The history of direct mail: 10 fast facts

The history of direct mail: 10 fast facts

Print and Paper | February 25, 2020

Can you remember a time when you didn’t receive a piece of mail directly to your home? Direct mail has been around for what feels like forever. In fact, the first evidence of it dates back to 1000 BC! Brush up on the history of direct mail with these ten fast facts.

  1. The earliest concept of direct mail marketing, 1000 B.C. An Egyptian landowner advertised on a piece of papyrus—he was offering a gold reward for one of his slaves.1
  2. Printing press, 1440. Johannes Gutenberg invented a printing press which helped boost the mass production of direct mail.1
  3. Printing pamphlets, 1480. William Caxton invited the public to order from his Westminster Abbey printing press. His technology improved the printing technique, which made it easier to produce direct mail on a large scale.1
  4. Garden and seed catalogs, 1700’s. Garden and seed catalogs were distributed in American colonies.4
  5. Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1700’s. In colonial North America, Benjamin Franklin published Poor Richard’s Almanac. This weekly pamphlet broadcasted advertisements and promoted anti-British messages.3
  6. Montgomery Ward catalog, 1870’s. Aaron Montgomery Ward launched a one-page catalog. By 1888, he was making $1 million in sales.1
  7. Sears Catalog, 1890’s. Richard Warren Sears created the Sears Catalog, bringing fine shopping to the world.1
  8. Digital computers, 1946. The EINAC was invented by John Mauchly at the University of Pennsylvania. Pair this technology with the upcoming invention of the first color printer, and a marketing phenomenon is born.2
  9. Bank credit cards, 1960’s. Bank credit cards were marketed to customers and banks with the use of direct mail.4
  10. First color printer: 1976. The invention of a device that prints in color revolutionized direct mail marketing.2

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1 Cavalier Mailing: A Brief Insight into the History of Direct Mail Marketing. Retrieved from


3 Click Send: A Short History of Direct Mail Marketing – Part One (2018). Retrieved from

4 Central Mailing Services: History of Direct Mail. Retrieved from