Not many people think long and hard about how their mail gets to them or the history of the institutions that deliver to their doorsteps.
USPS, however, has a rich, interesting history that extends back to the 1700s, so listed below are 23 interesting facts about USPS!
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1. The Post Office Is The Second Oldest Federal Department In The United States
The United States Postal Service was founded on July 26th, 1775, nearly a year before the United States was officially declared as an independent country.
2. Benjamin Franklin Was The First Postmaster General
The committee that created the postal service consisted of some famous names such as Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, and Thomas Lynch.
In fact, Benjamin Franklin was named the first Postmaster General, and the system he created is what made our present postal service system possible.
3. The First Post Office Was In A Bar
The very first post office in colonial America was established in 1692 and operated out of the home of Richard Fairbanks, which doubled as a tavern that sold “strong water”.
4. Stealing Mail Was Punishable By Death Until 1872
The US mail service was the only way to send money in the 1870s, so while death may seem like an extreme punishment, it was more a reflection of how important the security of the postal service is.
However, Congress decided in 1799 that the penalty for first-time thieves of mail should be a public whipping and ten years in death, while second-time offenders still received the death penalty and this punishment stayed unchanged until 1872.
5. The Postmaster General Used To Be In The Line Of Succession To The Presidency
President Jackson had a knack for finding all of the possible loopholes in democracy, such as firing large swaths of federal workers in order to offer now open jobs to people who were loyal to him.
It’s no surprise, then, that during his presidency, Jackson decided the Postmaster General should be part of the cabinet, and therefore be in line for the presidency.
In fact, the Postmaster wasn’t removed from the cabinet until 1971.
6. People Used To Mail Babies- Yes, Babies!
In 1913, when young parents wanted to have their children go visit their grandchildren, the easiest way to do so was to stick stamps on their children’s clothes and mail them via the post office.
This was right around the time of the beginning of Parcel Post, which enabled Americans to send packages weighing up to 11 lbs. Thankfully, this practice was made illegal in 1920.
Finances Of The Post Office
7. The Postmaster General Makes More Than The Vice President
The Postmaster General is the second highest-paid federal employee, with only the president being paid more per year.
To compare, the Postmaster General’s salary is $276,480 a year while the president makes $400,000 a year and the vice president makes $243,000 a year.
8. Recipients Used To Be The Ones Who Paid For Postage
Before stamps, couriers had to obtain payment for the mail from the people it was delivered to.
Because it’s impossible to know who will be sending you mail and when, many people began to refuse letters to get away from paying for them, which led to couriers spending as much time returning mail as they did delivering it.
To solve this problem, the post office created stamps, which allowed for the letters to be prepaid and helped save the time and effort of hundreds of mail carriers.
9. USPS Uses Zero Tax Dollars
When most people realize that USPS is a government organization, they automatically assume that it must be paid for with American taxes.
However, this isn’t the case. USPS is funded by American money, but it’s the money people spend on postage, products, and services.
10. USPS Employees More Than 7.5 Million People
USPS is the reason more than 7.5 million people have jobs, with well over 100,000 of those people being military veterans.
Overall, these employees are the reason USPS can bring in $70.6 billion in operating revenues in a year.
11. USPS IS The Largest Retail Network In The Country
The Postal Service’s retail network is larger than all of the domestic locations of McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Walmart combined.
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12. USPS Employees Travel 1.4 Billion Miles In One Year
In one year, USPS employees traveled a cumulative 1.4 billion miles to deliver America’s mail.
To put this in perspective, 1.4 billion miles is the equivalent of 15 trips to the sun, 5,861 trips to the moon, or 56,220 laps around the earth.
13. There Is Still One Place In The US Where Mail Is Delivered By Mules And Horses
While it may sound like an archaic practice, USPS delivers food, mail, and supplies on a regular basis to the village of Supai, which is home to a local Havasupai tribe, with a fleet of 50 horses and mules that travel 8 miles each way.
14. The Zipcode/ Zone Improvement Plan Was Created By USPS
Zipcodes were first introduced in 1963 by the post office to help organize mail (and people) better.
The first number in your zipcode corresponds to a geographic location, for example, 0 for the east coast and 9 for the west coast.
The next two numbers were for regional areas, and the final two for the particular post office in your area.
15. There Is A Post Office Located In An Underground Cave
Stamp Fulfillment Services, located in Kansas City, Montana, is located in a limestone cave 150 feet below ground.
The reasoning for this unusual location was that it’s a naturally climate-controlled area, which makes it ideal for keeping stamps in mint condition, and it protects against natural disasters that are common to the area like tornadoes and floods.
16. There Is A Dedicated Facility Just For Deciphering Bad Handwriting
The Remote Encoding Center in Salt Lake City receives all the pieces of mail that have illegible handwriting on them.
In fact, they have about 1,000 who can translate chicken-scratch in an average of four seconds per piece of mail.
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17. The Pony Express Was Never A Part Of USPS
Contrary to popular belief, the Pony Express was never a part of the United States Postal Service.
The Pony Express was a private, yet trailblazing service that delivered mail to the most dangerous of places at the outset of establishing the United States.
18. Owney, The Unofficial USPS Mascot
Owney was a border terrier that was abandoned at the Albany post office in 1888.
Owney quickly took a liking to the post office, and would only allow postal workers to pet him or pick up the mail carrier bags.
Owney accumulated around 1,017 dog tags, all of which were made by other post offices, and even in other countries he traveled to while accompanying postal workers.
In 2011, USPS honored Owney with a commemorative stamp.
19. Over 5,800 Mail Carriers Attacked By Dogs In 2020
In 2020 alone, over 5,800 mail carriers were attacked by dogs with varying degrees of severity. In fact, the issue is so widespread that the post office has a Dog Mite Awareness week every May dedicated to promoting education and public safety.
According to the USPS database, the most dangerous state when it comes to dogs attacking postal workers is California.
20. Famous Postal Carriers
While these people are much better known for what they did after their careers with the post office, they still had quite the reputation in their local areas!
Some famous postal carriers include Bing Crosby, Walt Disney, William Faulkner, Harry S Truman, and Abraham Lincoln.
In fact, It’s said that if an addressee did not come to collect the mail, as was the custom at the time, Abe Lincoln would deliver it personally, carrying the mail in his hat.
21. There’s No Official Motto For The Post Office
While there are many misconceptions surrounding this fun fact, there’s no official motto for the post office.
Most people think the Post Office’s saying is the one that’s engraved on the statue outside of the New York post office: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds”.
However, this isn’t the case, especially since the post office does on occasion have delays due to inclement weather conditions.
22. Mailboxes Weren’t Blue Until 1971
Mailboxes were commonly painted just for fun prior to 1971, with there even being a trend of painting them army green after World War I to support returning troops.
23. The Post Office Doesn’t Just Deliver Mail- They Also Fight Crime!
The post office has played a critical role in cracking cases many times throughout its history.
From seizing narcotics and murder weapons to helping identify fingerprints and other physical evidence in the mail, USPS has been a make or break for several cases.
To learn more about USPS, you can also see our posts on USPS regional facility, why is USPS so expensive, and how fast is USPS flat rate shipping.
The United States Postal Service has a rich and storied history that coincides with the growth of America as a country.
USPS is one of the oldest institutions in the country, and is even older than America itself, and yet it’s maintained its relevance for hundreds of years by proving again and again that it’s here to serve the American people.