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Bike messengers delivered using pedal power

Before the days of email, text messaging and overnight FedEx deliveries, bike messengers left no carbon footprint in the 1930s.

1930s Bike messengers

Back in the days before email, text messaging and overnight FedEx deliveries, smartly uniformed delivery boys—like the ones shown here in downtown Cleveland, Ohio—relied on fleets of sturdy bicycles and pedal power to deliver telegrams and other communications. In fact, accounts of bike messengers date back to the 1870s in Paris.

“These boys worked for the Postal Telegraph Co., where my father worked as an office manager until about 1938 or 1939,” writes Bob Gazso of North Olmsted. “The photograph was taken in 1936. The office also had a marching band that took part in local parades.”

Irish immigrant John Mackay, who made a fortune from the fabled Comstock Lode silver find in Nevada during the 1850s, founded the Postal Telegraph Co. in the 1880s to compete against the giant Western Union Telegraph Co.

Fun Fact:

These bikes carry signs promoting the film Mr. Deeds Goes to Town at the Hippodrome, one of Cleveland’s grand old picture palaces. The legendary Frank Capra directed the 1936 comedy starring Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

John Boily March 14, 2013 at 8:18 am

Your story on “green machines”left out UPS, which also does overnight deliveries.They started in Seattle with bicycles to deliver messages and store bought packages to peoples homes.


jodie April 18, 2013 at 12:24 pm

I was wondering if there is any way to find out the names ofthe men in your “Green Machines” photo in your april/may 2012 issue?It is on page 8 & 9. Please let me know how I can find out the names of these young men.


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