The United States Postal Service is easy to take for granted. Unless stamps are going up, (which they are, to $.41) we don’t think much about how the system works. Here are a few interesting facts about the history and functioning of the government agency that handles all of your mailed correspondence.
– The Pony Express was instituted in 1860, and was able to go from St. Louis, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, in 14 days.
– Mail trains phased out the Pony Express in 1864, but they had to deal with bandits and outlaws who would hold up the trains to check the mail for money.
– In 1869, Austria became the first country to use post cards.
– In 1872 the U.S. Postal Inspection Service was created, making it the government’s oldest law enforcement agency. It is up to this office to investigate mail fraud complaints in order to uncover evidence of false advertising or fraud, and to stop theft in post offices, as well as to stop the transportation of illegal items by mail.
– Mail delivery by airplane began in 1918 and flew from New York to Washington D.C.
– The post office receives a great deal of money from stamp collectors. For instance, in 1993, 124 million Elvis Presley stamps were sold and in 1995, 44 million Marilyn Monroe stamps were purchased.
– United States Congressmen and Senators have free access to mail services. They can send an unlimited number of letters without paying postage.
– Zip codes are organized based on the location of post offices around the country. For example, zip codes that begin with 0 or 1 are located on or near the East Coast, while post offices that use zip codes beginning with 9 are in California. Minnesota’s zip codes begin with a 5. Zip codes were established in 1963 to help with the sorting and delivery of mail.
– The United States Postal Service has four mail classifications:
First Class– Regular Mail
Second Class– Magazines and Newspapers
Third Class– Junk Mail (Yes, it has its own category)
Fourth Class– Large Packages and Parcels
– Even with the rise of text messaging and email, the post office still handles 500-600 million pieces of mail each year.
Considering the vast, efficient postal system we enjoy in the United States, we should be very appreciative of the timely delivery of our mail. Maybe this gratitude will be powerful enough not to scoff the first time the postal worker says, “A book of stamps? That will be $8.20.”