(NEXSTAR) – UPS is one of the most popular brands in America, and easily recognizable thanks largely in part to the company’s primary color – brown. It’s a color we’ve grown accustomed to seeing on the company’s delivery trucks, drivers, and semis, and anything else with UPS’s branding.
But brown wasn’t always the color you’d see on a UPS truck.
It all started 115 years ago when UPS was started in Seattle by two teenagers, Claude Ryan and Jim Casey. Then, the company was first known as the American Messenger Company.
Six years later in 1913, the American Messenger Company had its first package car, which was red with a black Ford chassis. When it came time for a second package car, “the company was advised to paint it a more conspicuous color,” according to information about UPS’s history shared with Nexstar.
For the second car, the American Messenger Company used yellow. It wasn’t until 1916 that things changed.
Charlie Soderstrom, a UPS founder, started overseeing the company’s automotive fleet. He didn’t want to use the color yellow because he felt it was too conspicuous and impacted the advertising value of the stores they delivered for. Instead, Soderstrom thought the stores would prefer a more conservative color.
A popular choice in the early 1900s was black but it required too much upkeep.
Ultimately, Soderstrom and the company landed on the color brown after being inspired by the Pullman Company and its sleeping compartment railroad cars, which were symbols of “style and elegance and first-class travel” at the time.
The Pullman Company — which was at one point overseen by Robert Todd Lincoln, son of President Abraham Lincoln — was well-known for its luxurious and comfortable railcars.
A brown Pullman Company car can be seen below.
In 1919, when the company expanded to Oakland, California, it debuted the two features we’ve come to know: the name ‘United Parcel Service’ and brown company cars. Six years later, the drivers would get matching brown uniforms.
Eight decades later, in 1998, ‘UPS Brown’ became a trademarked color. UPS became the third company to have a color trademarked in the U.S. (Owens Corning was first, registering pink, followed by Qualitex, which registered a green-blue). Other companies like Tiffany and T-Mobile have since trademarked their colors.