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10 Interesting United Sates postal vehicles that were used in the 19th and 20th century

Boban Docevski
People and the Post, Postal History from the Smithsonian's  National Postal Museum
People and the Post, Postal History from the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum

The foundations of the US Postal Service go back in the early years of the North American colonies. Many attempts were made for creating a reliable postal service. These early attempts were of small scale and usually involved a colony, Massachusetts Bay Colony, for example, setting up a location in Boston where one could post a letter back home to England. Other attempts focused on a dedicated postal service between two of the larger colonies, such as Massachusetts and Virginia, but the available services remained limited in scope and disjointed for many years. For example, informal independently-run postal routes operated in Boston as early as 1639, with a Boston to New York City service starting in 1672.

The first central postal organization was introduced to the colonies in 1691 when Thomas Neale received a 21-year grant from the British Crown for a “North American Postal Service”. On February 17, 1691, a grant of letters patent from the joint sovereigns, William and Mary, empowered him: “to erect, settle, and establish within the chief parts of their majesties’ colonies and plantations in America, 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.”

The official post office was created in 1792 as the Post Office Department (USPOD), in the form of a Cabinet department officially from 1872 to 1971. It was headed by the Postmaster General. Postmaster General John McLean, in office from 1823 to 1829, was the first to call it the Post Office Department rather than just the “Post Office.” The Postal Service Act signed by President George Washington on February 20, 1792, established the Department. It was based on the Constitutional authority empowering Congress “To establish post offices and post roads”.

The 1792 law provided for a greatly expanded postal network and served editors by charging newspapers an extremely low rate. The law guaranteed the sanctity of personal correspondence and provided the entire country with low-cost access to information on public affairs while establishing a right to personal privacy.Postmaster General John McLean, in office from 1823 to 1829, was the first to call it the Post Office

It was based on the Constitutional authority empowering Congress “To establish post offices and post roads”. The 1792 law provided for a greatly expanded postal network and served editors by charging newspapers an extremely low rate. The law guaranteed the sanctity of personal correspondence, and provided the entire country with low-cost access to information on public affairs while establishing a right to personal privacy.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) as we know it today was created in 1971, as an independent agency under the Postal Reorganization Act.

During this long period of history, from the colonial days, up to modern times, the United Sates mail service changed a lot. They changed the way they work, and besides other things, they changed the vehicles they used for delivering the letters and packages to people. Until the iconic trucks that are used today were introduced, the postal service experimented with a lot of different means of transportation. Here are you can see 10 vehicles that were used by the old Post Office Department (USPOD). The vehicles date from 1885 up to 1955.

1. Handcarts used for collecting and transporting mail in cities (1885)
People and the Post, Postal History from the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum

Photo source: Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum

2. Mail wagon manufactured by Studebaker Brothers. This wagon used to patrol the streets of Chicago and collect mail from sidewalk mailboxes. (1890)
People and the Post, Postal History from the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum

Photo source: Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum

3. Rural Free Delivery (RFD) carriers were encouraged to replace horses and wagons with electric-motored vehicles. The vehicle shown below is from 1910 and it doesn’t look very capable. Horses and wagons were still a better option.
151210-postal-museum-03

Photo source: Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum

4. Three-wheeled mail collection motorcycle in Washington, D.C. (1912)
People and the Post, Postal History from the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum

Photo source: Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum

5. A postman collecting mail from a sidewalk mail collection box, together with his trusty truck. (1915)
People and the Post, Postal History from the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum

Photo source: Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum

6. A de Havilland mail airplane at Hadley Field in New Brunswick, N.J. Transcontinental airmail service started in the summer of 1924.
People and the Post, Postal History from the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum

Photo source: Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum

7. A custom made vehicle created by rural carrier Lloyd Mortice. He used it use on his snow-bound New England route. He fitted his 1926 Model-T with a steel track on the rear drive shaft. He was able to put wheels or skis in front, depending on how the weather was.
People and the Post, Postal History from the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum

Photo source: Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum

8. The first Highway Post Office bus in Strasburg, Va., on Feb. 10, 1941.
People and the Post, Postal History from the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum

Photo source: Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum

9. This picture was taken in 1953, and it is showing one of the Department’s new right-hand drive vans. In the early 1950s, the department ordered thousands of new postal vehicles in order to modernize the mail service.
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Photo source: Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum

10. A city letter carrier inside a three-wheeled “mailster” motor vehicle. It wasn’t the mot reliable motor but it still did the job. (1955)

People and the Post, Postal History from the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum

Photo source: Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum