I don’t pretend to know much about our first President’s demeanor, so if I were discussing that as part of Today’s History Lesson, there’s at least a 50% chance that the title of this piece is way off the mark. But happily for all of us, I’m not writing about George Washington’s attitude nor his bouts with anger, because I’d pretty much have to stop here.
On February 20, 1792, the President signed into law the Postal Service Act, which created the United States Post Office Department. But the Postal Service Act wasn’t the creation of a new agency as much as it was the “officialization” of an existing one, so let’s step back to just before the Revolution got started…to 1775. It was then that the Second Continental Congress established the Constitutional Post with some guy named Franklin as the first Postmaster General…Benjamin Franklin. Franklin served in the position until late 1776 (when he was sent to France) and while in office, he did much of the initial work, setting up postal routes and rate charges.
Fifteen years later, the Revolution had ended, the Constitution had been written and ratified, and States were joining the Union. And the Constitutional Post was there, well-established and functional and growing with the size of the country. The Postal Service Act simply gave Postmaster General more power to organize and standardize the postal system. Timothy Pickering would be the first official U.S. Post Office Postmaster General (he held the position when the President signed the legislation), and the Post Office would remain a part of the Federal Government until 1971, when it became an independent government agency called the United States Postal Service.
Today, the U.S. Postal Service is still the primary method of mail and package delivery in the United States. I pulled a few stats from the Postal Service pages, and the numbers are staggering.
- Each year, more than 210 billion pieces of mail are processed each year. That’s 6,000 items a second.
- The Postal Service operates a fleet of 214,000 vehicles that log, in total, a billion miles a year.
- According to their site, the USPS uses boats, bicycles, and even mules to deliver the mail (though not to my house).
- The USPS processes well over 40 million change-of-addresses each year.
- If the USPS delivered only 99.9% of the mail accurately, it would still mess up 21,000,000 pieces of mail.
So, next time the mail arrives and you happen to be outside, thank them for a job well done. And think of President George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, who made it all happen more than 200 years ago.
Recommended Reading: A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America