UPS Was Founded By Two Teenagers With One Bicycle and $100 Borrowed from a Friend

cardboard-boxesToday I found out UPS was started by two teenagers with one bicycle and $100 borrowed from a friend.

The date was August 28, 1907 and the two kids were 18 year old Claude Ryan and 19 year old Jim Casey.  The two had one bike between them and $100 (about $2400 today) borrowed from a friend to found the “American Messenger Company” in Seattle, Washington.  The company was initially run in a hotel basement at Second Avenue and Main Street in Seattle.

At that time, most people didn’t own phones, so sending telegrams was a frequent thing.  These had to be hand delivered.  In the beginning, the company primarily delivered these telegrams, but eventually expanded into transporting pretty much anything that could be transported on a bicycle or on foot.  Casey and Ryan manned the phone while Casey’s brother George and a handful of other teenagers went out making deliveries.

Fast-forward a few years and Casey and Ryan had merged their company with rival Merchant’s Parcel Delivery taking the latter’s name.  In the process, they acquired a few motorcycles and delivery cars with their first car being a Ford Model T.   At this time, more and more people had telephones so Casey and Ryan switched to working with retail stores to deliver customers purchases to their homes.

By the time Casey retired from UPS in 1962, the company had grown to operating in 31 U.S. states with annual revenue around $550 million and about 22,000 workers.

Fast forward to 2013 and Casey and Ryan’s company that started so humbly is now worth approximately $80 billion with annual revenue at over $50 billion; employing just under half a million workers in 200 countries; delivering over 3.8 billion packages and documents a year.  Amazing what $100, some elbow grease, and a bit of ingenuity can do.

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Bonus Facts:

  • Returning to their roots, in 2008, UPS began hiring bike delivery workers in Vancouver, Washington and various cities in Oregon.
  • UPS developed software that routes trucks such that they minimize left turns in their deliveries.  By doing so, they reduced their annual fuel consumption by nearly 51,000 gallons in Washington DC alone.  The reduction in fuel comes from drivers not having to sit idling at red lights waiting to make left hand turns.
  • When UPS expanded into West Germany, they had to change the brown uniform to green, due to the “brown shirts” worn by the Nazi SA.
  • In the early days of UPS, the United States Postal Service was their biggest client.  UPS handled delivering all USPS special delivery mail in Seattle.
  • UPS uses its own font, UPS Sans, which is a slightly altered FF Dax.
  • The brown color UPS uses is named Pullman Brown.
  • James Casey originally wanted the trucks to be yellow, instead of brown.  He was eventually convinced to make them brown by Charlie Soderstrom.  Soderstrom pointed out that yellow trucks would be impossible to keep clean.  Railroad cars are often brown for this same reason.
  • In 1966, Jim Casey created the Casey Family Programs to help children who are unable to live with their birth parents.  Casey felt his family life was critical to his being able to become successful.  As such, the goal of the organization is to attempt to provide the same type of stability and support base to these children.
  • In 1919, Merchant’s Parcel Delivery changed its name to the United Postal Service.  At this same time, the company began expanding to other cities besides just Seattle.  The name was chosen with “United” signifying that each of the offices in various cities were all part of a greater whole;  “Parcel” identified the nature of the business; and  “Service” indicating what was offered.
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