This Day In History: U.S. Postal System Established
Can you believe it’s been 237 years since the establishment of the United States postal system? Yep, that’s right. The postal system (as it was originally called) was approved by the Second Continental Congress on July 26, 1775.
You may already know that Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first Postmaster General. Previous to this he was the Postmaster in Philadelphia and one of two joint Postmasters General for the original colonies.
There were no post offices in early colonial times, so mail was typically left at inns and taverns. Nearly all mail was from overseas as the colonists had no need to send correspondence “locally”. Mail deliveries from across the Atlantic were sporadic and could take months to arrive.
Ben Franklin set up new, more efficient routes and cut delivery time between Philadelphia and New York by having relay teams of wagons travelling night and day. He also devised the first postage rate charge with costs based on delivery distance and piece weight.
These improvements were considered so radical that the British fired Franklin in 1774. A year later, Congress made his appointment to Postmaster General of the United Colonies. Franklin remained in this position until 1776, when he left the colonies to become a diplomat to France.
In 1789, President George Washington appointed Samuel Osgood as the first Postmaster General of the United States under the new U.S. constitution. At the time there were approximately 75 post offices in the country.
Today there are over 40,000 post offices and the postal service delivers 212 billion pieces of mail annually to over 144 million homes and businesses. And yet many of the improvements instituted by Benjamin Franklin are still in use.
Way to go, Ben! Your revolutionary ideas of how a postal service should operate make the USPS one of the most cost effective and efficient postal services in the world – handling 44% of the world’s total mail volume.