Notes from the Past

Bicycle Mail

The use of bicycles by letter carriers has been common virtually since the vehicles' inception, but there are also a number of instances in which bicycles have been used to operate a mail service.

In 1894, during a railroad strike, Arthur A. Banta, the agent in Fresno, California, for Victor bicycles, organized a bicycle mail service between Fresno and San Francisco, a distance of some 180 miles.  A special stamp and a stamped envelope were issued for the service, which lasted from July 6 to 18 and transported a total of 380 letters, according to Scott.

Another bicycle mail service was operated in the goldfields of Western Australia during the 1890s.  It was known as the Coolgardie Cycle Express, and special 1/- and 2/6 stamps were issued, according to Kandaouroff (Collecting Postal History, Larousse, New York, 1973).

The service advertised that it would "...convey messages to any part of the field by day or night, at shortest notice."  Its advertising went on, "...mining notices put up on claims, wages paid, claims pegged and taken up at the Warden's Office, and all mining business transacted."  The service was conveniently located "opposite the post office."

No mention of bicycles and the mails would be complete without noting the local stamp issued in Makeking while it was besieged during the Boer War in South Africa.  The stamp shows bicycle messenger Sgt. Major Goodyear on his rusty steel steed.

A postal strike in France in 1909 prompted a bicycle mail service at Amiens and a 10c local stamp was issued.

Also in France, a postal strike in 1953 sparked a bicycle messenger service between Paris and other French cities, while the French city of Orleans also organized a bicycle mail service and issued two 10c stamps to prepay letters.

At the end of World War I, a bicycle mail service operated between Vaduz, Liechtenstein, and Sevelen, Switzerland, with a 10-heller stamp used to frank mail that was carried.

In February, 1945, during the final months of WWII, the North Italian Courier Company (CORALIT) organized an entire network of bicycle routes to carry mail, according to Dehn (Italian Stamps, Heinemann, London, 1973).  The headquarters were at Venice, and the firm established routes from Venice to Turin, Trieste, Portogruaro, and Fenara.  Letters carried were franked by both Italian postage stamps and CORALIT labels. 

- Kenneth A. Wood
This is Philately - Volume One A-F
Van Dahl Publications 1982
Posted November 8, 2000
Editor's Note:  As a youngster, I can remember our postman, Mr. Solt, delivering the mail from his government-issue bicycle.  It was a utility balloon-tired model in Post Office green with a sheet metal basket.

Index of 508 Notes from the Past

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