In the modern world, we communicate with a touch of a button to friends, relatives and family members; the postal letters have lost some space to be the sole medium of conversation with the near and dear ones. Some consider them as an old fashioned method, but they carry their own charm and vital significance.
Postal letters had a history of connecting the people before the technological revolution. They have been operational for many centuries and made practical innovations.
Therefore, every year on 9 October, World Post Day [WPD] commemorates the anniversary of the founding of the Universal Postal Union in 1874 in Bern, Switzerland. The UPU Congress in Tokyo, Japan, proclaimed it World Post Day in 1969.
An Indian delegate known as Anand Mohan Narula had submitted a proposal. Since then, nations all around the globe have joined in the festivities to organise WPD on an annual basis.
Many nations’ post offices utilize the occasion to launch or promote new postal goods, products and services. Many special stamps exhibitions are also organized to commemorate this day. WPD raise awareness of the importance of the postal sector in the lives of people and in national growth.
The day is celebrated in over 150 countries, as many nations issue new stamps. WPD in 2021 has adopted the theme of “Innovate to recover”. The op-ed makes a synoptic overview of the postal letters history and its current usefulness. Before the digital revolution, it was a tedious task to communicate letters and packages worldwide, but the postal services made a charisma to give a solution to the world, and this continues forever.
Innovate to Recover: COVID-19
Postal services had spearheaded to communicate and connect people worldwide during the lockdowns enforced due to COVID-19. There has been a disruption of many global postal letters due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but it has shown resilience and began the recovery mode to resume the services.
Thus they adopted new innovative ideas to sustain and grow, creative ways of delivering mail were adopted, and adoption of e-commerce. As postal services began with personal and official letters and essential papers to make innovation towards e-commerce and online shopping packages due to the digital revolution. Postal services have shown resilience in serving the communities with their creation.
Besides communicating the information, postal letters have stamps that carry historical significance. As on many occasions, stamps are issues of historical personalities, events, heritage, national symbols and others.
Before the coming of the postal letter system, Egypt, in 3000 BC, employed pigeons for pigeon posts, where the birds used to carry the information and remember the direction to come back to their nest when left away from their original homes.
The messages were wrapped to their legs and were released, and these pigeons returned to their own nests. These pigeons also acted as spy pigeons, but postal letters gradually gave the entire world a more authentic and regular means of communication. There have been reforms in the postal system with the course to time, as the distance determines the cost of postal letters from sender to recipient.
The postal system also saw changes like “government monopoly (partial or complete) over postal delivery, universal coverage of post offices throughout settled territories, and cheap pre-paid postage with uniform rates” (Rogowski et al., 2016). The national government subsidised the mail services and extended its services to provide rapid and dependable written communication. This displaced the long private mail system and temporary means of correspondence.
There came the pre-printed envelopes and sticky postal stamps, where the sender paid the amount of mail-carrying charges. During the industrial revolution, the mail system played a pivotal role. Rogowski et all (2016) stated coming of the postal system reduced transaction costs, facilitating contracts and establish business relationships; facilitated the diffusion of new ideas and technology; made a contribution to the development of social capital.
Development of modern form of transport, i.e. railways and air transport of mail, while coming of the Internet gave a stiff competition to physical mail but coming of Internet shopping gave the new business to mail to deliver the products bought through online shopping.
History of Postal Letter
Postal letters are the iconic symbol of a global communication revolution. Mail word comes from the English word male, which refers to a travelling bag or pack. The word began to be used in the 17th century about containing letters “bag full of letter”. Later the word ‘Post’ was derived from French, which means ‘to lay down or place’.
The history of postal letters began from the time when people began to communicate via writing. The process of the postal system is a systematic way of transferring the letters, birthday cards, official documents, greetings and private documents around the globe after the pasting of the stamps.
The origin of postal services can be traced back to ancient Egypt, about 2500 BC, when their rulers began to use couriers to distribute their decrees across their state. References of oldest existing mail dated back from 255 BCE.
Further, Iran (Persia) made claims for the creation of the first genuine postal system in 550 BCE, several other claims were made to be the earliest postal system during that time, as many believe that mail may not be the reason behind starting of the postal services, but it was to maintain a system of intelligence and gathering information led to the origin of a postal system. Later uses of horses were made to carry the mail in a speedy manner from one location to another to enhance the performance and delivery time.
Mauryan empire in ancient India began to develop early Indian mail services, and mail chariots were brought underused. There was a systematic postmaster as the head of intelligence to overlook the courier services.
The beginning of the printing press and the expansion of education made a drastic reform in the postal system. In the late 18th century, India had a functioning postal system that was totally modernized by the establishment of British rule in India.
Similarly, many civilizations used courier services to send letters, news, messages, greetings, private information and other valuable parcels around the globe. This transformed into a modern concept of the mail system.
The postal letters have been a part of our lives for centuries now that need to have rejoiced and remembered forever through WPD and their innovations amid COVID-19. The historicity of postal systems, post offices and postmen need to be remembered due to their unforgettable contribution of connecting the people around the globe to their near and dear ones, and social, economic and national growth.
Author: Dr Sakul Kundra, A.HOD Department of Social Science, College of Humanities and Education, Fiji National University.