The history of the United States Postal Service

An American History


Publication 100

May 2007

PSN 7610-03-000-9247


The history of the United States Postal Service is an ongoing story of enormous depth and breadth, rooted in a single, great principle: that every person in the United States — no matter who, no matter where — has the right to equal access to secure, efficient, and affordable mail service. For more than 231 years, the Postal Service has delivered on that promise, transforming itself to better serve its customers. The United States Postal Service: An American History tells this story and introduces you to people, events, and developments affecting postal and national history.


For centuries, our universal mail system has strengthened the bonds of friendship, family, and community. Our system has encouraged civil discourse, disseminated information, and bolstered the national economy — both as the hub of a vital industry and as a trusted courier of the nation’s and world’s business.


The Postal Service has seized upon and immediately investigated new technology to see if it would improve service — mail distribution cases in the 18th century; steamboats, trains, and automobiles in the 19th century; and planes, letter sorting machines, and automation in the 20th century. Today, computerized equipment helps sort and distribute hundreds of millions of pieces of mail each day.


We have worked with customers to better understand and serve their changing needs and to keep them informed of how best to utilize our services. We want to provide quick, easy, and convenient service. This history gives you a look into what that has entailed over the years.


Above all, the history of the United States Postal Service is about the men and women whose daily efforts have provided our nation with the finest, most efficient mail service in the world. United States postal workers take pride in processing, transporting, and delivering the mail to the people of our great country.


I hope you will enjoy reading this history of the United States Postal Service. It is a story that we continue to write every day — together.



John E. Potter

Postmaster General


On July 26, 1775, members of the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, agreed


That a postmaster General be appointed for the United Colonies, who shall hold his office at Philada, and shall be allowed a salary of 1000 dollars per an: for himself, and 340 dollars per an: for a secretary and Comptroller, with power to appoint such, and so many deputies as to him may seem proper and necessary.


That a line of posts be appointed under the direction of the Postmaster general, from Falmouth in New England to Savannah in Georgia, with as many cross posts as he shall think fit.1


This simple statement signaled the birth of the Post Office Department, the predecessor of the United States Postal Service and the second oldest federal department or agency of the United States of America.