By the end of the fifteenth and early into the sixteenth century, a courier service that spanned a continent was developing from what had been originally a simple family business. The Taxis family first began their postal routes with a contract to provide service between Crown Prince Philip in France and his father Emperor Maximilian I in Austria. As the years went by, the Taxis family concluded contract after contract with ruler after ruler, linking them with the increasingly large Taxis communication service empire. Before the end of the sixteenth century, the Taxis family was not only providing the courier service between nations but even administering the internal communications within the Holy Roman Empire. By the end of the next century, the Taxis family received the postmaster generalship of the Holy Roman Empire as a hereditary title, and had become knighted Princes of the Empire as the House of Thurn and Taxis.
When first started, the Taxis postal system was for the royal court and government use only. During the early 1500s, in the documents that survive, the members of government are constantly chastised for using the post for private communication and for allowing their friends to use the post for private gain. But by the late 1500s such admonitions do not exist. We do not know when the change occurred, but we can surmise why: the growing business establishments of Europe needed a communications network. By the beginning of the seventeenth century, the post of Thurn and Taxis could be used by anyone who could pay the price.
Today, speed and accessibility of communications are taken for granted. Few people reading these words even know anyone who lives without a telephone and certainly everyone can get mail. In the immediate future, it is expected that most businesses will have a photocopier tied in to telephone lines, so that correspondence placed in one copier can be duplicated instantly halfway around the world. And it is speculated that even private homes will have this tie-in before too many decades have passed, with such conveniences as newspapers being photocopied for subscribers, eliminating all the printing and distribution steps.
But predictions about communications and transportation are difficult. In the 1950s it was believed that the 1980s would see a jet-aged society, shuttling through space for even the shortest journeys. Little did they know that fuel prices and technology would have us bundled in sweaters, paying Cadillac prices for nonpolluting two-seater cars. But while we cannot predict the future of the communication systems of the world, we do know of a long and noble past. The letter that you get today has traveled far, been handled by many, and is part of a network of transportation and communication that is the best humanity could devise these thousands of years.