The History and Development of the Envelope

Protected by Copyscape Unique Content Check
Published: 25th October 2012
Views: N/A

Envelopes only really became something used by the public after the Post Office reforms of 1840. Before that it tended only to be the very rich that used envelopes, hand crafted, as you paid per sheet of paper you sent, including any packaging and so people usually just folded over the piece of paper and wrote the name and address on that with the edges being sealed with wax. And they would write on every part of the piece of paper so often you would need to turn the letter on its side to read one part, upside down to read another……

However, envelopes have been used for many centuries. The Chinese used them as far back as 1200 B.C when a crude form of paper was made from reeds and rice. Ancient Egyptians protected important documents in papyrus scrolls and in the 17th century envelopes were in circulation in Spain and France.

It was Louis XIV of France who often protected his letters from court in a template cut out and folded and pasted shut. In America, Benjamin Franklin was the father of the postal system there, organising a system for the collection and distribution of letters. Postman were paid by the mile for delivery.

Rowland Hill was behind the Post Office reforms and wrote a paper about how there was a need for practicality in 1837. His proposals, although radical at the time, were accepted and led to the development of a machine-made enveloper. He looked at the cost of delivering a carriage full of letters from Edinburgh to London and then worked out the cost per letter and concluded there needed to be a uniform rate for a standard letter, regardless of the number of sheets of paper included, so long as not over a certain weight, and regardless of the distance the letter was being sent within the country.

Hill's reform proposals were put to the Government Select Committee and paper maker John Dickinson was called to give evidence. He praised the use of an envelope with four corners meeting under a seal and the conclusion was that it was accepted if a simpler, cheaper system was put in place, more people would send letters using envelopes and so the cost of delivering each letter would be significantly less. The country's first postage stamps were produced as well as the "penny wrapper", which was an enveloper with postage of a penny already paid. In the first year of the envelope and the stamp over 68 million were sold and sent.

At first envelopers were made by hand, with someone cutting out several sheets using a template and the next person folding them and the next person gluing 3 sides down. An envelope making machine was quickly designed as demand became more and more and by the mid 1850's the envelope as we know it today was being produced and used in the millions. The first machine used a diamond shaped envelope, pre-cut and fed into a machine for creasing and then adhesive was added. It took another 50 years before a commercially successful envelope making machine was developed.

Nowadays a top of the range envelope making machine costs around a million dollars and can produce well over 1000 pre-gummed envellopes each minute, packed into boxes, already for distribution. It is still a very high cost per envelope and thus there are only a few manufactures. Winkler and Dunnebier, as a single enterprise are responsible for two-thirds of the envelopers made for today's market.

Over time various different envelopes were designed. There was the "mourning" envelope with black edges to deliver bad news. Window envelopes developed by an American where the address is on the letter inside and visible through a transparent plastic window. Security envelopes have a tinted pattern on the material making it difficult to see through and read the contents inside. And greeting card envelopes for enclosing stiffer, larger celebration cards.

This article is copyright

Report this article Ask About This Article

More to Explore