As mail volumes grew, applying stamps to each mail piece became cumbersome to medium and large-scale businesses and organizations. Inventors sought to develop machines that could print postal indicia directly onto envelopes and record the amount of postage used.
Arthur Pitney developed his first mailing system, which consisted of a manual crank, chain action, printing die, counter and lockout mechanism, in 1901. This device was patented on October 14, 1902 and he formed the Pitney Postal Machine Company of Chicago, Illinois. The meter die reads, "A penalty of $300 is fixed by law for using this envelope to avoid payment of postage on private matter."
This is the meter die member used and tested by the Post Office Department from November 1903 to January 1904. Following the test, it was mounted on a ceremonial plaque. Cautious with this new technology at first, the Department permitted the meter postage only on third and fourth-class mail.
By 1919 Pitney’s company had combined with Walter H. Bowes’ Universal Stamping Machine Company to create the Pitney Bowes Postage Meter Company.