Before the telegraph, the telephone and email … there was the mail. During the 18th century, riders on horseback delivered mail in the colonies (later, states). In 1775, the Continental Congress named Benjamin Franklin the first Postmaster General.
In England, “the grandfather of the modern envelope” debuted in 1840 alongside the world’s first stamp. Edwin Hill designed that first envelope folding machine. In the US, Russell L. Hawest received US Patent No 9812 (21 June 1853) for his envelope machine.
As you can see from this patent drawing, the design is virtually unchanged today. Of course, the patent has long since expired (unlike copyrights, a patent is limited to 20 years; a story for another day).
Callahan saw his invention as saving time and money for businesses, including telegraph offices, by reducing the need to hand address each envelope.
It’s important that businesses consider the size of the window when creating correspondence. In July 2017, Aetna “ ‘stunned’ some of its customers … when it accidentally made their HIV statuses visible from the outside of envelopes.”
Joyce Lee, MD, pointed out that Aetna’s design was a “major Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) violation.”