Short History of Mail Delivery
1907 – American Messenger Company Established – Forerunner of United Parcel Service
18 year old entrepreneurs Henry Casey and Claude Ryan started the American Messenger Company on August 28, 1907.
James Casey (March 29, 1888 – June 6, 1983)
The son of Henry James and Annie Sheehan Casey, James was native to Candelaria, Nevada. The family moved to Seattle, Washington in 1897. His father, a miner, became incapacitated while he was young of miner’s lung disease. Thus Casey quit school at age 11 and started working as a delivery boy for the Bon Marche department store. He improved his $2.50 weekly salary by taking work at a tea store, eventually making $6.00 a week. His younger brothers also assisted in supporting the family by working as well. Casey took a job with the American District Telegraph where he met Claude Ryan. In 1902 his father died. Casey and two friends started a messenger service they called the City Messenger Service, however they business did not succeed. Casey and one of his partners in the messenger service migrated to Nevada to try their hands at mining, however they did not succeed in that endeavor either. Casey moved back to Seattle and partnered up with his friend, Claude Ryan.
The two borrowed $100 and started another messenger service they called the American Messenger Company on August 28, 1907. They started with two telephones, two bicycles and a staff of six boys. Using the motto, “Never promise more than you can deliver, and always deliver what you promise,” this business succeeded. The partners, having previously worked as messengers and delivery people for American District Telegraph and other businesses, they knew the city well. They put up signs all over the city with their phone numbers. Their rates, from 15 cents to 65 cents to deliver a message or 25 cents an hour to run errands, were good enough to cause their business to prosper.
In addition to delivering messages and running errands the partners began delivering packages for department and other stores. The company merged with McCabe’s Motorcycle Delivery Company in 1913 and became Merchants Parcel Delivery. The new company acquired a Model T Ford, painted bright red. They brought in Charlie Soderstrom, who was the head of delivery drivers for one of the leading department stores in Seattle. Soderstrom added the automotive expertise the company needed and originated the concept of painting the company’s vehicles brown, a color that did not show dirt and grime a vehicle acquired by driving on the dirt and gravel roads of that era.
The company continued to grow, gradually taking over the delivery trucks of leading department stores as they acquired their delivery business. They made parcel delivery their specialized business and after World War I ended, they sought to expand beyond Seattle. They acquired Motor Parcel Delivery, based in Oakland, California in 1919. In 1925 the company reorganized and began using the name, United Parcel Service, whose familiar brown trucks deliver packages across the United States. After his death in 1983 Casey was interred in Holyrood Catholic Cemetery in Shoreline, King County, Washington.