Pneumatic transportation was invented by William Murdoch around 1799. It was considered little more than a novelty until the invention of the capsule in 1836. The Victorians were the first to use capsule pipelines to transmit telegrams, to nearby buildings from telegraph stations. The system is known as pneumatic dispatch.
In 1854 Josiah Latimer Clark was issued a patent "for conveying letters or parcels between places by the pressure of air and vacuum." In 1853 he installed a 220-yard (200 m) pneumatic system between the London Stock Exchange in Threadneedle Street, London, and the offices of the Electric Telegraph Company in Lothbury. The Electric Telegraph Company used the system to acquire stock prices and other financial information to pass to subscribers of their service over their telegraph wires. The advantage of the pneumatic system was that without it the company would have had to employ runners to carry messages between the two buildings, or else employ trained telegraph operators within the Stock Exchange. In the mid-1860s, the company installed similar systems to local stock exchanges in Liverpool, Birmingham, and Manchester. After the telegraphs were nationalised in Britain, the pneumatic system continued to be expanded under Post Office Telegraphs. By 1880 there were over 21 miles of tube in London. A tube was laid between the Aberdeen fish market office and the head post office to facilitate the rapid sale of a very perishable commodity.
While they are commonly used for small parcels and documents–including as cash carriers at banks or supermarkets–they were originally proposed in the early 19th century for transport of heavy freight. It was once envisaged that networks of these massive tubes might be used to transport people.
The technology is still used on a smaller scale. While its use for communicating information has been superseded, pneumatic tubes are widely used for transporting small objects, where convenience and speed in a local environment are important. In the United States, drive-up banks often use pneumatic tubes to transport cash and documents between cars and tellers.Until it closed in early 2011, a McDonald's in Edina, Minnesota claimed to be the "World's Only Pneumatic Air Drive-Thru," sending food from their strip-mall location to a drive-through in the middle of a parking lot.