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DEBUT author PEGG THOMAS's signed copy of The Pony Express Romance Collection is Bree Herron, Angela Couch's book,Carla Gade's "Love's Compass to Betti Mace, Carrie Fancett Pagels' "Tea Shop Folly" goes to Faith, Denise Weimer's print winner of WITCH is Connie Saunders, Joan Hochstetler, Debra E. Marvin ebook,

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Swift Couriers On Their Appointed Rounds

Posted by Elaine Marie Cooper



On a research trip to Massachusetts a year ago, I discovered a stone marker on a roadside near Brookfield, Massachusetts. At first I thought it was a grave marker with its curved design. It was, in fact, a remnant of the post riders trail from long ago, still telling travelers along the way: “67 miles to Boston, 30 miles to Springfield.”

What a delightful find! An ancient marker—crude but effective—pointing the way for postal riders. Imagine how welcoming those words etched in granite were to weary horsemen.




The history of our postal system in the United States is older than the country itself.

The Pilgrims had only been in America for 13 years when the first official postal service was begun. The General Court of Massachusetts designated Richard Fairbanks’ tavern in Boston as the exchange point for mail between the colonies and England. This was in keeping with the British tradition of using coffee houses and taverns as the mail drops. I rather like this idea, personally…go to Starbucks, sit and read my mail…but I digress…

By 1673, a trail for a post rider was set up between New York and Boston. That trail, called the Old Boston Post Road, is today part of US Route 1.



Pennsylvania was next in setting up a post office ten years later. Then colonies in the south set up their own message system between plantations, with messages sometimes carried by slaves.

 A centralized postal system for all the colonies was not set up until 1691. The delivery system expanded and spread under the guidance of numerous Postmasters General, who were still under British rule.

 In 1737, 31-year-old Benjamin Franklin was named Postmaster of Philadelphia. The struggling publisher of the Pennsylvania Gazette made numerous improvements in the mail system, including cutting the delivery time between Philadelphia and New York in half by running mail wagons both day and night. He also devised the still-used rate chart based on distance and weight of the parcel—in principle, still used today, although I think the rates have climbed somewhat since the 1700’s.



As we all know, Mr. Franklin—who by now was called the Joint Postmaster General for the Crown—began to be involved in the cause for liberty from England, which did not sit well with his British employers. He was fired in 1774.

But he was not unemployed for too long, as the Continental Congress appointed Franklin to the position of Postmaster General of the United Colonies in 1775. By the time Franklin was sent on his diplomatic assignment to France in 1776, he left behind a greatly improved colonial mail system with routes from Maine to Florida.

Today the United States Postal System has over 40,000 post offices and they deliver 212 billion pieces of mail each year, according to this link. Mr. Franklin would be proud.

 "Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." Herodotus, 503 BC (Inscribed on the General Post Office facility on 33rd St. and 8th Ave., New York City

12 comments:

  1. Thanks Elaine. What a challenge our "mailmen" had almost 300 years ago, and how far the world of communication has come.

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  2. Indeed, what was such a "rapid" delivery of our communication for years is now considered "snail mail!" It seems unfair that our mailmen (and women) are considered to be less than important in the mail world. I highly appreciate their work that has such a long history in our country. Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. Elaine, thanks so much for this great information. This one is a keeper for me to include in a future novel.

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  4. Susan, so happy my research is helpful to you! Love it when my posts are "a keeper!" Blessings!

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  5. Fun! I LOVE stuff like this--excellent information and I love the pics that bring it to life. I would enjoy seeing that for myself someday. Thanks!

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    1. You're welcome, Amber! It was a thrilling find for my history-loving heart! It was one of those off the beaten path sort of ventures and I'm so glad I followed a friend's suggestion; she had directed me to another landmark and then I saw this one. The scenery was so lovely as well. :) Thanks for stopping by!

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  6. I'd love to see some of the remaining markers someday too. What an interesting article, Elaine! I'd run across some of this in my research, but there's a lot here I didn't know. Thank you for sharing!

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    1. Thanks so much, Joan! I am honored that I would be teaching you anything about history—my historical knowledge pales to your own! And I truly hope that these markers from our history will find their way to your path. Such treasures!

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  7. That must have been a cool feeling finding that marker, Elaine! Great article! I watched a video, I think by CW, from the library that was about the old post riders. Fascinating what they had to go through to get the mail out!

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    1. It was an awesome feeling, Carrie! You never know what your historical ventures will reveal. And yes, the post riders had quite the daunting task carrying communication for hundreds of miles through dangerous territory. Can you imagine carrying wagon-loads of mail through the night shift?? Frightening... Thanks so much for coming by!

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  8. Hi Elaine & CQ Ladies...

    I absolutely know this post had to be God-inspired; the U.S. Post Office reported a loss of 5.2 billion dollars today, and they see more loss coming. Pray for them--not only for the organization and what it stands for as an essential freedom, but also for those who have served us as post office employees and are ready to retire. And for the joy provided through the years when we daily anticipate personal and holiday gifts, cards and messages from friends and relatives. U.S. Post Office--we thank you! And thank you, Elaine!

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    1. Pat, your remarks touch me! Thank YOU for your encouraging words for both myself as well as for the post office workers that have served us for YEARS! I know that I appreciate all their service, and I pray that we find a way to keep these valuable employees in their jobs and keep their retirement secure. Thanks so much!

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