In 1910, the first air forwarders transported a bolt of silk between Dayton and Columbus, Ohio. The first air forwarders beat their railroad contemporaries. In 1919, air forwarders became an integral part of the business. Air forwarders such as American Railway Express and Henry Ford's express company had to adjust by increasing capacity.
It was only after the Second World War that the idea of all-cargo commercial airlines came into existence. Among the pioneer air forwarders during this period was the National Air Transport, the American Railway Express (or Railway Express Agency, REA) and the General Air Express. The air forwarders REA and the General Air Express eventually merged to become the United Airlines. Other air forwarders formed included Airnews, Flying Tiger and Slick. In the early competition among these air forwarders, Flying Tiger turned to out to be the winner.
In the 1980s, one of the most popular air forwarders was founded. Air forwarders idea was the brainchild of Fred Smith, who thought that combining passenger and freight air traffic was not cost-effective. His notion that faster deliveries can be made if freight was transported alone and his idea that next-day deliveries was the way to go, eventually gave rise to Federal Express, one of the giant air forwarders in the world. These principles still guide air forwarders today. Fed Ex eventually acquired flying Tiger in 1989.
The other giant among the air forwarders is UPS (United Postal Service) which traces its origins to a bicycle-based service back in 1907. After serving diverse clients and expanding to air traffic, UPS eventually became one of the most trusted air forwarders and gained a rival status with Fed Ex.