US Postal Service Opens

February 20, 2022

On February 20, 1792, George Washington signed the Postal Service Act, creating the Post Office that still delivers the mail today. Prior to that, there had been a sort of ad hoc colonial postal service with little organization. It didn’t really work that well. Sometimes, it didn’t work at all.

That was only to be expected, though, because the Continental Congress had had to create it in a hurry when the Revolutionary War broke out, and the British postal system could no longer be used. But, while it had functioned well enough during the war, it was not well suited for long-term functioning.

The Postal Service Act established 75 post offices and about 2,400 miles of dedicated mail roads to serve the country’s 4 million or so inhabitants. Deliveries within a 30-mile radius cost 6 cents, which is equivalent to about $1.50 in today’s money. Mail going between 30 and 150 miles cost 12.5 cents, which is about $3 in today’s money. Mail was not delivered more than 150 miles away.

Fun Historical Fact: One of the other things the Postal Service Act did was make it illegal for mail carriers to open the mail they carried. This was most likely due to the fact that Benjamin Franklin had to resign from heading up the colonial postal service in shame because he had been opening and publishing the mail of the governor of Massachusetts in a bid to embarrass him.

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