June 13, 2008

June 13, 1920: Only 53 cents to mail your kid!

On this day in 1920, the U.S. Post Office Department ruled that children could not be sent by parcel post.

Before the practice was banned there really are circumstances when children were sent by mail. In 1914, going through a divorce, a mother shipped her baby from Stillwell to its father in South Bend, Indiana. The child traveled in a container marked “Live Baby” for only 17 cents. That same year another case was recorded where parents shipped four-year-old May Pierstroff from Grangeville, Idaho to her grandparents to another part of the state for 53 cents (the going rate for mailing chickens). Instead of being shipped in a box she rode in the mail car with postage stamps attached to her coat. These, and other cases, prompted the Post Office Department to forbid sending humans by mail.

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) was created under Benjamin Franklin on July 26, 1776 by the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia (yes, we had a postal service before we had D.C.). Today, the USPS is a self-sustaining agency (i.e. does not receive tax money) and delivers more than 212 billion pieces of mail every year. If you think that is a lot, it is. The U.S. Postal Service handles about 46% of the world’s card and letter mail volume, delivering more mail to more addresses in a larger geographical area than any other post office in the world. No wonder it is the third largest employer in the US (after the US Department of Defense and Wal-Mart). The Department operates the largest civilian vehicle fleet in the world with more than 219,000 vehicles driving more than 1.2 billion miles each year and using about 121 million gallons of fuel (so that’s where all the gas is going). Competition from e-mail and private companies (UPS, FedEx, DHL) has forced the USPS to modernize its products and services (who said competition was a bad thing?).

Source for USPS Facts

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