Salt Lake Mailing & Printing Blog

Early History of Postal Systems

The carrying of letters and important documents dates back almost as far as the history of writing. Messengers, or couriers, were around for centuries before the advent of formal postal systems. Some of the earliest known postal systems stem from Egypt, Persia, India, and China.

In Egypt, during the century of 2400 BC, pharaohs made use of couriers to deliver their decrees across the territory. The courier system was the first organized delivery system for written information that we know of. But it was not yet used for letters and messages between parties besides pharaoh.

In Ancient Persia, during the period of 550 BC to 521 BC, a true postal system was developed in Assyria. It is disputed whether it was Cyrus the Great or his successor Darius I, who was responsible. The postal system of Persia was operated by a series of stations. Each man would ride to the next station, where a fresh horse was waiting. When he reached the end of his shift, a fresh man would also be waiting, keeping the mail moving constantly towards its destination.

In India, circa 322-185 BC, the Mauryan empire brought a stable political system and economic growth to the country. Along with public wells, rest houses and other public facilities, the Mauryans developed a mail service. Using chariots called “dagana,” the riders carried mail throughout India.

In China, during the period of 206 BC-220 AD, the Han dynasty employed postal relay stations, much like those in Persia. But later, during the Yuan Dynasty, China became a part of the Örtöö mail system of the Mongol Empire.

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