Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Neither Snow Nor Rain...DELIVERING the MAIL RPPC Postcards
This post shows some examples of real photo postcards related to delivering the mail in the U.S. in the early years of the 20th century. The United States Postal Service has an informative website on the history of the service, and the facts in this post are from that site. The above unused postcard has an AZO stampbox, dating the image 1904-1918. Since the postcard has a divided back, the age is most likely to be 1908-1918. The previous owner noted Stewartstown, PA. on the back.
These fellows stand in front of a small free-standing Post Office on a divided back postcard with the same AZO stampbox. Originally, the carriers hand-delivered the mail to customers but, if the customer was not at home, the mail carrier kept the mail and re-delivered it. By 1912, new customers were required to have a mail receptacle. As late as 1914, the Postmaster General estimated mail carriers spent 30 - 60 minutes a day re-delivering mail. By 1923, all customers had to have mailboxes to receive service.
This divided back postcard from the same period shows the hefty mailbags that carriers used. Their route could be as long as 22 miles per day, carrying mailbags that weighed up to 50 pounds. Homes received mail twice a day, and businesses up to four times daily. When I was a child in the 1950s in Pennsylvania, there were twice-daily mail deliveries at the Christmas holidays - exciting! By then, mail carriers' loads had been reduced to 35 pounds, still the official weight.
Of course, before the mail can be delivered, it has to be sorted. Below is a rare interior view of a busy post office sorting room. On the back is handwritten: Seasons Greetings from your carrier.
Delivering the mail required a variety of vehicles. Below is a dog sled loaded with mailbags on a snowy winter day. U.S. Mail Leaving P.O. at Cheboygan for Pointeaux Pins and Walkers Point, Mich. Copyright 1910 by J.R. Johnson is printed on the front. This is an unused divided back real photo postcard with an AZO stampbox.
By 1897, there were 44 Rural Free Delivery routes in the U.S., and it became a national service in the summer of 1902. Customers out in the countryside had sent over 10,000 petitions requesting the service in the years before it was available nationally, so that they didn't have to drive miles to pick up their mail. Below is a divided back unused postcard with an AZO stampbox showing a horse-drawn Rural Free Delivery wagon. The growth of Rural Free Delivery was partially dependent on the availability of decent roads...the dirt road in this image looks rather primitive.
Rural Free Delivery was abbreviated R.F.D. on some wagons, as the one below. The mailman is handing letters to several ladies and they are surrounded by an enthusiastic group. Don't miss the boys on the left, so delighted to have their picture taken. This real photo postcard is postmarked 1909 from Warren, Ohio.
In 1906, the word FREE was dropped from the service, as it was understood.
Here is a mailman in his horse-drawn Rural Delivery wagon putting mail in a mailbox. In 1901, the Postal Service asked manufacturers to create a standardized metal mailbox to replace the assortment of boxes, pails, and cans previously put out by rural customers. The mailboxes were to be attached to poles at a height that would allow the mail carrier to put in the mail without getting out of the wagon. It wasn't until 1929 that mail carriers were almost all driving motor vehicles.
We close with a portrait of five Marion, Michigan Rural Free Delivery Carriers in uniform. The Post Office Department declared that, "as a class there are no more faithful employees in the Government service."
This brings us to the famous inscription on the New York city James Farley Post Office: Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
Since I conduct my eBay business by mail, I am always grateful for the essential service the USPS provides. And I am grateful that we still have Saturday delivery!
PRICE ESTIMATES: Real photo postcards with a mail theme have become highly collectable and bidding can be very competitive. I recently heard a dealer at a postcard show say, "In the old days, you couldn't GIVE real photo postcards away," making me wish (again) for a time travel machine. Postcards like the ones shown in this post will cost about $35 - $60 depending on quality and rarity. This estimate is for postcards in EXCELLENT condition, and it is only an estimate.