The History of the United States Postal Service

MatthewA By MatthewA, 3rd Dec 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>History

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is a government branch that operates in a business like way. It has a history dating back hundreds of years. Pre-dating the USA itself, its roots can actually be traced back to the British colonialists of the 17th century.

The History of the United States Postal Service

1691 was the approximate year the first American postal service came into being. When Thomas Neale was given the task of starting an office in the colonies for the receiving and dispatching of letters. This was between the plantations and colonies of the British Empire, however, and was not strictly a U.S. postal service.

Of course, when the colonies became the United States of America, in the latter 18th century, things had changed. Officially, the Continental Congress created the United States Postal Office on July 26, 1775, in the State of Philadelphia. Ben Franklin was appointed the first Postmaster General, according to USPS. It was based on the Postal Clause of Article One in the U.S. Constitution, which allowed Congress to create postal offices and roads. In 1792 it became the Post Office Department.

As the demand for mail increased, and with advances in rail technology, it was recognized that a federal rail system would be required to expand the postal system. The Railway Mail Service was created in the 19th century, to subsidize the rail system. Seen as a golden time for the USPS, RMS workers enjoyed competition between themselves, with mail sorting competitions.

1837 saw the USPS abandon Mercury as its symbol and adopt a running pony. This stood until 1970, when the eagle became the official emblem. Further modifications were made to the eagle in 1990.

In the latter part of the 19th century, the USPS began to check the mail for anything considered inappropriate e.g. alcohol promotion etc. Spearheaded by Anthony Comstock, inappropriate mail became illegal.

The year the USPS changed its emblem, 1970, was also significant for another reason. President Richard Nixon replaced the cabinet-level Post Office Department with the independent USPS. This Act, The Postal Reorganization Act, took effect in 1971.

That was perhaps the most significant development in USPS history in recent times. Increasing use of email, and competition from private operators, has seen the USPS seek to modernize business strategy. Still, the USPS remains a part and parcel of U.S. mail, and has a place in U.S. history dating back to the founding fathers of 1776. For the most part, it can be proud of its history and heritage.


Letters, United States Postal Service, Usps

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author avatar MatthewA
Matthew is the author of the book Battles of the Pacific War 1941 - 1945. You can find further details at

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