Ever wonder what it must have been like to send letters before we had the Postal Service to complain about? It was not a pretty thing. First of all, there was no real system before the sixteenth century. That was probably a good thing since most people then couldn't write and those who were wealthy and privileged enough to do so could also afford to have servants hand-deliver missives.
Around about the 16th century, however, things began to change. Many attribute the change to the invention of the movable type printing press around that time. With printed materials suddenly becoming more available and affordable, the masses could learn to read and write. It was only a small jump to being able to correspond with friends and family in the next town, etc.
On the Continent, the German family of Thurn and Taxis were the Imperial Mailmen. Originally from a province in Italy, they developed and ran a continental mail system that reached from Brussels throughout the rest of the continent. To say they had a monopoly would be an understatement - a monopoly they held until the 18th century.
In England, the mail service didn't develop quite so smoothly. In the 16th century a penny post was begun in London by a merchant. The system was so successful that the government took it over. Initially, the recipient
of the letter was responsible for payment of the postage, but this quickly became difficult as the government raised the rates in order to finance governmental projects, including a number of wars. People complained about the rates and often the recipient simply refused the letter - which meant the delivery person had to take it back, with no payment.
The government finally got the message and the Penny Post was re-instituted with a slight, but significant, change. Now the sender
was responsible for the postage and the rest, as the saying goes, is history.This Day in History: The Uniform Penny Post is instituted in England on this day in what year?