February 20, 2013 by noogiefilmore
On this day in 1792, George Washington signed the Postal Service Act which formally created the United States Postal Service. It gave Congress the power to outline delivery routes and made it illegal for postal workers to open anyone’s mail.
This wasn’t the beginning of delivered mail in the United States. A British-appointed Postmaster General was instituted in 1707 to manage the postal service in the colonies. In 1737, a young colonist took the job and oversaw the distribution of colonial mail from his post in England. His name was Benjamin Franklin and he held the post until he was let go for seditious actions in 1774. He wasn’t worried, though. His colonial compatriots had a mirror-image position waiting for him when he returned to American soil.
In 1792, sending a letter cost between 6 and 12 cents. At that time, the letter could bounce around 75 regional post offices along 2,400 miles of routes. According to the November 11, 1899 edition of the New York Times, the number of post offices had grown to 75,000. In one hundred years the number of post offices increased one thousand times over.
Today’s bit of history is especially interesting considering the recent talks of the possible dissolution of the Postal Service. Over the years, the costs of operation have become increasingly hard to manage. The advent and eventual ubiquity of electronic mail have demonstrated that there is a decreased reliance by private individuals on the service. We just don’t send as many pieces of snail mail and we opt-in for electronic alerts for bills, blog updates, and our news.
In what ways do you still rely on the U.S. Postal Service?