Incredible Old Photos Show How Hard Mail Delivery Really Is

Turns out, getting mail to everyone everywhere in the country is no small task.

The United States Postal Service is currently experiencing a national crisis, which really sums up much of its history. It was created in the 1770s with the intention that it would be a neutral carrier of all information, which at the time meant newspapers, regardless of their politics.

The post office moved up the ranks within the government between 1775 and 1892, culminating in being a cabinet-level department before becoming an independent agency in 1970. It is legally required to carry mail to every single citizen, which has led to some pretty unorthodox methods of delivery, and means that the stodgy old post office is one of the largest employers in the country.

On a normal day, their task of delivering mail is a massive logistical undertaking, and longstanding budget problems and competition from private carriers have threatened the efficacy of the post office. In recent weeks, questions have been raised about the readiness of the post office to handle an influx of mail-in ballots in time for the November election, as a result of decisions from the newest postmaster to cut costs.

Here, we take a look back at the golden age of the post office, when innovations in technology made delivery easier, and most people still depended on their postal carrier for news from the outside world.

A crowd of people stand in front of a post office tent with a sign that says "stamps"
Two men, one in a fedora and one in a soft aviator helmet, stand holding a bag of mail in the cockpit of an old plane that says US Air
A man looks out a window with two small children
A man gets on a wood boat with a sack of mail in a bayou
A man on horseback hands a letter to a woman in a dress and apron standing on a wooden bridge
A fleet of horse-drawn carriages with men holding their reins
Two dogsled teams and pull carts filled with mail in a snowy village
Three men on small motorcars that say US mail
a group of white men in front of a wagon that says US Air Mail
A man in front of a pile of messy packages stands under a sign reading "imperfectly packed parcels"
Messy piles of mail in a huge, empty mailroom
Two black women in military uniforms sort mail
A middle-aged white man in glasses unloads mail onto a conveyer belt
Four people at a mail kiosk that offers change and stamps
A white man with a shoulder bag reading "income tax returns" takes a piece of paper from a black man driving a car
A tiny shuttered wood building reading "US Post Office" in the middle of a desolate landscape, and a mail wagon that says "save time, get a mail box in a city
Well-dressed men and women stand in line to drop off letters in a booth shaped like a giant mailbox in a city square
A man unloads mail from mailboxes covered by snow


Two images in this post have been updated to better reflect the time period.

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