Monday, March 17, 2014

Where Do Envelopes Come From Anyway? The History of Envelopes

The First Envelope

Did you know the first envelope was nothing like the paper envelope we know about today? Dating back to approximately 3500 – 3200 BC, the ancient envelope originated in the Middle East. Initially, hollow clay spheres were molded around financial tokens and used in private transactions.  These envelopes were created to ensure nobody could alter the number and type of tokens inside. If the number was disputed, the clay could be broken open and the content recounted.

Chih Poh...What?

Fast forward a few centuries to the 2nd Century BC and paper envelopes were created in China. Originally known as “chih poh,” these envelopes were also used typically to store gifts of money. In 1845, Edwin Hill and Warren De La Rue created the first envelope making machine, and changed history as we know it. The first envelopes did not actually look like anything similar to our envelopes. They were flat diamond, lozenge sheets also known as “blanks,” which were precut to shapes before entering the machine that would close the envelopes. The edges of the envelopes were treated with a glue/adhesive and were closed with a wax seal.

Pre-Gummed Envelopes

Nearly 50 years passed before “pre-gummed” envelopes were created. Today, we still close an envelope the same way. Envelopes continued to change slightly based upon technology, attempts to deter forgery and counterfeit mailings, as well as postage.

Envelopes and mailings continued to stay the same until 1998, where the digital printing revolution began. This revolution began with the US Postal Service approving being able to apply an envelope in the printer bin of a PC and “stamp” the address via the Internet. A small business could now customize its envelope labels/mailings in an easily, cheaply and efficiently.

Laser Printers & Envelopes

After these were invented, the one thing that changed is the addition of envelopes for laser printers. Because of laser printers, it’s now possible to print envelope graphics directly with a common office laser printer.  Today, we have colored and recycled envelopes. Envelopes can be hand made with foil, stamped, embossed, and more. What’s in store for envelopes in the future? Will they continue to evolve or stay stagnant? Will everyone one day be able to foil and stamp their own envelopes in seconds?
Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

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