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