I, who ruled the medieval Frankish Empire in the 9th century, used the example of its organization (and the angarion in general) in their state.

mail delivery

Roman era

As noted above, the Roman history of mail and letters was in many ways similar to the Persian one. In the republic, and later in the empire, there was a parallel public and private messaging system. The latter was based on the activities of numerous messengers who were hired (or used as slaves) by we althy patricians.

At the height of its power, the Roman Empire covered colossal territories in three parts of the world. Thanks to a single network of branched roads, already in the 1st century AD, it was possible to send a letter with confidence from Syria to Spain or from Egypt to Gaul. Small stations where horses changed were arranged at a distance of only a few kilometers. Packages were transported by horse couriers, carts were used for luggage.

The fastest and most efficient state mail was only available for official correspondence. Later, special permits for the use of this system were issued to traveling officials and Christian priests. The prefect of the praetorium, close to the emperor, was in charge of the state post office, and from the 4th century - the master of offices.


Medieval Europe

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the old postal system collapsed. Messages began to be delivered with great difficulty. borders interfered,the absence and desolation of roads, crime and the disappearance of a single centralized authority. Postal communication became even worse with the rise of feudalism. Large landowners often charged huge tolls for passage through their territory, which made it extremely difficult for couriers to work.

The only centralized organization in Europe in the early Middle Ages was the church. Monasteries, archives, churches and administrative bodies needed a constant exchange of information in the vast majority of politically fragmented Europe. Entire religious orders began to take on the organization of mail. It was not uncommon for important correspondence across the Old World to be carried by itinerant monks and priests, whose cassock and spiritual status were often the best defense against trouble with strangers.

Corporations of messengers arose at universities, where students flocked from all over the world. Couriers of educational institutions of Naples, Bologna, Toulouse and Paris became especially famous. They kept in touch between the students and their families.

Most of all, merchants and artisans needed mail. Without the exchange of written messages with their partners, they could not establish trade and marketing of products. Separate corporations of merchant mail arose around guilds and other associations of merchants. The standard of such a system was created in Venice, whose trade contacts connected the medieval republic not only with the whole of Europe, but also with distant countries on the other side of the Mediterranean Sea.

In Italy and Germany, where the institute of free cities was formed,an efficient city post office became widespread. Mainz, Cologne, Nordhausen, Breslau, Augsburg, etc. had their own experienced messengers. They delivered both letters from the administration and parcels from ordinary residents who paid for the service at a certain rate.

Coachmen and troikas

Thanks to "The Tale of Tsar S altan" by Alexander Pushkin, everyone in childhood heard the phrase: "A messenger is coming with a diploma." Domestic mail arose during the period of Kievan Rus. The need for a correspondence exchange system has always been relevant for our country due to its vast territories. The colossal distances for Western Europeans were also reflected in the norms characteristic of Russian messengers and incredible for foreigners.

During the time of Ivan the Terrible, tsarist couriers were required to travel a hundred kilometers a day, which was difficult to explain to foreign observers. In the XIII - XVIII centuries. postal stations in Russia were called pits. They kept horses and worked inns.

There was also the so-called yam duty. It extended to the draft population of the provinces. The peasants who were serving their service had to organize the transportation of government officials, cargo and diplomats. This tradition was spread by the Tatar-Mongols during their yoke over the East Slavic principalities. In the 16th century, the Yamskaya Prikaz appeared in the Russian state. This analogue of the ministry was engaged not only in postal, but also in tax affairs. A short phrase: “A messenger is traveling with a letter” can hardly convey the complexity of the courier business in medieval Russia.

AboutTwo hundred years ago, the famous three-horse teams of different gaits appeared. They were equipped specifically for traveling long distances. Harness horses located on the sides galloped, and the central root moved at a trot. Thanks to this configuration, the speed limit for its time was 45-50 kilometers per hour.

From stagecoaches to railroads and steamboats

Centralized royal mail systems appeared in England, Sweden, France and other developed countries in the 16th-17th centuries. At the same time, the need for international communications was growing.

At the turn of the Middle Ages and the New Age, stagecoaches spread in England. This mail coach gradually replaced the simple horse couriers. In the end, she conquered the world and appeared in all parts of the world from Australia to America. The arrival of a mail carriage in a city or village was announced with a special horn.

Another turning point in the development of communication systems occurred at the beginning of the 19th century with the advent of shipping and railways. The new type of water transport has proven itself well in the organization of the British-Indian mail. Especially to facilitate travel to the east, the British sponsored the construction of the Suez Canal in Egypt, thanks to which ships could not go around Africa.

pigeon mail


There are several versions about where the first mailbox appeared. According to one of them, vestibules installed in Florence at the beginning of the 16th century can be considered as such. They were placed next to the churches - the mainpublic places of the city. The wooden box with a slit at the top was intended to convey anonymous denunciations of state crimes.

