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U.S. Postal Service – Where It Has Been

Published on: May 26, 2012

Left & middle photos: Mail delivery in the early 1900’s: (mostly) men wore uniforms with suits, ties, polished shoes and derby hats. Some walked their routes, others rode bicycles, some took horse drawn carts, and other drove those new-fangled cars.  Right photo: Funky mailbox in Southern California.

  • The lost art of letter writing makes for great reading material, especially when the events that surround the letters are significant. You might receive a comforting letter from your dear grandmother wishing you a happy birthday, a love letter to make the heart grow fonder when you’re far apart, or in worst case scenario a notice that your spouse is filing for divorce or announcement that someone died. At the U.S. Postal Museum in Washington D.C. an exhibit, Fire & Ice: Hindenburg and Titanic, contains original objects such as mail, postcards, menus, photographs, keys from the Titanic post office, and the salvaged postmark device from the Hindenburg. The exhibit runs through January 6, 2014 and is free to see (postalmuseum.si.edu).
  • Today: Most of us receive mail right to our door and we get it 6 times a week  (no delivery on Sunday). Carmel and Sunset Beach, California have no home delivery and residents of these posh communities visit their local post offices at their leisure to get their daily deliveries.  If you’re the average Californian, you’ve seen the quantity of mail decline since the advent of email and online banking. The U.S. Postal Service is experiencing an identity crisis of epic proportions.
  • Getting mail was once a luxury–and it came and a steep price. The Pony Express, one of the first, most expensive methods for moving mail across the U.S. is commemorated with a statue in Old Sacramento and a  mural in Vacaville. The railroad and automobiles both helped to improve the speed at which people received their important mail.

Postal facts:

  • In 2001 the U.S. Postal Service experienced its peak in First Class mail delivery. Over 103 million pieces of mail were sent that year. 10 years later in 2011, delivery of the same type of mail dropped nearly 30% to around 73 million, all while the population grew.
  • There were close to 800,000 postal employees in 2000 when mail volume peaked. The number is down to around 557,000 workers. Meanwhile, delivery locations have increased–there are approx. 151 million places that the mail is distributed to.

U.S. Mail Highlights:

  • 1775 Benjamin Franklin appointed first Postmaster General
  • 1860 Pony Express began
  • 1874 General Post Union (now Universal Postal Union) established
  • 1893 First commemorative stamp
  • 1950 Residential deliveries reduced to one per day
  • 1963 Zip Code began
  • 1974 Self-adhesive stamps
  • 1993 National Postal Museum opened
  • 1994 Internet site launched
  • 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act
  • 2007 Forever stamp

 

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