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The Development of the American Postal System

Updated on October 28, 2017
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Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

So many things we work with everyday are never really thought about. Let's look at our postal system. We only think about it when we need to mail something or we are waiting on mail. Other than that, we never give it a thought.

Most people think that the postal service started with Benjamin Franklin. We rarely think beyond that point since he was a genius and did so much for this nation. Though he did a lot for the American postal service, it did not all begin with this founding father. The beginnings of the American postal service began much further back in time.

Began in the Ancient World

In reality, the postal service began as far back as the ancient Egyptian and Persian Empires. It wasn't invented in America during the Colonial period. It was just adjusted to fit the new world.

These empires ruled around 700 B.C. and made huge impacts on our world today. Just one of them was the postal service.

Early postal services in the Middle East and as far away as China began as a means for the rulers and all those in their service to communicate effectively with each other. With men dedicated to transporting documents, letters, and other correspondence, communication increased throughout the kingdom and allowed the empires to grow and become the legends that we know.

Pony Express statue in St. Joseph, Missouri. Photo by poster in August 2006. Category:St. Joseph, Missouri Category:Buchanan County, Missouri Category:Pony Express
Pony Express statue in St. Joseph, Missouri. Photo by poster in August 2006. Category:St. Joseph, Missouri Category:Buchanan County, Missouri Category:Pony Express

Not Uncommon in the Ancient World

Every large civilization that left more than a military imprint on us used an extensive postal service that proved highly effective and influential.

The Roman Empire developed one of the largest and evolved systems that helped the Empire expand. In fact, there were roads dedicated solely for postal riders.

As the world advanced and grew, so did the postal system. When the Americas were discovered, it did not take long to see the need for a system to transport correspondence. Early in the years of colonization, the most common ways to get letters from one place to another was by looking for travelers passing through. They would carry the letters with them and leave them off at the appropriate destinations or at another stopping point.

Source

First American Postal Service

The first official move to an organized postal system in the new world was in 1639 when a Boston tavern owned by Richard Fairbanks was designated as the place for all communication between the New World and the Old World to be channeled through. As the letters and parcels arrived in port, they were transported to the tavern. There more correspondance was picked up by the ship leaving next and transported back to Europe. Someone at the tavern sorted the mail and helped it get to the final destination. Rudimentary but efficient.

Postal service between colonies came about forty years later between Boston and New York. As the colonies grew as did discontent, the need for a postal service was needed. It started out as informal as the tavern service, but it slowly began to find structure.

The very first post office was established in Pennsylvania in 1683. This was before the colonies had created their own nation. They were a unique entity even under the umbrella of the British. This was a more local version which would set the stage for the later versions that would develop and eventually unite.

While the North was beginning to develop a postal system, the South mainly relied on slaves to deliver messages between plantations. It wasn’t until 1737 when Benjamin Franklin was given the position of Postmaster by England that the settlements took a large step toward a more developed and streamlined postal service and a united country.

Source

Franklin's Influence

Though Franklin was only thirty-one when took on this position, he was already beginning to show signs of the genius that generations described of him. Upon taking up the position, he examined the postal routes and post offices. The postal routes were reorganized and made more efficient. Communication was increased and the colonies began to band closer together.

Over the years the American postal service grew and evolved into what we know today. Communication still goes through this service despite technology that increases communication even further. Yet, the United States postal service stands strong as the official communication of the young country.


Sources

- Penn State - http://www.personal.psu.edu/jtk187/art2/mail.htm

- How Stuff Works - https://people.howstuffworks.com/usps1.htm

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    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 4 weeks ago from Norfolk, England

      The postal system has certainly changed a lot over the years. I don't really know much about the history of Royal Mail here in England, but know the whole system has changed dramatically over the years. There's so many other companies now that deliver your mail and parcels.

    • dougwest1 profile image

      Doug West 4 weeks ago from Raymore, MO

      Good Hub. Since Franklin was a printer, you might note the Franklin was very interested in the development of the postal system to increase the distribution of the items he wrote (Almanac) and printed.