“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
People have sought to find ways of simplifying the process of communication and ways to make it faster, more secure, and more reliable. Since the effectiveness, and the development of society directly depended on it.
Just to mention, EARLY communication was done by pigeons, drums, or smoke signals, etc. Imagine having to send messages by one of these!!
In the 1600s, few colonists had the need to send packages or letters to each other, and mail from England was sporadic and, in reality, could take months to reach the intended destination. But as society grew, the need for written communication to reach out to other settlers became necessary.
The Early Postal Service
On the 26th of July 1775, the Second Continental Congress established the Federal Post Office with Benjamin Franklin as the first Post Master. OH! How exciting that must have been for the early Colonists. Imagine, an organized mail delivery system for the colonies of early America! No more leaving mail at Inns and Taverns because there were no post offices!
Franklin, a former postmaster for the city of Philadelphia, was one of two joint Postmaster Generals for the colonies. Franklin was instrumental in setting up new mail routes and increasing delivery times from Philadelphia to New York by having the mail delivery wagon to travel instead of once per week to daily utilizing a relay system. Franklin created the chart rate for determining charges for delivery determined by distance and weight.
In 1774 the British fired Franklin from his position as postmaster general because of his revolutionary connections, but he was then appointed under the Continental Congress a year later. Franklin served in this position until he was sent to France in 1776 as a diplomat. At that time, there were approximately 75 post offices in the country.
The Pony Express
Later in 1860 – with the growth in population and the Gold Rush Urging people to “Go West,” a necessary service came to being. The “Pony Express.” The Pony Express was a system of mail delivery originating in St Joseph, MO to Sacramento, CA, and on from there by steamer to San Francisco, CA. A steady relay on horseback through harsh weather conditions to dangers of attack by Indians and robbery they road. Lone horse riders would make their way at breakneck speed, and relay at nearly 200 stations along the multi-territorial route. They would switch horses every 10-15 miles, handing their cargo off then every 75-100 Miles.
Despite the Wild West legend and much-promoted hype, the enterprise never turned a profit in its year and a half of existence. Yep, the life of the Pony Express ended with the war between the government and the Paiute Indians in the Pyramid Lake War. The Pony Express folded in 1861 after losing nearly $200,000. (a LOT of money back then)
The electric Telegraph was developed by Samuel Morse and others in the 1830s and ’40s. This electric Telegraph revolutionized communication over long distances. It works by transmitting dot and dash code pulses (also invented by Samuel Morse) over wires from station to station and decoded by an operator at the destination station.
Although Television, Fax machines, and the Worldwide Web (internet) replaced the use of the Telegraph, it DID make way for those inventions that followed.
*Did you know? SOS is the internationally recognized signal for “help” it stands for nothing and is only adopted because it is easy to transmit. In Morse Code, S is three dots, while O is three dashes.
Postal Service Growth
Even though the abandonment of this delivery system took place, the mail had to go on. The Postal Service continued to grow and expand services.
Information according to https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-s-postal-system-established:
“Today, the United States has over 40,000 post offices, and the postal service delivers 212 billion pieces of mail each year to over 144 million homes and businesses in the United States, Puerto Rico, Guam, the American Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. The postal service is the nation’s largest civilian employer, with over 700,000 career workers, who handle more than 44 percent of the world’s cards and letters. The postal service is a not-for-profit, self-supporting agency that covers its expenses through postage (stamp use in the United States started in 1847) and related products. The postal service gets the mail delivered, rain or shine, using everything from planes to mules. However, it’s not cheap: The U.S. Postal Service says that when fuel costs go up by just one penny, its costs rise by $8 million
Today, with the widespread distribution of the internet, Email, has become the “go-to” for communication. Electronic mail (email) has all but replaced the postman on his rounds.
There are several factors that make email desirable over “snail mail”:
- Speed: Absolutely the BEST advantage to email over snail mail is the speed of delivery. Whereas it could take a week to 10 days for a snail mail letter to reach its designation, email is almost instantaneous.
- Anytime Delivery: Email can be delivered anytime and picked up at the convenience of the recipient.
- Cost: Normally, the cost of sending a letter via snail mail is under $1.00, and the cost of sending an email anywhere in the world is free. (If you figure your computer is going to be on and running anyway)
- Multiple receivers: If you need to send a message to numerous people, it will cost you for every letter you send by snail mail, however, sending a message to multiple people VIA email takes seconds. (Use the BCC – Blind Carbon Copy) so that you don’t expose everyone’s email address.
- Adding Attachments is easy: simply click on the paper clip icon on the email toolbar then choose which attachment you want to send; pictures, Word Docs, PDFs, etc.
- Receiving Email: there is no comparison to which is easier to receive when you consider you must physically be at a residence to receive snail mail, and you can be anywhere in the world and receive an email on your cell phone.
Mail service has made strides over the years, and it is exciting to think about how technology will advance communication in the future!