There are at the moment greater than 31,000 submit places of work in america. Some are grand previous ones that take up complete metropolis blocks. Others are smaller—hidden away within the backs of common shops and in different odd locations throughout rural America. And certainly one of these smaller ones often is the most rural submit workplace within the continental U.S.

Mules from Supai carrying U.S. Mail containers by Elf (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Supai submit workplace is positioned on the backside of the Grand Canyon. Day-after-day, ten pack mules carrying mail make the two-and-a-half hour journey into the canyon. The submit workplace is there to serve the individuals on the Havasupai reservation.

Early morning {photograph} of Havasu Falls at Supai by Touring Man (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Supai submit workplace was established in 1896, and its existence speaks to the lengths that the postal service has gone to since its founding to attach individuals to one another.

Winifred Gallagher, creator of How the Publish Workplace Created America: A Historical past, argues that the submit workplace just isn’t merely a cheap approach to ship a letter. The service was designed to unite a bunch of disparate cities and other people underneath one flag, and in doing so, she believes the submit workplace truly created america of America.

For hundreds of years, governments have devised methods of sending communications. However for many of historical past, these programs have been used solely by a small elite. The postal system of colonial America was a lot the identical. The Crown’s submit was established by the English monarchy and used primarily for communications between the colonies and England.

For some time, the colonies themselves weren’t that thinking about speaking with one another. They have been, like fractious siblings, solely searching for the eye of Mom England. And in case you have been a commoner within the colonies you additionally didn’t use the Crown’s submit, you handed your message to a traveler and requested them to take it so far as they might after which cross it on.

1847 United States postage stamp of Benjamin Franklin denominated 5 cents

Benjamin Franklin, one of many early postmasters for the Crown, traveled to each colony to make enhancements within the system. As he did so, he started to see the colonies in a different way. In 1754, at a gathering of colonial representatives in Albany, New York, Franklin proposed a plan for uniting the colonies and electing their very own representatives relatively than having them appointed by the Crown. Franklin’s thought didn’t go wherever on the time.

Twenty years later, concepts about American self-governance have been spreading, and revolutionaries within the colonies knew they would want one thing aside from the Crown’s submit (which may very well be intercepted by England) to speak. In 1774, these American revolutionaries created the “Constitutional Publish.” Earlier than that they had a Declaration of Independence or fought the revolution, earlier than there was a structure, People had the submit.

After People gained independence from England, founding fathers, (significantly Benjamin Rush), believed the important thing to sustaining democratic establishments was a literate inhabitants. Rush believed the best way to realize this was to flow into newspapers to each American. In 1792, the Congress handed the Publish Workplace Act. New routes have been established, and all newspapers may very well be mailed on the similar low charge. This set off an explosion of latest newspapers from all kinds of political viewpoints. The submit workplace was the primary manner, typically the one manner, individuals acquired data. It was the media.

Kelso, California frontier city submit workplace within the Mojave Desert by Michelle Loeffler

The submit workplace additionally served as a stimulus for the expansion of roads and infrastructure. Usually the primary motion that settlers took in a brand new group was to petition for a submit workplace. Roads and different companies adopted.

In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville toured the nation and was amazed by the postal system. Even in essentially the most remoted elements of the American frontier he discovered individuals who had learn newspapers and will speak about politics in America and Europe.

Civil Battle cell submit workplace tent

Till the mid-1800s, newspapers have been the first supply product of the postal service. Letters have been costly to ship and the income from sending them saved the charges low for newspapers. Moreover, the individual receiving the letter, not the sender, paid the price of postage.

Finally a motion for reasonable postage started to kind, rising from the concept individuals ought to have the ability to ship letters wherever within the U.S. for one low value utilizing a brand new instrument: the pay as you go postage stamp. Within the mid-1800s the postage stamp allowed common individuals to ship letters, and it created a letter writing growth.

Girls window at a NYC submit workplace – 1870 wooden engraving by Arthur Boyd

Ladies specifically turned avid letter writers. As extra girls started utilizing the submit workplace, the place itself started to alter. Publish places of work had traditionally been social areas for males the place it was not unusual to search out liquor, prostitutes, and pickpockets. Finally, submit places of work added particular “women home windows” in order that “women” may decide up their letters with out coming into contact with these unseemly parts. Slowly submit places of work transitioned into extra skilled areas.

By 1860 there have been some 28,000 submit places of work within the U.S. Folks have been sending hundreds of letters and (newly invented) “greeting playing cards” to one another. However they have been additionally utilizing the submit, similar to the founders supposed, to disseminate political data. Abolitionists, for instance, have been utilizing the mail to unfold concepts about ending slavery. Within the 1860s, when the Civil Battle was fought over a few of these very concepts, the American Publish workplace would bifurcate for a time—no mail can be despatched between north and south. The Civil Battle additionally caused residence supply service so that individuals wouldn’t must obtain unhealthy information (just like the loss of life of a beloved one) in public.

Pony Specific welcome sign up Gothenburg, Nebraska by Michelle Loeffler

In the meantime, because the East Coast skilled a letter writing growth, Californians felt remoted. By 1857, the submit workplace had a reasonably dependable route throughout the nation, however it nonetheless took twenty-five days. A businessman named William Russell thought he may do higher, so he began The Pony Specific.

Pony Specific constructing in Gothenburg, Nebraska by Michelle Loeffler

The corporate’s relay of riders mounting contemporary horses each fifteen miles lower the journey time to 10 days. It was a really costly endeavor, and lasted solely a yr and a half, which was okay, as a result of each telegraph service and trains would quickly attain the west coast.

New York mail prepare circa 1900

Trains would ultimately ship the mail all around the U.S., and never simply ship it, however develop into transferring submit places of work, sorting and processing the mail alongside the best way. Trains revolutionized the mail, however mail additionally revolutionized trains. Subsidies from the submit workplace allowed the rail system to develop, simply as these postal subsidies would advance the aviation trade after World Battle I.

Publish workplace in Wall, South Dakota by Michelle Loeffler

If the submit workplace actually created America, it’s now taking part in extra of a supporting position. Within the final forty years or so, Congress has reduce significantly on its help. This, together with the revolution in digital communications and the expansion of personal opponents has meant a diminished position for the U.S. Postal Service.

Regardless of these adjustments, the postal service nonetheless performs a serious position in American society.

Not like personal opponents Fedex and UPS, the US Publish Workplace can’t decide and select the place they ship based mostly on revenue. It’s obliged, by legislation, to offer each day pickups and deliveries to each group within the nation, even when that group is positioned within the backside of the Grand Canyon.

Mr. ZIP (AKA Zippy) on the B. Free Franklin Publish Workplace in Philadelphia. This character was created to encourage individuals to incorporate ZIP codes on envelopes. Picture by Michelle Loeffler.