History of the United States Postal Service

Postal history is American history. With humble beginnings in 1650, when private mail was legalized in England, mounted couriers or post riders were "posted" at posting houses along roads. These inns or stables permitted the traveling of important correspondence without any delays.

Post offices in America were known as "stations." The terms post house and stations stopped from being used as the coach and horse services were replaced by aircraft, railways and cars. Today, when you say "post office," this refers to posting facilities that provide customer services.

Knowing about the USPS is all about knowing America. One of the oldest institutions of the United States, the postal service is a result of a need for correspondence that was always there and never really left. In fact, the post office is where all your mailing needs get handled.

All mail-related services such as sales of postage stamps, provision of post office boxes, acceptance of parcels and letters, stationery and packaging are all provided in the post office. The post master is the name of the post office' chief administrator. Prior to zip codes and postal codes, the system of posting mail would route letters to specified post offices for delivery or receipt.

In the 19th century in U.S., this led to small communities renaming their town after the post office. This happened after the Post Office Department stopped duplicating the names of the station within each of the states.

In its earliest beginnings, the US Post Office and politics were wound tightly together. Explore the past as you glimpse into the future. More than two hundred years since Ben Franklin was the appointed Postmaster General, the USPS has evolved and adapted along with America, boldly accepting the newest technologies to serve the population much better.

Here is a rundown of the rich history of the United States Postal Service.

The Origins Of Mail Delivery In The United States

Originally, to mail a letter, horse-drawn wagons were the main transportation used for mailing letters in larger cities. In the year 1899, mail collection in the cities was tested using automobiles for the first time. The cars were able to cover the same distances in less than half the time it took to mail a letter as the wagons drawn by the horses. For automobile mail-collection, the first contract was for services in Baltimore in 1906. Later, motor wagons were used in 1911 to mail a letter. Learn how to mail a letter.

This was done in 7 cities. By the time 1933 came around, only two-percent of postal automobiles in every city were drawn by horses. The motor vehicles used by the Post Office Department used to be blue, white and red. However, in February of 1913, vermilion red replaced blue. Two years later, the USPS changed back to its blue, white and red original color scheme for vehicles.

Postal vehicles were painted a drab olive starting 1921. The reason was that most of the USPS fleet was composed of transferred trucks for the Department of War. In 1954, the colors became blue, white and red again and then in 1979, it changed to all white with the USPS logo on the exterior.

As early as 1912, some Los Angeles enterprising letter carriers utilized their cars to deliver mail. this cut their normally 8-hour workday into just 4 hours. Until the fifties, the USPS did not motorize routes for city deliveries to mail a letter. The motorized it after the fifties as a response to the unprecedented growth of the suburban populace. More than half of its residence routes were motorized by the department by 1969 with sit-stand trucks, three-wheeled vehicles, and jeeps. Generally, jeeps were used in the '70s and '80s. In 1967, vehicles with more room, lighter and longer-lasting than Jeeps called LongLife vehicles were used.

Mail in the First Colonies

In the first half of the seventeenth century, postal services started serving the first colonies of the Americas. These days, the United States Postal Service is a large organization of the government that provides a vast range of services across the U.S. and its overseas territories.

Before stamps were introduced, it was generally the recipient and not the sender who paid for the postage cost. They gave the fee to the postman directly upon delivery. The postman has the task of money collection for letters he delivered. This slowed down his route. Also, addressees sometimes refused their mail. The mail then had to be taken back to the Post Office.

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This process was revolutionized by postage stamps. This led to universal pre-paid mail. The precondition was the established standard rates for delivering throughout the entire country.

1639: The Beginning of Mail in the U.S.

As early as 1639, postal routes began in Boston with informal, independent postal routes being run in the American colonies. In 1672, the services from Boston to New York City began.

In 1692, officially sanctioned mail services started when King William III granted a delivery "patent" to an English nobleman that included exclusive rights to collect and establish formal post-tax on every kind of official documents. Later, the implemented tax through mandatory stamp purchase became an issue that helped in sparking the American Revolution.

A year later, the tax was repealed and very few were used in the 13 colonies. However, they were used in the British Caribbean islands and Canada.

In the years that lead up to the American Revolution, routes for mail in the colonies existed on roads between Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. Individuals like William Goddard and Benjamin Franklin managed the mail and were colonial postmasters of the eighteenth century. They were the postal system general architects that began as a Crown Post alternative. The Crown Post Was the name of the system for colonial mail, and which was not trusted with the drawing near of the American Revolution. The post system forged by Goddard and Franklin out of the American Revolution became the new US Post Office standard. This system's basic design is still in use by the United States Postal System today.

