A Quick Glimpse of U.S. Postal History

            With the future of the Lindley, N.Y. Post Office on the minds of most Lindley residents, it seemed like an appropriate time to research the history of the United States Postal System. The sources of the information found will follow a short history on Postal Service in Steuben County and Lindley in the next blog posting.

            As long as I can remember, I have heard the following quote in relation to Post Office service.  (“There is no mortal thing faster than these messengers-neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”) While the motto is used in connection with the U.S. Post Office Service –would you believe? , it was written in 500 B.C. by the Greek historian, Herodatus about the Persian Postal System??*1

                        There are many important dates in this country’s Postal Service, but only the more interesting ones will be mentioned here.

1639 – The first record was when the Massachusetts Colony gave permission to a local citizen to receive and send ship mail from his Boston home. (The Boston Post Road received its name because it was used as a mail route. (Most mail was delivered on horseback by Post Riders-first contractors to carry mail between Post Offices.*2 Colonists were unhappy with the British mail system.

1773-Stagecoaches started contracting to carry mail.

1775 – Benjamin Franklin –appointed first Postmaster General by the Continental Congress.      

1789 –First Postmaster under new Constitution was appointed.( 75 post offices in 13 Colonies )

1791 –NYS had one post office in NYC.                                                                                                    (Of local interest-NYS Legislature granted Ontario County (all the State west of Seneca Lake), the right to elect a Member of the Assembly. Founder of the Town of Lindley –Col.Eleazer Lindsley was alerted to this fact by friends so he called a Town Meeting to elect town officials. Notices were posted after the first meeting that a meeting would be held to choose a member of the Assembly.  Guess who was elected by a unanimous vote??  Col Lindsley was a member of the Legislature that met in NYC in 1792. Since there were no Post Offices or any of today’s modern means of communication, the settlers in Northern Ontario County did not learn about the Assembly Office position until after Colonel Lindsley had been elected….Col. Lindsley died at his home June 1, 1794. 3

1845 – Lowest bidders for mail routes was initiated –the beginning of Star Routes by private contractors.  (1970-these were named highway contract routes)

1860-61- Pony Express carried mail from Missouri to California –(cutting delivery time down).

1864-.Railroad Mail Cars were introduced.

1896 –Rural Free Delivery began in West Virginia and with promotion by the National Grange and farmers spread across the country. Taxes supported the Post Office.

1918 –Airmail delivery began

1963 –Zip Codes introduced.

1971 - The Post Office Department became the -United States Postal Service and began operations. The basic function was to provide postal services. It received the last public service subsidy in 1982.   The Postmaster General ceased to be a member of the President’s Cabinet.

2008-2012 -new modern methods of mail delivery were introduced.

Postal Facts.

Since 1900, the number of post offices has declined due to the use of automobiles. Lindley had a post office in both Lindley and Presho in 1880’s.  Thomas Presho was Postmaster and prominent citizen so the hamlet named Erwin Centre was changed to Presho to honor him.

Mail was delivered not only by horseback riders, horse and buggy and sleighs, stagecoaches, trains in the old days, but today it is delivered by automobile, trucks, airplanes, snowmobiles, mail boats, dog sleds in Alaska and mules in Arizona’s Grand Canyon. And according to the Postal History Website, *4, Phoneapp,  Everydoordirect,  Gopost and Metro Post are available.

If you are curious –for more facts     Google     The History of the United States Postal Service and read their Publication 100.  

Next  blog posting – Some facts about the Postal history  in Steuben County  and Lindley/Presho.

             Old Lindley Town Hall-Post Office-Grange


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