Postal Service Grows Rapidly
By James Croggon, The Evening Star, November 10, 1913 [p. 11]
There is no branch of the general government or that of older countries which has grown more rapidly than our own postal service, over which Postmaster General Burleson has supervision with an army of employes numbering thousands. While this service has made prodigious progress in the last hundred years it is interesting to relate the conditions of its early years to one hundred years ago.
The present service was established soon after the Constitution went into effect and in its first year the number of post offices was but seventy-five and its mail route was less than two thousand miles, over which the mails were carried by horse, stage and sailing packet. At present there are over sixty thousand post offices, the number have been reduced from nearly seventy thousand within the past few years through the establishment of rural routes. The number of original post offices in 1790 was increased by 1813 to over twenty-seven hundred and fifty.
Previously, however, in 1672, Gov. Loveless organized a monthly mail between New York and Boston, and later the post office was established in Philadelphia, from which weekly mail was received and sent. In 1700 authority was given to establish post offices and routes in America, but in 1710 the American post offices were consolidated with those of the old country, and later there were offices in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Annapolis. In 1737 Benjamin Franklin became the postmaster in Philadelphia, and he was also employed in regulating the several offices of the colonies. In 1753 he was one of the deputy postmasters general for the colonies and he remained in that office until 1774, when he was dismissed for his adherence to the cause of the colonies.
Congress Starts System
Under the Constitution Congress had the power to establish post offices and post roads. During the continental government the receipts of all the post offices did not exceed $35,000, and in 1789, $10,000 less. September 22, 1789, Congress passed an act for the temporary establishment of the post office and for the appointment of a Postmaster General, with clerks and deputies. Four days after Samuel Osgood of Massachusetts was appointed to that position, who selected as his assistants Jonathan Burrall and Sebastian Bauman of New York and Robert Patton of Philadelphia, postmasters, Mr. Burrall was dispatched south to reappoint postmasters, etc.
Nearby Offices Established
The act authorized contracts for not exceeding eight years for the establishment of a general post office under a Postmaster General and assistant, provided for the punishment of those obstructing the mails and for the negligence of ferrymen, and fixed the salary of the Postmaster General at $2,000 per annum and his assistant at $1,000.
High Rate of Postage
The Postmaster General should give further allowance for extra services and no compensation to a postmaster was to exceed $1,800. During Washington’s administration Mr. Osgood served as Postmaster General till his resignation in 1791, when he was succeeded by Timothy Pickering of Pennsylvania. The number of post offices had by this time increased to eighty-nine, the amount of postage from $37,000 to $46,000, but the increase in mail routes was only about twenty-five miles.
Osgood Makes Complaint
The department was established in this city in a building at the northeast corner of 9th and E streets northwest, previously occupied by Dr. John Crocker, and remained here until the old Great Hotel building, which Samuel Blodgett had commenced to erect on E street between 7th and 8th streets July 4, 1793, was purchased by the government under the act of April 28, 1810, appropriating therefore $20,000. This building was destroyed by fire in December 1836.
Expansion of Service
In November 1801, Gideon Granger of Connecticut headed the department, and he served for thirteen years. At first it took a letter and answer forty days between Portland, Me., and Savannah, Ga., and forty-four days from Pennsylvania to Tennessee, but in these years he had reduced the time to twenty-seven and thirty days. During Mr. Granger's term there were many improvements in the service, and to the days of Madison, 1809, the post offices had increased to over 2,000 and receipts were nearly half a million. In 1810 there was a second assistant provided for, and a new scale of postage was adopted.
There were over 2,400 post offices by 1810 and the post routes covered over 37,000 miles, but the amount of postage had decreased.
Granger Loses Place
There were 2,751 post offices 100 years ago in the eighteen states and a number of historical characters were recognized by a number. Washington was the name given to thirteen of them. There were six Franklins, seven Waynes and Jeffersons. There were five Hamiltons, Harrisons, Jacksons, Madisons and Montgomeries, and four Morrises.