10 Fun Facts for National Postal Worker Day on July 1st

July 1, 2022 • Posted by DM20

Did you know that in the United States, postal workers walk an average of four to eight miles a day, delivering letters and packages to our doorsteps? From selling stamps and sorting mail to helping people, postal workers are integral to the country’s overall ecosystem. They deliver over 212 billion pieces of mail each year to homes and businesses in the U.S.

On July 1st, we celebrate postal workers and the hard work they put in to ensure your mail and deliveries get to you smoothly and on time. While much of the world has embraced the advent of technology and electronic mail, postal services are still important for communication.

Take a moment to appreciate postal workers and express gratitude towards them. Visit your local post office and thank the employees. Send a postcard to your city’s postmaster general. Buy some commemorative stamps. You can also share these interesting facts about postal service history.

Cigar Box Mailbox

Beginning in 1902, rural customers were required to use standardized mailboxes. Before then, everything from lard pails and syrup cans to old apple, soap, and cigar boxes served as mailboxes.

Mailing Dirty Laundry

In 1923, one postmaster estimated that 2 percent of parcels delivered by his carriers consisted of laundry. College students, especially, found it economical to mail dirty clothes home and have them mailed back clean. The typical “laundry bag” was a canvas-covered cardboard box 4½ by 12 by 20 inches, weighing six to seven pounds. In 1923, the weight limit for a single parcel was 50 or 70 pounds, depending on how far it was going.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Mailman

From 1899 to the early 1910s, reindeer helped transport mail to more than a dozen Post Offices in Northwestern Alaska, including several located north of the Arctic Circle.

The Birth of Mr. ZIP

In 1963, the five-digit ZIP code was introduced so cartoon character Mr. ZIP was born to promote it. The five-digit code was added to addresses to help the Post Office Department sort more mail more quickly. ZIP is an acronym for Zone Improvement Plan, but the USPS intentionally chose it to indicate speed. Coupled with automation equipment later in the 1960s and 1970s, the ZIP Code helped employees keep up with rising mail volumes. Between 1960 and 1980, mail volume rose by 67 percent. Within four years of Mr. ZIP’s appearance, eight out of ten Americans knew who he was.

Informal Motto Origination

Carved in granite along the top of the old main Post Office in New York City is the now-famous translation from the works of the Greek historian Herodotus, describing an expedition of the Greeks against the Persians in about 500 B.C.: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” The quotation was chosen by the architectural firm that designed the building and the Postal Service acknowledges it as an informal motto.

Oldest Post Office

The Hinsdale, New Hampshire, Post Office has operated in the same building since 1816, when James Madison was president. It is the oldest known Post Office in the United States in continuous use at the same location.

Smallest Post Office

At 62 square feet, the Ochopee Post Office in Florida is the smallest free-standing Post Office in the nation. Located on the edge of the Everglades, it has been housed in a former tool and fertilizer shed since 1953.

Novelty of Pneumatic Tubes

From the 1890s through the early 1900s, mail zipped between postal facilities beneath the crowded streets of six U.S. cities. Letters were packed into canisters that were propelled by pressurized air through a system of underground pneumatic tubes. Two-foot-long by eight-inch-wide canisters could hold up to 500 letters and hurtled through the tubes at 30 miles per hour. Pneumatic tube service began in Philadelphia in 1893 and the city showed off its system by sending a cat and an aquarium through it, as well as eggs, china, and hot tea. By 1916, about 56 miles of tube were in use. The service fell from favor as motor vehicles became more efficient and was suspended in 1918.

Railway Robbers & Revolvers

Railway mail clerks had one of the toughest jobs in the Post Office Department, sorting mail on swaying and lurching trains from 1864 to 1977. Trains derailed because of open switches, livestock on the tracks, on-coming trains, broken rails, and washouts, to name a few things. Coal and wood stoves were also sometimes used, posing another hazard. Many clerks survived crashes and derailments only to die in fires that engulfed the cars afterward from overturned stoves. With their predictable schedules, trains were also targeted by armed robbers. A spike in robberies following World War I prompted the Postmaster General to arm railway mail clerks in 1921. By the early 1930s, .45 caliber revolvers had been replaced with smaller .38 caliber “pea-shooters.”

Postmasters as Santa’s Helpers

In the 19th century, one popular method of mailing letters to Santa was to place them in the chimney, because smoke was believed to magically transport wishes to the North Pole. But by the 1890s, many children put greater faith in the U.S. Post Office Department. Since 1911, Postmasters have been authorized to share letters addressed to Santa Claus with philanthropic individuals and organizations interested in fulfilling children’s wishes. Postmasters began working with local news media to raise awareness of the thousands of Santa letters eligible for adoption each year.

July 1 was declared National Postal Worker Day in 1997 by a Seattle-area postal carrier to honor fellow employees and since then it is celebrated every year on this day. There are approximately 490,000 postal workers in the U.S. alone who diligently work to deliver mail.

Source: USPS