The earliest known envelopes were made from clay in ancient Sumeria (the area around present-day Iraq), dating back to between 3,500 to 3,200 B.C. Unlike what we use now, these early envelopes were actually hollow clay pockets meant to carry and ensure the safe transit of money.
The Chinese were the first to make paper, and so unsurprisingly, China was the birthplace of the paper envelop where it was originally used to distribute money among government officials.
Early handmade envelopes were made out of paper cut in the shape of a kite, a rhombus/diamond, or a short-armed cross in their basic form. When folded, this design provides four symmetrical flaps that meet in the middle so that it could be secured by a single wax seal.
The design remained largely unchanged for centuries until the duo of Edwin Hill and Warren De La Rue patented their envelope-making machine in 1845. Pre-gummed envelopes like we have today did not make an appearance until the late 19th century. And then, a little later in 1901, Americus F. Callahan invented an envelope with a window in which a see-through panel allows the address on the letter to be visible to outside viewers.
As the pace of human progress rolled along at breathtaking speed in the 20th century, the envelope grew in importance, especially in the corporate circles, becoming a key feature of the office environment.
In response to the demand for durable and reusable envelopes, the Manila Envelope was developed in the 1930s, and quickly grew in popularity. Originally made from the manila hemp, a specie of banana native to the Philippines.
Today, the manila folders are mostly made using heavy tan paper, but it retains its characteristic brown color and relative sturdiness. It is designed to carry large documents without needing to be folded. It is also commonly used for sending invoices and mailing confidential documents, among other purposes.
While envelopes can come in just about any size and thicknesses, there are 13 standard envelope sizes in the United States. The most popular being the #10 envelope, which measures 4⅛ inches by 9½ inches. At paperpapers you are guaranteed to find a stock of envelopes of all sizes, thicknesses, and paper types.
Today envelopes may no longer be as widely used as they once were before the advent of internet technology and the convenience of emails took center stage. Nevertheless, they continue to play an important role in modern society, especially at important ceremonies or festival occasions where only a good old-fashioned envelop would do.
The latest figures from the United States Postal Service show that despite the rise of electronic mail and other alternatives, it still has the job of processing over 500 million letters each day which comes to about 20 million each hour or 5,000 every second.