February 20 - With the stroke of the pen, the USPS is born!

Posted on February 20, 2018

Don't get me wrong, today was not the start of any sort of postal service in what was to become the United States of America.

Way back when the British colonies in North America were getting started, getting messages and packages from one place to another was usually handled by paid couriers. By 1707, Britain set up a position called Postmaster General so that sending mail from Britain to its colonies, or vice versa, was as efficient as quick as possible. 

And when Benjamin Franklin was just 31 years old, he was given this important position.

During his tenure as Postmaster General, Franklin spent most of his time in Britain. But the colonies were inching toward rebellion, and Franklin was looking like he sided with the rebels... 

Which, from the British point of view, made him a traitor. He was dismissed from his position in 1774.

Just a year later, the Second Continental Congress asked Benjamin Franklin to continue what he had been doing, but for the still-not-quite-independent colonies.

And thus was the Constitutional Post created, and it was very important to the colonists and even the American military. Once the Revolutionary War was over and a peace treaty with the British was signed, in 1783, the Americans made a first stab at a new government with the Articles of Confederation. Those articles dictated that postal service be created to move messages and packages from state to state...but it took until this date in 1792 for the the U. S. Postal Service to be actually, formally begun, when President George Washington signed the Postal Service Act into law.

Here are some factoids about the start-up of the USPS:

  • Congress had the power to establish official mail routes.
  • The cost of sending a letter wasn't a flat fee - instead, it cost between 6 and 12 cents, depending on the distance.
  • The nation already had 75 regional post offices and 2,400 miles of postal routes.
  • The USPS had its headquarters in Philadelphia, which was the capital of the young nation from 1790 to 1800. Of course, the headquarters moved to the newly built capital, Washington, D.C., in 1800.
Compared to old-time stamps such as the two above, modern stamps are colorful and varied:

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