There are at present greater than 31,000 submit places of work in the USA. Some are grand outdated ones that take up complete metropolis blocks. Others are smaller—hidden away within the backs of basic shops and in different odd locations throughout rural America. And one in all 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. On daily basis, ten pack mules carrying mail make the two-and-a-half hour journey into the canyon. The submit workplace is there to serve the folks 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 folks to one another.

Winifred Gallagher, writer of How the Publish Workplace Created America: A Historical past, argues that the submit workplace shouldn’t be merely a cheap approach to ship a letter. The service was designed to unite a bunch of disparate cities and other people beneath one flag, and in doing so, she believes the submit workplace really created the USA of America.

For hundreds of years, governments have devised methods of sending communications. However for many of historical past, these techniques had 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 taken with speaking with one another. They had been, like fractious siblings, solely in search of the eye of Mom England. And when you had 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 move 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 otherwise. 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 somewhat than having them appointed by the Crown. Franklin’s concept didn’t go anyplace on the time.

Twenty years later, concepts about American self-governance had been spreading, and revolutionaries within the colonies knew they would wish one thing apart 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 they’d a Declaration of Independence or fought the revolution, earlier than their 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 way in which to realize this was to flow into newspapers to each American. In 1792, the Congress handed the Publish Workplace Act. New routes had been established, and all newspapers may very well be mailed on the identical low price. This set off an explosion of latest newspapers from all kinds of political viewpoints. The submit workplace was the principle means, typically the one means, folks bought 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 providers 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 discuss politics in America and Europe.

Civil Struggle cellular submit workplace tent

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

Finally a motion for reasonable postage started to type, rising from the concept that folks ought to have the ability to ship letters anyplace within the U.S. for one low worth utilizing a brand new software: the pay as you go postage stamp. Within the mid-1800s the postage stamp allowed common folks 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 grew to become avid letter writers. As extra ladies started utilizing the submit workplace, the place itself started to vary. Publish places of work had traditionally been social areas for males the place it was not unusual to seek out liquor, prostitutes, and pickpockets. Finally, submit places of work added particular “women home windows” in order that “women” might choose up their letters with out coming into contact with these unseemly components. 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. Individuals had been sending hundreds of letters and (newly invented) “greeting playing cards” to one another. However they had been additionally utilizing the submit, identical to the founders supposed, to disseminate political data. Abolitionists, for instance, had been utilizing the mail to unfold concepts about ending slavery. Within the 1860s, when the Civil Struggle 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 Struggle additionally caused house supply service so that folks wouldn’t need to obtain unhealthy information (just like the demise of a cherished one) in public.

Pony Specific welcome register 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, but it surely nonetheless took twenty-five days. A businessman named William Russell thought he might do higher, so he began the The Pony Specific.

Pony Specific constructing in Gothenburg, Nebraska by Michelle Loeffler

The corporate’s relay of riders mounting recent horses each fifteen miles reduce the journey time to 10 days. It was a really costly endeavor, and lasted solely a 12 months 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 everywhere in the U.S., and never simply ship it, however turn out to be shifting submit places of work, sorting and processing the mail alongside the way in which. Trains revolutionized the mail, however mail additionally revolutionized trains. Subsidies from the submit workplace allowed the rail system to broaden, simply as these postal subsidies would advance the aviation business after World Struggle I.

Publish workplace in Wall, South Dakota by Michelle Loeffler

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

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

Not like personal rivals Fedex and UPS, the US Publish Workplace can’t choose and select the place they ship primarily based on revenue. It’s obliged, by regulation, to supply every 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 folks to incorporate ZIP codes on envelopes. Picture by Michelle Loeffler.