The history of the United States Postal Service began with the delivery of unstamped letters, the cost of which was borne by the recipient, then also included prepaid letters carried by private letter carriers and provisional post offices, and culminated in a prepaid system universal that required all letters to carry adhesive nationally issued stamps.
In the early days of ship captains Arriving at the port with mail without stamps, the names of those who had mail would be announced in the local newspapers and would come to collect and pay for it, if the sender had not already paid for it. Postal delivery in the United States was a matter of haphazard local organization until after the Revolutionary War when a national postal system was finally established.
Unstamped letters, paid for by the recipient, and private postal systems, were phased out after the introduction of adhesive postage stamps, first issued by the United States Government Post Office on July 1, 1847. , in the denominations of five and ten cents, with the use of stamps became mandatory in 1855.
The issuance and use of adhesive postage stamps continued through the 19th century primarily for first-class mail. Each of these seals usually bore the face or bust of an American President or another statesman of historical importance. However, once the Post Office realized during the 1890s that it could increase revenue by selling stamps as “collector’s items”, it began to issue commemorative stamps, first in connection with major national exhibitions, then for the anniversaries of important American historical events. Continual technological innovation later prompted the introduction of special stamps, such as those used with airmail, zeppelin mail, registered mail, certified mail, etc. [ citation needed ] Postage due stamps were issued for some time and were affixed by the Post Office to postage-due letters with the postage due payable to the postal carrier at the receiving address.
Today, the post-office-issued stamps are self-adhesive and no longer require the stamps to be “licked” to activate the glue on their backing. In many cases, post office employees now use postal value indicators (PVI), which are computer labels, instead of stamps. [ citation needed ]
Where for a century and a half or so, stamps were almost invariably denominated by their values (5 cents, 10 cents, etc.), the United States Post Office now sells nondenominational “forever” stamps for use in first-class and international mail.
These stamps remain valid even if there is a fare increase. However, for other uses, adhesive stamps with denomination indicators are still available and sold.
Early postal history
Postal services began in the first half of the 17th century serving the early American colonies; today the United States Postal Service is a large government organization that provides a wide range of services in the United States and its foreign territories.
B. Franklin Free Post Office in Philadelphia
In the American colonies, informal and independent postal routes began in Boston as early as 1639, with Boston for New York service beginning in 1672. [ citation needed ]
Officially sanctioned mail service began in 1692 when King William III granted an English nobleman a delivery “patent” that included the exclusive right to establish and collect a formal postage tax on official documents of all kinds. (Years later, taxation implemented through the compulsory purchase of stamps was an issue that helped fuel the American Revolution .) The tax was repealed a year later, and very few were used in the thirteen colonies but saw service in Canada and the British Caribbean Islands.
In the years before the American Revolution, mail routes existed between the colonies along the few highways between Boston, New York, and the United States. Philadelphia. In the mid-18th century, individuals like Benjamin Franklin and William Goddard were the colonial postmasters who ran the post office back then and were the general architects of a postal system that began as an alternative to the Crown Post (the colonial mail system back then) who was now becoming more suspicious as the American Revolution approached. [ citation needed ]The postal system that Franklin and Goddard forged from the American Revolution became the standard for the new United States Post Office and is a system whose basic designs are still used in the United States Postal Service today.
Visualization of the expansion of the United States through the post offices, 1700 to 1900.
In 1775, when Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first Postmaster General, the United States Post Office was born. So important was the Postmaster General that in 1829 this position was included among those in the President’s Cabinet. As the United States began to grow and new cities and towns began to appear, so did the post office. The dates and postmarks generated from these locations have often provided the historian with a window into the particular time and place in question. [ citation needed ] Each postmark is uniquely hallmarked with its own state and city name, plus its distinctive date.
The post offices that existed along the railway lines and at various military posts have their own special historical aspect. Mail and postmarks generated in prisoner-of-war camps during the Civil War, or aboard naval ships, each with a US Post Office on board, can and have offered amazing insights into the history of the United States. and are avidly sought after by historians and collectors alike.
Between 1874 and 1976, post offices were ranked from first to fourth class based on the amount of revenue they generated, with the first being the highest.
