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A History of Envelopes

By Paperstone on July 10, 2013 in Envelopes

While not exactly high tech, envelopes have come a long way since they were invented in ancient times.

The idea of envelopes has always been the same: to protect important documents from damage and shield them from prying eyes.

The Babylonians, who lived from 2000 BC to 700 BC used a thin sheet of clay wrapped around a message, crimped together, and baked. Other early envelopes were made of cloth, animal skins, or vegetable parts.

Envelopes made of paper appeared in Europe in the Middle Ages.  In 1653 a French entrepreneur named De Valayer set up a postal system in Paris. Boxes were placed on street corners, and De Valayer said he would deliver any letters placed in them, if they were enclosed in envelopes that he had sold.

The scheme failed because an enemy of De Valayer’s posted live mice in his post boxes which then ate the mail.

Right up until 1840 all envelopes were handmade, but in that year, a British citizen, George Wilson, patented the method of tessellating (tiling) a number of envelope patterns across and down a large sheet.

And in 1845, Edwin Hill and Warren de la Rue invented a steam-driven machine that cut out the envelope shapes, and creased and folded them as well.

The modern window envelope was invented in 1902 by an American, A.F. Callahan of Chicago. Illinois. The rest is history.


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