Although semi-organized mail services have been in place since 1775, the U.S. Postal Service wasn’t formed until 1971. Over the years the postal service was truly piece-mailed (even using Wells Fargo at times), with the beginning services coming from each colony like the Maine Postal Service. Things weren’t coordinated well but mail was moving…at what pace, varied greatly.
The U.S.P.S. is an independent government agency and one of the few that were authorized through the U.S. Constitution such as the War Department (now known as the Department of Defense), and the Department of Treasury. It was one of those key areas that our forefathers knew would be instrumental in having a successful economy. By the way, Benjamin Franklin was our first Postmaster General. His primary job was to find an effective way to coordinate mail flow through the colonies.
Per WIKI, the USPS as of February 2015, had 617,254 active employees and operated 211,264 vehicles in 2014. The USPS is the operator of the largest civilian vehicle fleet in the world.
A lot of people don’t know this but the U.S.P.S. hasn’t received federal income tax revenues since 1982 and instead has had to operate on its own; operating more like a regular business. Now they have had to borrow money from the government to stay afloat most of the time as they aren’t/weren’t making money. The USPS lost $5.5 billion in fiscal 2014, and its revenue was $67.8 billion.
The federal government brought in a popular businessman to turn the operation around about seven years ago but he left out of frustration because Congress wouldn’t agree with his recommendations which included closing some post offices down, reducing employee counts at some centers, and reducing the pension plan offered (not changing the pensions that were already going out though). He was truly treating the postal service like a business but politics got in his way (democrats and the Postal Union), so he bailed out and taxpayers were once again stuck with the bill.
Do you remember the Show Mayberry R.F.D. with Andy Griffith? Have you ever wondered what R.F.D. stood for? The advent of Rural Free Delivery (RFD) in the U.S. in 1896 greatly increased the volume of mail shipped. Many rural customers took advantage of inexpensive Parcel Post rates to order goods from businesses like J.C. Penny, Sears, and Woolworth’s.
Many college students from the 1910s to the 1960s used parcel post to mail home dirty laundry as doing so was less expensive than washing the clothes themselves. This was bound to have happened, after four-year-old Charlotte May Pierstorff was mailed from her parents to her grandparents in Idaho in 1914, mailing of people was prohibited. I don’t care who you are, that’s funny!
But of course all good things must end and the Federal Government no longer wanted to subsidize mail delivery through the R.F.D. which of course caused mail volume to decrease dramatically which in turn negatively affected businesses like Sears Roebuck who was doing a tremendous amount of volume through the mail.
Like I said (or wrote), I could write a book on the postal service but I hope you found this little tidbit interesting. I for one greatly respect this particular government agency. It blows my mind to think that I can put a $.49 stamp on an envelope and it can make its way to California in just a few days; seems like a good deal to me.