History of the Transportation of Mail

Before establishing the United States postal service, mail was delivered by friends and unofficial messengers. Even after the Postal Department came to be, most mail was delivered on foot or by horseback, but it's been delivered by many modes of transportation since. Discover all the ways the mail has been delivered in America.

Steamboats Powered Up and Down the Rivers

In 1811, the mail caught a ride on the rivers. Through the 1820s, over 200 steamboats carried US mail, bringing it to communities up and down river routes for another forty years until the railways took over.

The First Railway Post Office

The year 1864 brought with it the very first railway post office. Mail chugged along the rails for years before that, but this official move helped regulate the rails for mail delivery. Railway mail clerks rode in the special cars and sorted mail en route.

Wagons Pulled the Weight Next

Regulation wagons pulled by horses carried the mail next, from the 1870s to the early 1900s. Screen wagons began to replace the older wagons in the late 1890s. Wagon transport continued in some areas even after the adoption of motor vehicles.

Two Wheels Take Over

Bicycles were ridden in urban areas as early as the 1890s. Although most were replaced with more efficient modes of transportation, some carriers still use bikes today.

Gas-Powered Vehicles Enter the Route

On October 1, 1906, the first US Mail Car hit the road. It was one of two specially designed vehicles to fulfill the first motor vehicle contract with the Postal Service. It ran a route in Baltimore, Maryland.

Mail by Motorcycle

The mail has a wild side, too. Also starting in 1906, some carriers rode their routes on Harley Davidson motorcycles. Use of these vehicles peaked in the 1920s. After that, they were primarily used on rural routes, but carriers had to ensure that the motorcycle had a weather proof bag to protect the mail.

Airmail Takes Flight

The first mail to take to the air in the United States was scheduled in 1918 when airmail service began. It wasn't until nine years later that scheduled international airmail service started.

Delivery by Dog Sled

The terrain in Alaska made it difficult for mail carriers to use most forms of early transport -- except for dog sleds. Mail delivery by dog sled lasted until 1963. The last dog sled route was replaced that year by an airplane route from Gambell to Savoonga.

Mail delivery is more efficient with each mode of transportation. If you'd like to transport your mail even faster than these modes, check out how MyMailHouse can deliver your mail in five minutes or less.

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