We take our daily mail delivery for granted. But let’s jump back a few hundred years: if you wanted to send birthday greetings, important news, or anything else, it wasn’t so easy. There was no Fed X or Amazon Prime deliveries. It was…complicated.
The earliest American settlers relied on their letters being conveyed by merchants on horseback who were passing through, or Native Americans who trekked the area on foot. In 1633, the first sort-of “official” postal service was set up in a Boston tavern. This would become the hub of mail going between the American colonies and England.
Building on that, an official “Boston post road” was established between the city and New York (it still exists in part as “Route 1”). By 1683, William Penn opened a major post office in Philadelphia.
Then came stagecoaches. Around 1800, the post office purchased a whole bunch of them. Besides transporting mail, stagecoaches had another benefit: the constant back-and-forth of their wheels over the rough terrain improved the dirt roads of the time.
Steamboats were another option, while trains could transport mail nearly five miles….in 35 minutes. But as Americans migrated west where train tracks had yet to be laid, what then? Enter the Pony Express
The Pony Express is one of the most iconic parts of our history. It was established in 1860, with the goal of getting mail from Missouri to the West Coast — a dangerous 2,000-mile route. The first newspaper ad to recruit riders read, “Wanted. Young, skinny, wiry fellows not over 18. Must be expert riders willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred.” Relay stations, with fresh horses, were established every 5-20 miles along the route. Riders covered an average of 100 miles per day. The cost for sending mail via Pony Express? A whopping $5.00 for something weighing a half-ounce.
Once cross-country telegraph lines were completed, the Express only endured for about a year and a half before being sold to Wells Fargo. The horses were no doubt relieved.
The first “mail collection boxes” started popping up in big cities around 1858. “Air mail” became a thing in 1870 when hot air balloons were briefly used (yes, really). Around WWI, planes were beginning to be used to transport mail, and the “official” airmail branch of the post office was inaugurated in 1918.
Mail services have come a long way since the days of frantic riders or slow-moving trains. There are so many improvements that can get your mail to its destination faster, easier – and at less cost. For over 20 years, CMADS has been the mailing service of choice for hundreds of businesses. If you’re ready to upgrade (and save time and money), get in touch!