In the same 16th century, such novelties appeared among sailors. Each British and Dutch colony had its own post box. With the help of a similar technology, sailors transmitted correspondence to other ships.

The French inventor of the mailbox is Renoir de Vilaye. It was he who solved the problem of correspondence between Parisians. In the middle of the 17th century, there were four post offices in the French capital, however, they could not cope with the gigantic flow of correspondence from ordinary citizens. Renoir de Vilaye was a member of the government and the National Academy of Sciences. Connecting his own ingenuity and administrative resources (permission of King Louis XIV), in 1653 he initiated the installation of mailboxes throughout Paris, which greatly facilitated the work of the postal service. The novelty quickly took root in the capital and spread to other cities of the country.

The history of the Russian post has developed in such a way that domestic mailboxes appeared only in 1848. The first such curiosities were installed in Moscow and St. Petersburg. At first, the structures were wooden, then they were changed to metal ones. Mailboxes painted bright orange were used for urgent shipments.

postal history of russia


The international postal system that developed in modern times had many shortcomings. The key one was that shipping feesdepartures remained difficult despite any logistical and technical innovations. For the first time this problem was solved in the UK. In 1840, the earliest known stamp, the Penny Black, appeared there. Its release was associated with the introduction of tariffs for forwarding letters.

The initiator of the creation of the brand was the politician Rowland Hill. The stamp was engraved with the profile of the young Queen Victoria. The innovation took root and since then each postal envelope of the letter was equipped with a special label. Stickers appeared in other countries as well. The reform has resulted in a significant increase in the number of mail forwarders in the UK, more than doubling in just the first year after the landmark transformation.

Stamps appeared in Russia in 1857. The first sign of postage was estimated at 10 kopecks. The stamp depicted a double-headed eagle. This heraldic symbol was chosen for the circulation, as it was the emblem of the Postal Department of the empire. This department tried to keep up with Western trends. The USSR Post also paid a lot of attention to stamps. Soviet shipping payment signs appeared in 1923.



Familiar to all postcards appeared relatively recently. The first card of this kind appeared in 1869 in Austria-Hungary. Soon this format gained pan-European popularity. This happened during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, when French soldiers began to send illustrated postcards en masse to their relatives.

Front fashionwas immediately intercepted by merchants. Within a few months, postcards began to be mass-produced in England, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands. The first Russian postcard was published in 1872. Six years later, at a special congress in Paris, an international standard for card sizes (9 centimeters long, 14 centimeters wide) was adopted. Later it was changed several times. Over time, subspecies of postcards appeared: greeting, species, reproductions, art, advertising, political, etc.

New trends

In 1820, the envelope was invented in Great Britain. After another 30 years, stamped parcels appeared. In the middle of the 19th century, a letter could travel around the world in 80-85 days. Departures accelerated when the Trans-Siberian Railway opened in Russia.

The 19th century was marked by the consistent appearance of the telegraph, telephone and radio. The emergence of new technologies did not detract from the importance that mail represented for the people of that time. The telegraph provided invaluable assistance to its development (in all countries, the departments responsible for these two types of communication were gradually merged).

In 1874, the Universal Postal Union was created and the Universal Postal Congress convened. The purpose of the event was the signing of an international agreement that could unify the disparate systems of transmission of correspondence from different countries of the world. The congress was attended by representatives of 22 states. They signed the Universal Uniform Postal Treaty, soon renamed the Universal Postal Convention. The document summarized internationalexchange rules. Since then, the history of Russian mail has continued in line with the worldwide evolution of postal communications.

Aeronautics began to develop at the end of the 19th century. Man's conquest of the air has led to the disappearance of any physical barriers to shipments around the world. As mentioned above, even ancient civilizations knew their own air mail - pigeon mail. Birds were used by people for communication even at the very zenith of progress. Pigeons became especially indispensable during bloody conflicts. Feathered mail was regularly used on the fronts of the First and Second World Wars.

a messenger rides with a diploma


The modern age has many definitions. They call it informational. And this is largely true. Today, it is information that is the main resource driving progress. The revolution associated with it was due to the advent of the Internet and modern means of communication.

Today, paper mail, familiar to many generations of people, is gradually giving way to electronic mail. The iron box for envelopes was replaced by e-mail, and social networks completely erased the notion of distance. If twenty years ago the Internet was perceived as an eccentric fun, now it is difficult to imagine the life of a modern person without it. Accessible to everyone, electronic e-mail embodied the centuries-old evolution of mail with all its various jerks and jumps.

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