Saturday, May 30, 2020

Mail Call!

Our local mail carrier delivers an assortment of mail to our door six days a week, most of it junk. But I look forward to reaching into my mailbox, grabbing flyers and envelopes and scanning through the stack (can I fall any lower during quarantine than when a highlight of my day is getting the mail?) Sometimes there are items besides junk sprinkled in – a bill or two (most bills appear via email), a thank you note (occasionally), an invitation, catalogs, packages of must-have items ordered online, and perhaps an actual letter (I have not received one of these in – oh, I don’t know, months or years).

The post office is owned by the federal government but operated as a private corporation overseen by a Board of Governors appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. USPS, the U.S. Postal Service, is a service most of us use regularly. Unfortunately, it is threatened with extinction.

In small towns and rural areas post offices were small structures
like this one in Florida, or in the general store.
Sure the post office does not make a profit and runs a deficit every year. The federal
The post office is in this retail store.
government also does not make money and often generates a deficit. But the post office, its buildings and employees are beloved members of our communities. You never know if you will see a neighbor and chat for a few minutes. Sometimes lines get long, but...the variety of stamps for sale are appealing, educational, and works of art.  And the post office employs thousands of people, extremely important when unemployment is in the double digits.

Yes it is a large unwieldy bureaucracy. But so is government and we’re not going to throw that away so fast (although maybe we should, but that’s a discussion for another time.).

The post office has been an integral part of our society since Ben Franklin became the country’s first Postmaster General in 1775. It is part of our history. The Pony Express, although short-lived, captivated folks when it began in 1860. In 1913 parcel deliveries began. Americans, ingenious folks that they are, came up with the idea of using the mails to send their children...wherever. An Ohio couple spent 15 cents, plus $50 to insure the youngster, to mail send their son to his grandmother’s home a mile away. For long distance travel it was cheaper to send a child via mail than buy a train ticket. 

The practice of sending children via the post office did not last long. The method was obviously controversial. In 1915 the last child mailed was a three-year-old sent 40 miles by her grandmother to visit the child’s sick mother.

Although the last documented child sent via the mail was in 1915, as late as 1920 two applications to mail children were rejected because they could not be classified as “harmless live animals”. Any man or woman who has raised kids can understand that decree. On June 13, 1920, the Post Office announced children could not be sent via parcel post under any circumstances.

I lament the fact that another hallowed slice of our society may soon be consigned to the trash heap of history. With any luck it will not occur until after we all mail our ballots in November.


  1. Even though I probably only go there 3 or 4 times a year,I can't imagine a world without the Post Office.
    Fascinating history - thanks!

  2. And our USPS is now under scurtiny and budget cuts. Soom mail may be something only for the upper middle class.

  3. Ahh, the last bit about mail-in ballots turned on a little light bulb. So that's the wily plan -- voter suppression?
    I really enjoyed the whole post though, especially the reasoning behind the eventual reasoning to stop transporting children.

  4. I pray we can save the post office. I bought some stamps that John Oliver created that benefit the USPS. I wish I could do more. I'll vote in November and hope for the best.

  5. One of the things I've learned during this pandemic is to order my stamps and postage online. I knew this was available, but had never tried it. Works fine. But I never even considered that we could do completely without the Post Office. Seems unbelievable. Hope it doesn't come to that.

  6. The post office is a treasured institution. Not everyone uses email or is online. What's absurd is that the person in the oval office doesn't use email. Does he expect people to get carrier pigeons?