Developed to help businesses efficiently prepare bulk mailings, the postage meter imprints the correct prepaid postage on pieces of mail and either mechanically or digitally records the total charges for the company.
The first experiments with postage metering machines were conducted in 1897 with three coin-operated machines in New York post offices that offered stamped envelopes, but these machines were short-lived. Arthur Pitney conducted a series of metered mail tests between 1901-1904. Pitney continued to develop his invention, and in 1919 began working with Walter Bowes. The pair’s new company, Pitney Bowes, introduced the first commercially successful postage-metering machine in 1920. Businesses quickly embraced the concept of metered mail, and soon other manufacturers were marketing postage meters.
When meters were first introduced, company representatives had to take the meter to a post office, where a clerk would accept pre-payment of postage and set the meter. Now additional postage can be automatically updated online.
Meter Stamp Society http://www.meterstampsociety.com/terms.html (Accessed March 5, 2006)
Allison Marsh, National Postal Museum