America was largely a rural nation in 1847. Many people did not live near a post office. People who carried the mail were directed to receive letters from people while 'underway' on their routes. The legislation which proscribed the handling of way letters was noted in Laws and Regulations for the Government of the Post Office Department published in 1847 as follows:
To reduce into one the several acts for establishing and regulating the Post Office Department
Sec. 20. And be it further enacted, That the deputy postmasters, and other agents of the Postmaster General shall duly account, and answer to him, for all way letters which shall come to their hands; and for this purpose, the post riders, and other carriers of the mail, receiving any way letter or letters, (and it shall be their duty to receive them, if presented more than one mile from the post office,) shall deliver the same, together with the postage, if paid, at the first post office to which they shall afterwards arrive; where the postmaster shall duly enter the same, and specify the number, and rate or rates, in the post bill, adding to the rate of each way letter one cent, which shall be paid by the postmaster to the mail carrier from whom such way letters shall be received.Approved, March 3, 1825.
Posted May 31, 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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