A century one package at a time

Working out of a basement office in Seattle, James Casey and Claude Ryan borrowed a hundred dollars and started the American Messenger Co. in 1907. They hired other teenagers like themselves to run errands and carry notes for customers by foot or bicycle.

Working out of a basement office in Seattle, James Casey and Claude Ryan borrowed a hundred dollars and started the American Messenger Co. in 1907. They hired other teenagers like themselves to run errands and carry notes for customers by foot or bicycle.

In 1913 the young men merged their messenger business with a package delivery firm owned by Evert McCabe, naming the new venture Merchants Parcel Delivery. With the addition of McCabe's motorcycles and Model-T Ford, they began to consolidate deliveries. Packages were organized by neighborhood to maximize resources while keeping expenses low — a tactic that is still at the heart of the freight world today.

Charlie Soderstrom joined the firm in 1916 and by 1919 the company took its first steps beyond Seattle, making deliveries as far away as Oakland, CA. That's also when it became known as “United Parcel Service.” As Soderstrom once said, “united” refers to the consolidated shipments, “parcel” to the kind of deliveries, and “service is all we have to offer.” He's also credited with the idea of painting all the company vehicles brown — because of its “stately appearance.”

Air service was added in 1929, although it was temporarily suspended two years later as the country entered the Great Depression.

In 1953, UPS began common carrier operations to major U.S. cities and reintroduced air service on regular commercial flights.

The company entered the international arena in 1975 with service to Toronto, ON. In addition, the heardquarers office was relocated to Greenwich, CT.

In 1977, UPS started operations in Germany; expansion to the rest of Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Pacific Rim took place throughout the 1980s. By 1985 the company had started it own airline to serve these destinations and introduced Next Day Air service to all 50 states and Puerto Rico.

In 1991, UPS moved its headquarters to Atlanta, where it remains today. That year also marked the growth of e-commerce and development of the ubiquitous handheld Delivery Information Acquisition Device (DIAD), which is carried by all UPS drivers.

Long a privately held business, UPS went public in 1999, enabling it to make acquisitions such as Challenge Air, the largest express and air cargo carrier in Latin America, Mail Boxes Etc., Menlo Worldwide Forwarding and Overnite Transportation.

It's been a long, fast-paced journey for the foot-powered messenger company Jim Casey started so long ago, says Mike Eskew, chairman and CEO of UPS. Today “Brown” employs more than 427,000 people, operates the world's eighth-largest airline, and uses almost 92,000 vehicles to deliver more than 15.6-million packages and documents all over the globe every day, he notes. “UPS today stands as a critical pipeline for global economic activity.”

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