Thinking about taking a trip down to the Post Office conjures up images of long lines and regulated service in an age of instantaneous communication through text messaging and the internet. But looking back on the history of Postal Service, the transportation of information was a privilege of the utmost relevance.
The importance of long distance communication was recognized by the early North American colonies and several programs were initiated but none took into account the vastness of all the colonies. With a limited scope and disjointed function, these independent services failed.
In 1691, Thomas Neale petitioned for a grant from the British Crown for the establishment of a North American Postal Service. On February 17th of 1691, he heard his response from regents William and Mary, giving him the funds “to erect, settle and establish…an office or offices for receiving and dispatching letters and pacquets, and to receive, send and deliver the same under such rates and sums of money as the planters shall agree to give, and to hold and enjoy the same for the term of twenty-one years.”
Excited, Neale wasted no time in appointing Andrew Hamilton, New Jersey Governor as deputy postmaster with the first official service up and running by 1692. Postage rates were standardized and a Post Office erected in each Virginia town. When Neale’s patent expired in 1710, Parliament advanced the English postal system to support the colonies. The head office was established in New York City.
All was fine and dandy with this system until the Revolutionary War which seated Philadelphia as the information hub of the new nation, collapsing the English postal service. The postal service found necessity in the expedited transportation of news, laws, military and political intelligence. Newspapers were distributed among the thirteen states as journalists began reaching more people at a lower cost. Overthrowing the English based postal service, the United States postal Service was created on July 26th, 1775 by the decree of the Second Continental Congress. It was initially led by Benjamin Franklin, previous colonial postmaster.Seventeen years later The Post office Department was created in 1792 in order to establish Post Offices and Post roads by Constitutional authority. Representative of core American values, the 1792 law guaranteed low-cost access to information while sanctifying personal correspondence and privacy.
As the country grew West, Post Offices began popping up across the land. To most efficiently reach far away places, this new service operated on a hub and spoke system in which Washington was the hub. By 1869, the USPS had gained so much leverage that it contained 27,000 local Post Offices and began utilizing railroad mail cars. The USPS influenced national expansion crucially. Supplying a quick and affordable way to communicate increased migration to the West, encouraging trade and business ventures while maintaining political relevance. Aside from practicality, the easy spread of information bolstered a sense of nationalism in a blooming country, providing a necessary infrastructure in establishing the new frontier!
So next time you complain about a letter getting lost in the mail or not having mail service on Sundays, remember the long history of the Post in this county and the value of sharing information in America!