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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night...

That's a 12 cent stamp on her forehead
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night shall stay these couriers from swift completion of their appointed rounds. The U.S. Postal Service has no official motto but these words, engraved across the front of the U.S. Postal Building in New York are familiar to most of us.

 

Smoke signals were probably our first 'expedited' method of conveying information rapidly a long distance. Then came The Pony Express followed by telegraph, telephone and beyond.

The U.S. Mail was founded in 1775 with Ben Franklin as its first postmaster general. It is legally obligated to serve all Americans, regardless of geography, at uniform price and quality. And they always did.

In the 19th century, much of the country was 'rural' and the Post Office deemed door to door, mailbox to mailbox, the mail must be delivered. Before this, most had to venture to the closest post office periodically to get their mail... often a lengthy trip over bad roads in horrible weather. To go with this, a new level of delivery--parcel post-- assured many things of different weights and shapes could be mailed at costs below postal expenses. And everything, up to 50 pounds, could be mailed.

And for a while, the United States Post Office delivered children. (Yes, really.) This photo (right) is real. The one above is someone's modern day recreation.

It was felt, at the time, that this was an accepted service to help parents get their children to grandma's house a few miles down the road, or in one Oregon instance, from Grangeville to Lewistown --70 miles for 53 cents. For just 15 cents, a 6-year-old was mailed 725 miles from Florida to Virginia.

Actually, the kids were treated like kids, not sacks of mail, often riding in mail cars and being given food and water on the journey.

It wasn't until June 13, 1920 when kids were officially taken out of the mail sack for good.

It was the giant mailers of that day, Montgomery Ward and Sears, Roebuck & Company that drove the demand for parcel post to deliver their mail order goods to rural America that led to human cargo. Oh, and pets too.

Sears Kit Home
From 1908 all the way up to 1940,  Sears, Roebuck & Co. (today, Sears) sold and shipped 70,000 mail order kit homes, complete from instructions to nails and everything else needed to assemble and live in. The homes were  freighted but so much of everything else in the giant catalog was borne on the backs of the postmen.

One of the strangest (if you don't count a severed ear or and the slave who escaped by mail) was the shipment of 80,000 bricks from the foundry to a Utah building site 127 miles away. They were sent in parcel-post-package-limits of 50 pounds each. This was deemed the least expensive way to get them from point A to point B. That would be about 3,200 packages if my postal scale is correct. And I do hope you appreciate my fact checking but I'm out the cost of 80,000 bricks and now don't know what to do with them.

Bless the USPS for its diligence over the years but today, it cost lots more to mail less... and our postal system is loosing billions of our money every year. Darn that email. This, however, will be corrected when I complete my new teleporting booth and sell it commercially for less than the cost of an EpiPen. Hope I'm luckier than the guy in The Fly.





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