Notes from the Past

Railroads Become Post Roads

Post roads were the established routes by which the mail was distributed throughout the nation in 1847.  This was still in the beginning of the railroad era.   Congress soon established railroads as post roads.  This provision let mail distribution take advantage of the more rapid railroads and, at the same time, subsidize the expansion of the railroads.   The enabling legislation was noted in Laws and Regulations for the Government of the Post Office Department published in 1847 as follows:


To establish certain Post Routes and to discontinue others.

Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That each and every railroad within the limited of the United States which now is, or hereafter may be made and completed, shall be a post route; and the Postmaster General shall cause the mail to be transported thereon, provided he can have it done upon reasonable terms, and not paying therefor, in any instance, more than twenty-five percentum over and above what similar transportation would cost in post coaches.

Approved July 7, 1838.
Further to regulate the Transportation of the Mails upon Railroads.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the Postmaster General shall not, by virtue of the authority vested in him by the second section the "Act to establish certain post routes, and to discontinue others," approved July 7th, 1838, allow more than three hundred dollars per mile, per annum to any railroad company in the United States, for the conveyance of one or more daily mails upon their roads: Provided, That nothing in this act contained shall be construed so as in any way to remove or impair the limitations upon the power of the Postmaster General, imposed by that section.

Approved, January 25, 1839.
This second act appears to have been passed to limit the government's generosity in subsidizing the railroads.

Posted May 12, 2000

Editor's Note:  Modern philatelists are indebted to Theron Wierenga who republished this volume in 1980.  Italics follow the original.

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

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