Notes from the Past

Distributing Post Offices in 1847

One of the postmaster's responsibilities in 1847 was to prepare the mail for the mail pouches carried by the coaches or post riders.  The postmaster assembled the outgoing mail in packets for the various destinations.  One of the methods used was for the postmaster to send the mail to a 'distributing' post office near the destination post office but closer to the originating post office.  The distributing post offices would then reassemble the mail for smaller offices in their distribution area.  The instructions for this task were found as follows in Laws and Regulations for the Government of the Post Office Department published in 1847.
Rule of Distribution

"81.  The postmaster will carefully assort the letters -- and all letters addressed to offices in his own State, and all letters addressed to distributing offices, capitals of States and Territories, and all letters to offices in other States, situated between his office and a distributing office, he shall mail direct.  When a letter necessarily passes through a distributing office, it shall be the duty of the postmaster to mail to the nearest distributing office short of the place where the letter is directed and write letters D. P. O. (the usual abbreviation for "Distributing Post Office") for example:  A letter from Richmond, Virginia, to Dayton, Ohio, should be mailed and directed to "Columbus, Ohio, D. P. O." "

The following are the distributing offices for the States opposite to them respectively.  And each letter or packet, when not mailed direct, as the above regulation requires, should be mailed to the nearest distributing office, short of the place addressed, on the route by which it is to be sent.

Note -- The names of the offices for each State to which the greatest amount of mail matter is sent, are printed in SMALL CAPITALS.


Following this instruction, there is a three and one half page list organized roughly geographically by state and territory of the distributing post offices for each state.  At the time there were 30 states and territories.  The distributing post offices were not necessarily within the state.  For example, the distributing offices for Massachusetts mail were Portland, Maine; Boston, Massachusetts; Providence, Rhode Island; Hartford, Connecticut; New York, New York; and Albany, New York.

Posted June 5, 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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