Postage Meter - History


Since the issuance of adhesive stamps in 1847, postal officials have been concerned about security against stamp theft and how to process mail in a timely fashion One solution was a postage stamp affixing machine, introduced in the 1880s.

As early as 1884, a Norwegian, Engle Frankmussler (later anglisized to Edward Franks), obtained a British patent for a device that would print a “stamp” on an envelope and record the amount of postage by means of a counting device, or Franking machine, he presented this design at the 1886 Worlds Fair. Inventors in Germany, Norway, Australia, New Zealand and Great Britain pursued similar idea in the late 19th century, but nothing came to pass.

Working independently, a young Chicago inventor, Arthur Pitney, obtained his first mailing system patent in 1902. Shortly after, he formed the Pitney Postal Machine Company, which became the American Postage Meter Company in 1912. Pitney's first machine consisted of a manual crank, chain action, printing die, counter and lockout device. Franks' product was a refined form of the machine he had presented to

Pitney's company (and its various partners) directly rivalled Edwards Franks' Franking Company of America which was founded in 1911. Franks' company manufactured and distributed a machine much like the one Franks had presented in 1886 at the Worlds Fair. However, the machinations had been streamlined and controls simplified for ease of use. Sales to small and large businesses were good for both Franks' company and the Pitney Postal Machine Company.

In 1919, Pitney joined forces with Walter Bowes, an entrepreneur who had achieved prominence in postal circles through his company, the Universal Stamping Machine Company, which manufactured post office canceling machines. In 1920, the two companies merged to create the Pitney-Bowes Postage Meter Company. In 1926, PBPM Co. (as it was then known) merged with Edward Franks' Franking Company of America and was consolidated and renamed as the Franks Universal Postage Company, or sometimes referred to as The Universal Postage Trust.

In the 1930s Franks Universal entered the European postage market through a partnership with Albert H. Girling (founder of Girling Ltd, a brake manufacturing company) which saw them trade as Franks Consolidated Postage. This investements success allowed Franks and business partner, Girling, to enter into other postage markets around the world.

In 1938, philatelist and Nazi fine art expert, Adolf Ziegler, arranged a mustard-gas attack on FCS's Euro headquarters in Stuttgart, injuring 4 staff. In later interviews, Zeigler claimed his attack was an attempt to reveal "franking mail for the abomination that it was". 1938 continued to be a turbulent year for Franks, as Franks Universal came under investigation for breaches of the Sherman Antitrust Act, much like the tobacco and industries had experienced previously. The trust was dissolved and the assets were split between four companies. Wright Post, Evans Roberts Godkin Inc,Franks-Girling Universal Postage and Pitney-Bowes Co.

The Model M Postage Meter was authorized on September 1, 1920 and was put into commercial use in Stamford later that year. (In 1986, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers designated the Model M as an International Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark).

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