Tuesday, 8 May 2012

...You Can Blame The Swiss for Your Credit Card Debt.

I find it hard to fathom how people used to communicate centuries ago. Everyone you talked to was within walking distance but every now and then you had to talk to someone outside of that zone. A son may have had to move away in order to settle on new land and you may have needed to get a hold of him. This was often done by letter and up until the early 1900s, when the phone was invented, this was always the case. There was no post office or system set up by the government and most mail carrying was done by private business. If you lived in London and needed to send a letter to Manchester, you either found someone who was going anyway (a sailor on a merchant ship were good) or a person who did that as an occupation. You never paid up front for the service as quite often people would take the money and just throw out the letter. So, often the recipient paid for the letter, but this proved difficult as well. If the receiver didn't have the money or didn't want to pay, the letter didn't get delivered and whatever you had to say to that person was lost.

Things used to be quiter for Santa.
The Swiss were one of the first places to standardize mail routes in the country and set up postal stations in certain cities. The routes and carriers were now reliable but the payment was still an issue. Postal Orders were invented to solve this problem. Postal Stations sort of worked like banks as well. A sender would pay for the letter delivery up front, a certificate saying he did so was created, and sent along with the letter. The other end verified the payment and delivered the letter to whoever it was meant for. Boom, your Mother's Day card was received and you didn't get yelled at. This eventually paved the way for postal stamps and the Swiss were early adopters of this as well.
I swear I sent it Mom...
The idea spread and it made its way to the new colonies of the Americas. Post delivery was a bit more dangerous in these times. Postal companies often and actively sought orphans for delivering mail since it was pretty much the only job they could get and anyone with families avoided that type of work (the mortality rate was very high). The Pony Express was started to make this type of work easier. Riders would ride full tilt and push their horse almost to death from running so fast. When they reached a waypoint the rider would switch horses and continue riding within seconds, or, the letters were passed between two riders in motion just like an olympic relay race is done today. Seeing the profit in this, and the fact it was now a reliable money maker due to the Swiss inovations, two men by the names of Henry Wells & William Fargo started American Express.
Wish they would have stuck to making chocolate and clocks
And that is what I learned today. 

-The 1933 movie of Alice in Wonderland will give you nightmares.

No comments:

Post a Comment