- Arthur Pitney
Arthur H. Pitney (1871-1933) was an American
inventorbest known as the father of the postage meter.
Postage meters are used today by millions of businesses to imprint postage on
envelopesand parcels. Meter indiciaserve as proof of payment, functioning as a postage stamp, a cancellationmark, and a dated postmarkall in one.
Pitney filed a
patent application, in Stamford, Connecticutfor the world’s first postage meter on Dec. 9, 1901. He presented, demonstrated and perfected his invention over two decades – but it was not until he partnered with English-born industrialist Walter Bowesthat the postage meter was approved by the U.S. Postal Service.
He co-founded the Pitney-Bowes Postage Meter Company in 1920. Today, the company that bears his name,
Pitney Bowes, is a $6.1 billion provider of software, hardware and services related to documents, packaging, mailingand shipping, collectively referred to as the mailstream.
Pitney’s invention, the Pitney Bowes Model M Postage Meter has been recognized as an International
Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmarkby the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
Arthur Pitney was born in
Quincy, Illinoisin 1871. In 1890 he moved to Chicago, where he attended the World's Columbian Expositionin 1893, spending days viewing the mechanical inventions on display.
Later, while working as a clerk in a
wallpaperstore he identified a problem that was costing his firm time and money—affixing postage stamps to hundreds of envelopes was tedious and inefficient and left the company vulnerable to large losses due to stamp theft, a common crime at the time.
An inventor in the classic “tinkerer-putterer” mode, he created a device to simplify business mailings. The first postage meter device consisted of a manual crank, chain action, printing die, counter and lockout device.
He formed the Pitney Postal Machine Company in 1902, which became the American Postage Meter Company in 1912. In the interim, the machine’s acceptance by the public and the postal administrations dragged on slowly without resolution. A disgusted Pitney—his finances and marriage both wrecked by the project—resorted to selling insurance. But he continued to persist.
In 1919, Pitney was introduced to Walter Bowes, an industrialist who had success marketing a Post Office stamp canceling machine. In April 1920, the Pitney-Bowes Postage Meter Company was formed. In September of that year, the Model M Postage Meter was approved by the U.S. Postal Service, legislation was passed by Congress and the first postage meter was put into commercial use on November 16, 1920.
Pitney and Bowes set up a
manufacturingpresence in Stamford, Connecticut and by 1922 there were branch offices in a dozen major cities and the Pitney-Bowes postage meter was also approved for use in Canadaand England.
While the company was growing, neither Pitney nor Bowes enjoyed this success. The two men were constantly at odds and in 1924, Arthur Pitney resigned from the company after a dispute with Bowes. While his innovations led to the creation of an entire mail processing industry, his efforts brought him little joy. Pitney suffered a
strokein 1927 and died in 1933.
* [http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fsb/fsb_archive/2002/09/01/329002/index.htm FORTUNE Small Business, Meter Men, September 2002.]
* [http://famousbrandnames.blogspot.com/2007_02_08_archive.html The Real People Behind Our Famous Brand Names]
* [http://www.pb.com Pitney Bowes – Company History]
* [http://www.adamscohistory.org/bios.html Quincy Historical Society]
Cahn, William (1961). The Story of Pitney-Bowes. New York: Harper & Brothers.
* [http://www.pb.com/ Pitney Bowes corporate US website]
* [http://www.pitneybowes.co.uk/ Pitney Bowes corporate UK website]
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