The first franking machine was invented in 1884 as an answer to the problems which the post office had been suffering for a long time with regards to security and a reliable system of payment. The machine was called the “Postage Stamp Affixing Machine” and was invented by Norwegian, Engle Frankmussler…the “Frank” from “Franking Machine”. The Postage Stamp Affixing Machine was shown to the world in Germany at the Worlds Fair. At the same time other inventors were working on similar machines including Arthur Pitney in Chicago.
The Pitney Postal Machine Company was born in 1902 after Arthur Pitney applied for and gained a patent for his invention. The company later became known as the American Postage Metre Company and was in direct competition with the Franking Company of America.
These early franking machines worked manually with the aid of a crank and printing dies. They were susceptible to tampering and there have been constant improvements to franking machines over the years. Today’s franking machines are of course digital and very difficult to tamper with.
Franking Machines Today
The basic premise of franking machines is that they offer a method of pre-paying postage costs for mail by way of remaining in contact electronically with the Royal Mail. Each franking machine is linked to a business account and owners pay for postage costs in advance; when a letter needs posting, the user sets the franking machine with the correct date and inserts the letter which is then franked with that company’s individual franking impression. Today this is done with inkjet technology.
Franking machines come in a variety of sizes and capabilities to suit the needs of different businesses, from basic models which are designed to cope with a small volume of letters to more sophisticated models suitable for companies which send hundreds of letters per day. The Royal Mail offers a lot of support to the owners of franking machines including advice on the successful running of the machine and also generous discounts on postage costs.
Franking today has moved on and branched out considerably , not only can people benefit from franking machines at home but innovations such as the label printing technology offered by Ebay, have allowed people to frank mail without a franking machine. The technology used by Ebay which allows users to pay for postage online and then print off a label for their parcels is powered by Pitney Bowes and is a good example of how far franking has come over the centuries.