UPS From 1907-1929

Messenger Service

Messenger Service1907 - 1912

In 1907, there was a great need in America for private messenger and delivery services. To help meet this need, an enterprising 19-year-old, James E. ("Jim") Casey, borrowed 100 dollars from a friend and established the American Messenger Company in Seattle, Washington. According to accounts given by Jim there were quite a few messenger services already in the Seattle area, some of which he had worked for in the past.

That initial name was well-suited to the business pursuits of the new company. In response to telephone calls received at their basement headquarters, messengers ran errands, delivered packages and carried notes, baggage and trays of food from restaurants. They made most deliveries on foot and used bicycles for longer trips. Only a few automobiles were in existence at that time and department stores of the day still used horses and wagons for merchandise delivery. It would be six years before the United States Parcel Post system would be established.

Jim and his partner, Claude Ryan ran the service from a humble office located under the sidewalk. Jim´s brother George and a handful of other teenagers were the company´s messengers. The company did well despite stiff competition, largely because of Jim Casey´s strict policies of customer courtesy, reliability, round-the-clock service, and low rates. These principles, which guide UPS even today, are summarised by Jim´s slogan: best service and lowest rates.

Retail Era

Retail Era1913 - 1918

The young company focused on package delivery for retail stores, as improvements such as the automobile and the telephone were causing a decline in the messenger business. The company also began to use motorcycles  for some deliveries. For about two years, the company´s largest client was the United States Post Office, for which they delivered all special delivery mail entering Seattle. During this period, the company began using consolidated delivery, that is combining packages addressed to a certain neighbourhood onto one delivery vehicle. This way, manpower and motorised equipment could be used more efficiently and rates could be kept low. The year 1913 brought several significant changes.

The company acquired its first delivery car, a Model T Ford; on its side was inscribed a new name: Merchants Parcel Delivery. The new name, partially the result of Jim Casey´s agreement to merge with competitor Evert ("Mac") McCabe, reflected a shift in the primary focus of the business from messages to packages. The business began to grow quickly, and because of its high standard of service and personalised attention to every package handled, the young company built a strong reputation among the stores in the city. In 1916, Charlie Soderstrom joined the company, bringing automobiles and expertise with him. He also brought the colour brown. By 1918 three of Seattle´s largest department stores had become regular customers, disposing of their own delivery cars (which Jim and his associates often purchased) and turning business over to Merchants Parcel Delivery.

Common Carrier Services

Common Carrier Services1919 - 1930

In 1919 the company made its first expansion beyond Seattle to Oakland, California, and adopted its present name, United Parcel Service. The word "United" served as a reminder that the company´s operations in each city were part of the same organisation, "Parcel" identified the nature of the business, "Service" indicated what was offered.

In 1922, UPS acquired a company in Los Angeles with an innovative practice known as "common carrier" service. Common carrier service incorporated many of the features and operating principles of the retail store delivery service with features at that time not offered by many other private carriers, or even the parcel post.

The differentiating features of common carrier service included automatic daily collection calls, acceptance of checks made out to the shipper in payment of C.O.D.s, additional delivery attempts, automatic return of undeliverables and streamlined documentation with weekly billing. Perhaps the major key feature was that UPS was able to provide its extensive service at rates comparable to those of parcel post.

UPS was one of the few companies in the United States to offer common carrier service at the time. The acquisition of one small company and the decision to continue with common carrier service would influence the growth of UPS for years to come.

In 1924, UPS debuted another of the technological innovations that would shape its future: the first conveyor belt system for handling packages. While the common carrier service was at first limited to a small area around Los Angeles, by 1927 it had been expanded to include an area extending up to 125 miles from the city's centre. At the same time, the retail delivery services of UPS had also expanded to include all the major cities on the U.S. Pacific Coast.

UPS Time Capsule


UPS Time Capsule 1907-1929

Jim Casey borrows 100 dollar from a friend to start the American Messenger Company in Seattle, Washington.

Company acquires first delivery car, a Model T Ford. Changes to technique of consolidated delivery. Chooses name Merchants Parcel Delivery.

First expands beyond Seattle to Oakland, CA. Changes name to United Parcel Service.

Introduces innovative "common carrier" service (Los Angeles).

Builds the first conveyor belt system for handling packages (Los Angeles).