American Messenger Service, forerunner of UPS, begins in a saloon in Seattle's Pioneer Square on August 28, 1907.

  • By James R. Warren
  • Posted 9/16/1999
  • Essay 2089
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On August 28, 1907, 19-year-old James E. Casey (1888-1983) and Claude Ryan start American Messenger Service (forerunner of United Parcel Service), with $100 borrowed from Ryan's uncle, Charley Jones. They operate out of the basement of a saloon (at one time a livery stable) at 2nd Avenue and Main Street, and deliver packages and messages in Seattle by foot, bicycle, and streetcar. They convince other boys in Seattle to buy uniforms and to agree to a strict code of behavior which includes courtesy to customers and no whistling.

By Christmas 1912, the company employed 100 messengers and moved to 1602 1/2 2nd Avenue. In 1913, American Messenger merged with McCabe's Motorcycle Delivery Service to become Merchants' Delivery Service, and they bought their first car, a 1913 Model T Ford. In 1919, the firm expanded to San Francisco and became United Parcel Service (UPS). By 1930, it covered cities all over the West Coast and New York City.

The original site of American Messenger Service is marked by Waterfall Park (downtown Seattle at 2nd Avenue and Main Street), constructed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation in 1977 to honor UPS employees worldwide. The Annie E. Casey Foundation was established in 1948 by Jim Casey, one of the founders of United Parcel Service, and his siblings, George, Harry, and Marguerite, who named the philanthropy in honor of their mother. The Foundation's first grants provided support to a camp for disadvantaged children in Seattle, the home of the Casey family.


"A Century of Business," Puget Sound Business Journal, September 17, 1999; "Errand Boy," The New Yorker, May 8, 1934, pp. 18-19; "Waterfall Park," Pamphlet, (Seattle Public Library, Northwest Uncatalogued Files, Seattle Districts, Pioneer Square); Seattle Post-Intelligencer, June 7, 1983, p. C7; Pioneer Square Gazette, Summer 1983, p. 2.

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