The history of the United States postal service involved stamp-less letters being delivered. The person receiving the mail bore the cost of the delivery. later, this also encompassed pre-paid carried letters by provisional post offices and mail private carriers. It culminated in a universal prepayment system requiring all letters to bear adhesive postage stamps that were nationally issued.

Ship captains in the earliest days arrived carrying stamp-less mail into port. They advertised the names of mail addressees in the local newspaper so the recipients could collect and pay for their letters if the sender had not already paid for it. After the Revolutionary War, the United States' postal delivery was a matter of local haphazard organization. Eventually, a postal system was established.

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After the introduction of adhesive postage stamps, private postal systems and stamp-less letters paid for by the receiver were phased out gradually. On the 1st of July, 1847, Postage stamps were first issued by the U.S. government in denominations of ten cents and five cents. In 1855, stamp use became mandatory.

The 19th Century

Adhesive postage stamp being issued and used went on in the nineteenth century mainly for first-class mail. Each stamp generally bore the bust or face of an American president or a historically important statesman. However, in the 1890's, the Post office realized it could increase its revenue by selling collectible stamps.

Commemorative stamps then began getting issues, in connection with important expositions of the nation. Later, for significant American historical events that had to do with how to mail a letter. Subsequently, continued tech innovations prompted special stamps to be introduced. This included those used with certified mail, registered mail, zeppelin mail, and airmail.

For some time, postage due stamps were issued and posted on letters by the post office. These were the letters that didn't have enough postage with the extra added-on postage paid at the receiving address. The payment to mail a letter was made to the postal carrier.

Also known as the Postal Service, US Mail, the United States Postal Service is the United States federal government's executive branch independent agency with the responsibility of providing the United States with postal services. This includes its associated states and insular areas. It is one of the few agencies of the government which the Constitution of the United States explicitly authorizes.


It was in the Second Continental Congress of 1775 that the United States Postal Service traces its roots. With the 1792 appointment of first postmaster general Benjamin Franklin, The Post Office was created. In 1872, it was elevated to a department that was on the level of the cabinet. In 1879, it was transformed by the 1970 Postal Reorganization Act as an independent agency called The United States Postal Service.

The United States Postal Service operates the largest vehicle fleet of civilians around the globe. There are almost a million employees actively operating over 211,000 vehicles. This number does not even include personnel and vehicles that contractors use. Legally, the USPS must serve every American with quality and at uniform prices.

Personal letterboxes within America and letterboxes marked "U.S.Mail" can be accessed exclusively by the USPS. Currently, the USPS has to compete against services for private package deliveries such as Amazon, FedEx, and the United Parcel Service.

1970: A Workers Strike Launches the Modern Mail System

On the 18th of March, 1970, New York City postal workers were upset over poor working conditions and low wages. The Civil Rights Movement emboldened them to organize strikes against the government of the United States. Initially, the strike involved only New York City postal workers. It gained support eventually from more than 210,000 workers of the United States Post Office Department across the nation.

There was no concession from the Federal government, even with the strike. However, it did allow for postal worker unions and the government to ultimately negotiate contracts giving unions a lot of what they wanted. It also caused President Richard Nixon to sign the Postal Reorganization Act on the 12th of August, 1970. This act took effect on the 1st of July, 1971 and caused the replacement of the cabinet-level Postal Office Department with the new United States Postal service agency.

The Early 1980s: Raising Revenue by Breaking Down Limits

Many Post Office direct tax subsidies have been eliminated or reduced in favor of indirect subsidies since the early eighties. The exception of associated cost subsidies with the overseas and disabled voters. This is aside from the associated advantages with monopolies enforced by the government for first-class mail deliveries.

Since the 2006 mail volume all-time peak after the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act was passed by Congress which was a $5.5 billion per year mandate to be paid for fully pre-funding health benefits for employee retirement. There was a sharp drop in revenue due to the recession-influenced decline in the volume of mail. This prompted post services to find other revenue services while at the same time cost-cutting to reduce its deficit in the budget.

The 1990s: Adapting with Technology

In 1990, Easy Stamps allowed computer purchases of stamps. International business reply mail was offered and there wan an implementation of independent measurements of First Class Mail. In the next few years, developments included wide area bar code readers, delivery point processing of sequences started and a remote bar coding system was introduced. Also, there were bar codes added to flats for automation. Worldwide, self-adhesive stamps were introduced. There was also an environmental national program that the Postal Service started. Customer service and mail processing stamps were being sold through automated teller machines. In 1993, there was an introduction of a new corporate logo.

There was a public internet site created for the USPS and through the internet, postal services released automated postage software. Flat sorters were introduced and self-adhesive coil stamps were sold. There was then a deployment in 1997 of robotic containerization, liner-less coil stamps that were self-adhesive were available and Stamps Online was introduced online. In 1999 Lance Armstrong of the Proc Cycling USPS Team won his first Tour de France. AFSM 100 was installed and the Point of Services or POS began.