- Various dates in 1861
- August 29, 1893
- October 17, 1898
- December 25, 1932
- Ellisville, Illinois Post Office, 1891
Mail before postage stamps
A United States postal clerk in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a single-sheet 1832 “Liverpool Ship Letter” ballpoint pen with postage of “Paid 5” without stamps
Before the introduction of stamps, it was the recipient of the mail, not the sender, who generally paid the cost of postage, handing the fee directly to the postman upon delivery. The task of collecting money for one letter after another slowed down the postman a lot on his route. In addition, mail was sometimes rejected by the recipient, which then had to be returned to the post office (post office budgets always allowed for a significant volume of unpaid mail). Only occasionally would a sender pay shipping costs in advance, an arrangement that usually required a personal visit to the post office. To be sure, postmasters allowed some citizens to run charge accounts for their delivered and prepaid mail,
Postage stamps revolutionized this process, leading to a universal prepayment; but a precondition for their issuance by a nation was the establishment of standardized rates for delivery throughout the country. If postal rates were maintained (as they were in many countries) as a patchwork of many different jurisdictional rates, the use of stamps would yield only limited efficiency gains, as postal employees would have to spend time calculating rates on many letters. : Only then would senders know how much postage to put on them.
Provisional issue stamps
Provisional New York Postmaster, 1845
Provisional stamp of Providence, Rhode Island.
The introduction of postage stamps in the United Kingdom in May 1840 was met with great interest in the United States (and throughout the world). Later that year, Daniel Webster stood up in the United States Senate to recommend that recent English postal reforms — standardized rates and the use of postage stamps — be adopted in the United States.
However, it would be the private company that brought stamps to the US. On February 1, 1842, a new transportation service called “City Despatch Post” began operating in New York City, introducing the first postage stamp. adhesive ever produced in the Western Hemisphere, which required its customers to use it for all mail. This stamp was a 3¢ issue with a rather amateurish drawing of George Washington, printed from line-engraved plates on sheets of 42 images. The company had been founded by Henry Thomas Windsor, a London merchant who at the time lived in Hoboken, New Jersey. Alexander M. Greig was billed as the “agent” for the post, and as a result, historians and philatelists have tended to refer to the firm simply as “Greig’s town post office”, with no mention of Windsor. In another innovation, the company placed mail collection boxes throughout the city for the convenience of its customers.
A few months after its founding, the City Despatch Post was sold to the United States government, which renamed it “City Despatch Post of the United States.” The government began operation of this local post on August 16, 1842, under an Act of Congress of some years earlier than authorized local delivery. Greig, hired by the Post Office to administer the service, kept the firm’s original Washington stamp in use, but the handwriting was soon changed to reflect the name change. In its revised form, this issue consequently became the first postage stamp produced under the auspices of a government in the Western Hemisphere.
An act of Congress on March 3, 1845 (effective July 1, 1845) established uniform (and mostly reduced) postage rates throughout the country, with a uniform rate of five cents for distances less than 300 miles ( 500 km) and ten cents for distances between 300 and 3000 miles. However, Congress did not authorize the production of stamps for national use until 1847; Still, Postmasters realized that standard rates now allowed “provisional” issues to be produced and sold for prepayment of uniform postage rates and printed them in bulk. Such provisionals included both prepaid envelopes and postage stamps, mostly crude in design, the New York Postmaster Provisionalbeing the only one of comparable quality to later stamps.
Baltimore Provisional Issues were notable for the reproduced signature of the city’s postmaster— James M. Buchanan (1803-1876), a cousin of President James Buchanan. All provisional issues are rare, some inordinately: at a Siegel Gallery auction in New York in March 2012, an example of the Millbury provisional sold for $400,000. while copies of the Alexandria and Annapolis provisionals sold for $550,000 each. Eleven cities printed provisional stamps in 1845 and 1846:
Provisional stamp issued in St. Louis, Missouri
- Alexandria, Virginia ( “ALEXANDRIA POST OFFICE” circled )
- Annapolis, Maryland ( circling eagle )
- Baltimore, Maryland ( Signature of James Buchanan )
- Boscawen, New Hampshire ( “PAID/5/CENTS” )
- Brattleboro, Vermont ( shaded box with postmaster’s initials inside )
- Lockport, New York ( “LOCKPORT NY” in oval )
- Millbury, Massachusetts ( woodcut of George Washington )
- New Haven, Connecticut ( “POST OFFICE” inbox, PM signature )
- New York, New York (“POST OFFICE” on Washington portrait)
- Providence, Rhode Island (“POST OFFICE/PROV. RI” in shaded box)
- Saint Louis, Missouri ( Saint Louis Bears, Missouri Coat of Arms)
The 1845 act of Congress, in fact, raised the rate on a significant class of mail: a so-called “delivery letter”: ie, a letter delivered from the same post office that picked it up. Previously one cent, the letter delivery fee became two cents.