Happy Anniversary, Delivra!

Today marks an important day in the history of Delivra. We describe ourselves as “one of the original email marketing companies,” because it’s true that we’ve been in the email business for longer than many of our competitors. However, this occasion, the 109th anniversary of our parent company’s creation, calls for some reflection on the early career of our esteemed founder.

Fred Delivra arrived on these shores sometime late in the 19th century, although Ellis Island has no record of his arrival. A very private man, his personal history remains shrouded in mystery. Rumor had it that he was a viscount or baron from either Bohemia or West Frisia, though no details of his prior life could ever be substantiated. In any case, Delivra started his namesake company on April 1, 1901, not long after he migrated to Indianapolis and deposited two bags of 20-franc gold pieces at the National Bank of Indiana on Maryland Street.

Fred Delivra & Co. started out as a retailer of ladies’ fashion shoes, and Delivra also dabbled as a restaurateur before discovering the potential financial windfall in delivering marketing messages on behalf of local merchants. His company became a Central Indiana sensation thanks to Fred’s flock of highly trained carrier pigeons. They were known for their unerring accuracy and ability to loyally return to the pigeon coop atop the Delivra Building on Delaware Street (which, to the chagrin of historic preservationists, was demolished in 1971 to make way for the Indiana Pacers’ new home, Market Square Arena). Unfortunately, this hardy breed was also well known for its delicious and succulent flavors, which ultimately led Delivra to abandon pigeon marketing.

Delivra poses with favorite pigeon

As his pigeon flock dwindled, Delivra began developing a Teletype system. It was this innovation that moved Fred Delivra from local figure to national curiosity. From the New York Examiner, August 22nd, 1915:

“Fred Delivra brings the wows to crowds as the new teletype marketing interchange is able to send 8 messages over the course of an hour, blazing past all previous records. Whoa, nelly! Fred Delivra has the moxie, the gumption, and the old-fashioned know-how to change the way we in this fair land communicate!”

Some of Delivra’s first clients included the Wharton-Smyth Velocipede Company, Dew Drops 100% Safe Children’s Cough Syrup, and The Minneapolis Pavement and Steam-Pipe Co-Op. An original telegram from Harold Wharton-Smyth, framed and hanging in Delivra’s current office, reads:





Delivra and Jones – 1920

Delivra hired his first compliance manager, Alfonse Jones, following passage of the Phelps-Dawson Act of 1920

Other competitors followed, and the young industry (which some had already dubbed as “electronical mail,” a moniker later adopted by the inventors of the Internet as an homage to Delivra and other communication pioneers, and shortened to “email,”) grew but was soon threatened by Estonian Teletype bandits sending unwanted and unsolicited teletype messages to law-abiding, peaceful citizens. The integrity of the new technology was jeopardized by the proliferation of these false and misleading advertisements for Dr. Prufrock’s Vitality Ointment; promotions for knockoff Winchester Brand Pipe-Tobacco; and scandalous gossip against Hollywood starlet Louise Brooks. Facing the grim prospect of a federal crackdown on all commercial teletype activity, Fred Delivra broke his longstanding stance against involvement in public affairs to assist Congressman Carlyle Root Phelps in creating the first laws regarding teletype sending and receiving.

Does your email service provider have this kind of track record in delivering marketing content and preventing messaging abuse? We think not. The proud employees of Delivra salute our visionary founder on this, our 109th anniversary. However, the festivities planned for today won’t affect service to our clients, we promise; Delivra’s support lines remain open during regular business hours today, despite the celebration. Fred would have wanted it that way.


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