The Development of the American Postal System

Updated on October 28, 2017
RGraf profile image

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.


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.


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.


- Penn State -

- How Stuff Works -


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      2 years 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 

      2 years ago from Missouri

      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.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)