The Beginning of the United States Postal System

Before the establishment of the US Postal system, Colonial Americans corresponded by asking friends, family, Native Americans and traders to bring their letters for them. The problem was that the bulk of correspondences were meant for England. In order to accommodate this demand, a mail drop was designated to allow a more organized means to send and receive letters. It wasn't long before post routes were opened and regular month posts ran from one town to the next, allowing people better opportunities to communicate.

By 1707, the North American postal service was run by the British government. With the appointment of Benjamin Franklin as postmaster, a publisher and printer, important changes were effected. After inspecting the post offices in the North and South, routes were planned and milestones placed on major roads. The time it took for mail to arrive in Philadelphia from New York was cut in half. These changes proved worthwhile -- for the first time, the post office posted a profit. More post roads were opened and mails were sent regularly between America to England. Franklin is credited for instituting the necessary improvements to make the postal service more efficient and many of his changes are still being implemented today.

In 1781, after the Articles of Confederation was ratified, Congress was granted the power to establish and regulate how the postal service was run. The laws and other regulations regarding the nation's post offices were codified in October 1782.

When the Constitution was adopted in 1789, the Postmaster General office was established and the number of post offices and post roads increased. The firs headquarters of the Post Office was established in Philadelphia. After the seat of government was transferred to Washington, DC in 1800, the office was moved there as well. The Post Office was established by Congress as executive department in 1872.

Learn More: