Did you know that the first US passports were actually printed by Ben Franklin? According to this book review of “The Passport: The History Of Man’s Most Travelled Document,” the first US passports were made especially for the United States legation in Paris, France around 1777. Franklin modeled them after the French passports of the time, and printed them from his own printing press.
However, passports did not become commonplace until 1918, when carrying them abroad became mandatory instead of merely advisable. According to the US Department of State’s blog, passports during this period consisted of a large sheet of paper with the bearer’s photo and other information, pasted into a book cover, and were “bulky and inconvenient to carry.” By 1926, a lighter, more durable design had been unveiled, which more closely resembles the passport books we carry today.
Additional modifications were made to the design of US passports over the years, usually with the aim of making them harder to forge. For example, background watermark images were added and the binding was tied with special knots. Today, passports contain an RFID chip to that connects to the Department of State’s database, making them even more difficult to forge. We also have the smaller, wallet-sized passport card, although it is only valid for land and sea crossings to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
When applying for a passport today, it is important to allow enough time for the government to process your request. If you apply for regular service, allow at least 6 weeks (maybe longer if the Passport Office is going through a busy period). If you apply for the government’s expedited service, expect to wait at least 3 weeks.
To get your passport faster, a private passport expediting company like RushMyPassport.com can be a real help. With RushMyPassport.com, your application could be processed in as little as 24 hours!