There has been a mail delivery system in the United States since early colonial days and during the Revolutionary War. On July 26, 1775, the U.S. postal system was established by the Second Continental Congress with Benjamin Franklin as the first postmaster general.
On April 3,1860 Pony Express riders left simultaneously from St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California carrying saddlebags of mail. The price of mail delivery was $5 per half-ounce, later reduced to $1.00. The first westbound trip was made in 9 days and 23 hours and the eastbound journey in 11 days and 12 hours across a 2000 mile trail. Relay riders covered 250 miles in a 24-hour day. The Express had more than 184 stations, 120 riders, and between 400 and 500 horses. In the nineteen months the Pony Express existed, one rider was killed by hostile Indians, and only one bag of mail was lost. The riders had covered 650,000 miles by horseback, a remarkable feat.
The overland service lasted until October 24, 1861, when the completion of the Pacific Telegraph line ended the need for the Pony Express mail couriers.
In 2012, the U.S.Postal Service which is an independent federal agency has proposed changes in operations according to a five year business plan submitted to Congress. The proposals include the elimination of 155,000 employees, ending Saturday delivery, creating a new U.S.P.S. administered healthcare program and reducing service standards. 3,653 post office locations are being considered for closure as the demand for physical mail services declines.
It seems that the Internet with more people connected by email has the same impact as the completion of the Pacific Telegraph line in 1861 had for the Pony Express.
The Postal Service is 12.1 billion dollars in debt. One reason for the Postal Services’s severe financial difficulty is the 2006 Congressional Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act . The U.S.P.S was directed to fund future retiree health care premiums for seventy-five years within a ten-year period ending in 2016.This mandate required the Postal Service to pay $5.5 billion a year for a total of $55 billion. The Service is pre-funding health care premiums for workers that have yet to be employed, and must start out each year $5.5 billion in debt according to Terry Grant, Ohio Postal Workers Union President.
U.S.P.S. in response to a request made by 22 U.S. Senators, has agreed to delay the closing or consolidation of any Post Office or mail processing facility until May 15, 2012. Consolidation of processing centers would mean Springfield, Missouri mail would be sent to Kansas City, sorted and returned to Springfield for distribution.
The Postal Service is not supported with tax money, but by stamps, postage charges. It is the only agency in the United States that services all the nation’s citizens six days per week. The service also provides the only protection of privacy in communications in the United States. Tampering with the U.S. mail is punishable under federal law.
Closing postal facilities will have an impact on millions of citizens who rely on the mail to connect them to their communities. Nearly 40% of Americans do not have broadband Internet access, and 28% still have no Internet access at all. Over 50% of consumers still receive hard-copy bills and statements.
In small towns people who rely on the mail for their Social Security check, annuity, or prescription medication would see delays in delivery. The postal service covers geographically remote regions and locations nationwide and are very efficient in their duties. Mail connects people and carries information, goods and valuables directly to our homes.
As a youngster, I was always happy to see the postman who delivered special prizes earned by collecting boxtops. As a military veteran in a time of war, mail call was always greatly appreciated by the troops even if a package from home contained only crumbs of bake goods that was sent half way across the globe. As a Special Agent, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service which is one of the oldest federal law enforcement agencies in the country assisted on numerous task force cases. Letter carriers on my route who deliver mail year after year in freezing winters and summer heat are always appreciated with a simple thanks for their service.
Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep the postmen from their appointed rounds….a five year business plan perhaps….