Notes from the Past

Carrier Mail, Drop Letters, and Letter Boxes

Initially, mail was delivered only to the post offices and it was the responsibility of the recipient to pick up the mail at the post office.  Subsequently, the convenience of delivery and pickup by mail carriers became apparent.  The use of letter boxes for the collection of mail at locations other than the post office was also begun.  Legislation which dealt with carrier service, drop letters, and letter box mail was recorded in the Laws and Regulations for the Government of the Post Office Department published in 1847 as follows:
AN ACT
To reduce into one the several acts for establishing and regulating the Post Office Department

Sec. 36.  And be it further enacted, That letter carriers shall be employed at such post offices as the Postmaster General shall direct, for the delivery of letters in the places, respectively, where such post offices are established; and, for the delivery of each such letter, the letter carrier may receive, of the person to whom the delivery is made, two cents:  Provided, That no letter shall be delivered to such letter carrier for delivery, addressed to any person who shall have lodged at the post office a written request that the letter shall be detained in the office.  And for every letter lodged at any post office, not to be carried by post, but to be delivered at the place where it is so lodged, the postmaster shall receive one cent of the person to whom it shall be delivered.

Approved, March 3, 1825.
In 1836, the use of carriers and letter boxes was clarified.
An Act
To change the organization of the Post Office Department, and to provide more effectually for the settlement of the accounts thereof.

Sec. 41.  And be it further enacted, That the Postmaster General shall be authorized whenever the same may be proper for the accommodation of the public in any city, to employ letter carriers for the delivery of letters received at the post office in said city; except such as the persons to whom they are addressed may have requested in writing, addressed to the postmaster, to be retained in the post office; and for the receipt of letters at such places in the said city as the Postmaster General may direct, and for the deposit of the same in the post office; and for the delivery by a carrier of each letter received from the post office, the person to whom the same may be delivered shall pay not exceeding two cents; and for the delivery of each newspaper and pamphlet, one half cent; and for every letter received by the carrier to be deposited in the post office, there shall be paid to him at the time of receipt, not exceeding two cents; all of which receipts, by the carriers in any city, shall, if the Postmaster General so direct, be accounted for to the postmaster of said city, to constitute a fund for the compensation of the said carriers, and be paid to them in such proportions and manner as the Postmaster General may direct.  Each of said carriers shall give bond with sureties, to be approved by the Postmaster General, for the safe custody and delivery of letters, and for the due account and payment of all moneys received by him.

Approved July 2, 1836.


The rate for drop letters was changed by the act of March 3, 1845, (in a section which also set the first 5¢ and 10¢ rates) as follows:

. . . . And all drop letters, or letters placed in any post office not for transmission by mail, but for delivery only, shall be charged with the postage at the rate of two cents each. . . .


Posted June 2, 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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