The Early 2000s: Partnering with Package Delivery & the Forever Stamp

For the first time in 2000, the external first-class scores or EXFC reached record highs of ninety-four percent. There was then a business alliance between the United States Postal Service and Federal Express created. There was a launch of signature confirmation and the change of address on the internet was instituted. In the next few years, the President of the United States established the Commission on the United States Postal Service.

The legislation for Civil Retirement System funding reform legislation was passed. It was also the beginning of the pilot program for the Parcel Return Services Program. In 2004 the deployment for detection equipment for bio hazards pushed through. In the implementation of Pay for Performance and testing of customized postage to mail a letter also occurred in the same year. The following year, the volume of First Class Mail was outpaced by the Standard Mail volume. There was an issue of the 2006-2010 Strategic Transformation Plan.

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The Forever Stamp was proposed in 2005. This same year, the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act were signed into law. There was also deployment of the intelligent mail device with signature capture and a newly instituted barcode called Intelligent Mail Barcode.

The United States Postal Service Today

There are enormous breadth and depth in the origin of the United States Postal Service. Its ongoing story is rooted in a great, single principle. For over two hundred thirty-one years, the Postal Services have delivered their promise. They have evolved to serve every citizen of the United States much better.

The universal system of mail has strengthened the bonds of community, family, and friendship for centuries. The system has bolstered the national economy, disseminated information and encouraged civil discourses. The USPS serves both as a trusted courier of a vital industry and the world and nation's business.

New Technology is incorporated into the Postal Service. If there were eighteenth-century trains and steamboats and nineteenth-century automobiles, the twentieth century as seen automation, letter sorting machines and planes. Currently, hundreds of mail pieces are sorted and distributed by computerized equipment.

Risks Heading into the Future

Today, the United States Postal Service has more than forty thousand post offices and delivers more than two hundred billion mail pieces annually to almost two hundred million businesses and home in the United States, American Samoa, the American Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico. It is also the nation's largest employer for civilians with nearly a million career workers handling almost half other world's letters and cards.

The non-profit postal service is a self-support agency covering expenses through U.S. postage. Your mail gets delivered no matter what the weather is like using mules to planes. This service does not come cheap, however, and if the cost of fuel goes up by just one penny, this would cost the USPS an additional $8-million.

The USPS Truck

Postal vehicles were painted a drab olive starting 1921. The reason was that most of the USPS fleet was composed of transferred trucks for the Department of War. In 1954, the colors became blue, white and red again and then in 1979, it changed to all white with the USPS logo on the exterior.

As early as 1912, some Los Angeles enterprising letter carriers utilized their cars to mail a letter. this cut their normally 8-hour workday into just 4 hours. Until the fifties, the USPS did not motorize routes for city deliveries. They motorized it after the fifties as a response to the unprecedented growth of the suburban populace. More than half of its residence routes were motorized by the department by 1969 with sit-stand trucks, three-wheeled vehicles, and jeeps. Generally, jeeps were used in the '70s and '80s. In 1967, vehicles with more room, lighter and longer-lasting than Jeeps called LongLife vehicles were used to mail a letter.

Quick Facts on the USPS: Did You Know?

Founded in 1775 by the Founding Fathers, The Post Office Department is the second oldest federal department. The postal service was born when the Second Continental Congress wanted a Philadelphia office for the Postmaster General. The Postal Service committee consisted of Thomas Willing, Thomas Lynch, Philip Livingston, Richard Henry Lee, Sam Adams, and Benjamin Franklin. Mainly, the committee handled communications between the armies and congress at the time. The first Postmaster General was Benjamin Franklin. Our current system for mail comes from the one he created.

In the U.S., the oldest post office is in Hinsdale Post Office in Hinsdale, New Hampshire. This general store became converted into a post office in 1816.

The unofficial mascot of the USPS is Owney, the well-traveled terrier. Found at the Albany Post Office abandoned in 1888, Owney stuck around allowing only post office workers to touch him. He was later honored with a stamp to commemorate him in 2011.

More than one hundred thousand veterans of the military are employed by the United States Postal Service. The military honors them by issuing over 140 veteran-inspired stamps.

More than seven-and-a-half million people have jobs because of the US postal service. In 2018, over $70.6 billion operating revenues were brought in by the USPS. (Source: Redbook)

In the United States, there is one place left where a mule delivers the mail. It sounds archaic but believe it or not, Arizona's Supai village uses a mule to deliver their mail. Since they are located on the Grand Canyon's bottom, the Havasupai local tribe receives delivered from fifty mules and horses making the eight-mile trek to arrive at their destination.