"By hand" on a hand delivered thank you note
June 26, 2016 8:10 PM   Subscribe

I have observed that when thank-you notes written by people from old money families are personally delivered, the annotation "By hand" is invariably added to the bottom right corner of the envelope. Can anyone educate me as to the origins of this practice?
posted by Turtles all the way down to Society & Culture (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Back in the day I worked with mail at a stockbroker. Naturally, a lot of correspondence was with other firms within walking distance, and we had a couple of messengers who'd schlep this about. So outgoing stuff to be delivered by the lads would have 'by hand' written on them, to distinguish them from the stuff which would be going through the franking machine and out over regular mail. So: it's simply for the benefit of the staff organising the mail.
posted by pompomtom at 8:48 PM on June 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

In the context of personal letters, it's a practice associated with the now (mostly) dead tradition of archiving personal correspondence. It simply denotes that the letter was hand-delivered, rather than by post or courier. It's just for future reference when the envelope and associated contents are viewed later.
posted by BrandonW at 8:50 PM on June 26, 2016 [12 favorites]

Wonderful, BrandonW. Thank you!
posted by Turtles all the way down at 9:20 PM on June 26, 2016

I would say beyond the practicalities of directing delivery and archiving, there is also the implied cachet: "By hand" says to the recipient, "I wanted to be sure you got this important message personally and quickly, so I didn't want to leave it to the postal carrier."
posted by beagle at 5:09 AM on June 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

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