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How Mailboxes and Mailbox Design Has Changed Over Time

It happens all the time. We want to catch some zzz’s when out of nowhere the mind begins racing.

Strange thoughts come creeping in causing sleep to flee. You know, you start thinking about all 232 things you need to do tomorrow, that embarrassing moment you had in middle school gym class, and random things like “how has the mailbox evolved over the years?”

We can’t help you with your to-do list, or your embarrassing moments, but we can tell you about the history of the mailbox.

You’re welcome.

Mailbox design has changed and evolved through the years. Here’s a look at the history of mailboxes and how they’ve changed over time.

No More Trips to the Post Office

The fewer errands you have to run the better, right?

In the 1860s, The post office began offering books of stamps. Now, this may not seem like a big deal, but it meant that people didn’t’ have to go to the post office to mail a letter. They could address them and stamp them from home.

Some would consider this life-changing. One less errand to run.

But the postal service needed a place to pick up the mail. So they started sticking boxes around town to gather the mail. They would normally be attached to a tree or a phone pole. And after being confused for fire alarms, they changed their official paint color from red to dark green.

These random boxes around town were the first official mailboxes.

Last Mile Isn’t a New Problem

Ever heard of the term “the last mile?” This is referring to how companies transport goods to people’s homes. Over the years, this “last mile” has caused shipping companies lots of money as they try to figure out how to be effective.

This has been a problem as early as 1863 when the United States Post Office started offering the free service of delivering mail directly to people’s homes.

The problem was, people weren’t always home. Imagine that. This caused the postman to stand around and wait, or come back later to deliver the mail. Needless to say, this was not very efficient.

It wasn’t until 1923 that the U.S. Postal Service required each residency to have a mail slot or mailbox. This would ensure that people were actually getting their mail, and the postman was doing his job.

Mail Slots are Sloppy

A lot of people opted for the mail slots. They already had a front door, so they just had to put a slot in for mail. Easy, right?

The problem was the postmen hated them because of all the bending over. And it wasn’t till after the fact that people started wondering where the outgoing mail goes?

Enter the tunnel-style mailbox seen today.

Mailboxes — Tunnel Style

Although the mailbox we see today seems like such a simple design, it actually took a lot of trial and error to get it just right.

Invented in 1915 by Roy J. Joroleman, who worked at the post office and also happened to be an engineer, the tunnel style mailbox became the industry standard.

These new boxes had to be big enough to fit parcels and letters, be weatherproof, theft proof, and be tall enough so bending wasn’t required. (Remember, postmen had bad backs from all those mail slots.)

Indecisive Sizing Through the Years

Like any company facing new problems, the United States Postal Service went back and forth many times on what size would be acceptable.

Here’s the breakdown:


Two sizes were acceptable for mailboxes. The smaller box, called No. 1, is 18.5 inches long by 6 inches wide by 7.5 inches high. The bigger box, called No. 2, 23.5 inches long by 11 inches wide by 14 inches high.

As you can tell, No. 2 was significantly bigger. It was for those who expected to receive a lot of packages. I guess if they were members of whatever the equivalent of Amazon Prime was back then, they would want the No 2 mailbox.


Because more and more people started receiving packages, The No. 2 mailbox was the only acceptable mailbox.


Some mail carriers preferred the No. 1 box because they were easier to open. So, the No. 1 mailbox was approved. Again.

Who knew delivering the mail was so physically taxing?


These years proved to be eventful years for the United States Post Office.

The No. 1 box dimensions were changed to be one inch taller. And in an exciting bold move, they added another size!

Introducing No. 1A. This box was right in the middle of No. 1 and No. 2. Now you had three sizes to choose from.

Bet you didn’t see that coming.


The 1960s, in general, were a time of protest and change. You thought people were passionate about Vietnam and politics? Well, they were also passionate about their mailboxes.

People wanted a more modern design. The U.S. Post Office listened to the people and basically opened up the design of mailboxes to whatever people wanted, as long as it met certain specifications.

It had to hold a package that was 5x6x18 inches and needed to be made of a durable material. Before, only metal was allowed to be used to make mailboxes, but in the 1960s, citizens wanted to use a new and popular material, called plastic.

1970s to Now

Not much has changed since the mailbox revolution of the 60s. One new rule that has come out is if you want to lock your mailbox, you must have a slot 10 inches wide for the postman to deliver the mail.

Yep, we’ve come full circle and are back to dealing with slots.

Mailbox Design Now

Today more and more people are going away from the traditional mailbox on the curb. Many subdivisions and apartments are going for cluster style mailboxes or mailboxes that are more secure.

There are so many different mailbox designs, styles, and colors that are available now. We have over 30 options to choose from and all are USPS approved. Like I said, the U.S. postal service is much more liberal these days.

Contact us so we can find the perfect mail solution for your needs.

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