In 1965, Yale University undergraduate Frederick W. Smith wrote a term paper about the passenger route systems used by most airfreight shippers, which he viewed as economically inadequate. Smith wrote of the need for shippers to have a system designed specifically for airfreight that could accommodate time-sensitive shipments such as medicines, computer parts and electronics.
In August of 1971 following a stint in the military, Smith bought controlling interest in Arkansas Aviation Sales, located in Little Rock, Ark. While operating his new firm, Smith identified the tremendous difficulty in getting packages and other airfreight delivered within one to two days. This dilemma motivated him to do the necessary research for resolving the inefficient distribution system. Thus, the idea for Federal Express was born: a company that revolutionized global business practices and now defines speed and reliability.
Federal Express was so-named due to the patriotic meaning associated with the word “Federal,” which suggested an interest in nationwide economic activity. At that time, Smith hoped to obtain a contract with the Federal Reserve Bank and, although the proposal was denied, he believed the name was a particularly good one for attracting public attention and maintaining name recognition.
The company incorporated in June 1971 and officially began operations on April 17, 1973, with the launch of 14 small aircraft from Memphis International Airport. On that night, Federal Express delivered 186 packages to 25 U.S. cities from Rochester, NY, to Miami, Fla. © 2006 FedEx