POST-OFFICE

1536

POST-OFFICE

cians in a variety of circumstances, of which the most important are cases of sudden and accidental death and cases of illness in which the nature of the disease could not be determined.

Post-Office, the department of government whose business it is to convey letters, papers, books and small parcels of merchandise. It is so called from the posts established along the roads of the Roman empire where couriers were placed in readiness for conveying news and dispatches. Some other ancient countries had similar posts; but in all cases they were for government service only, the carrying of private letters or dispatches being no part of their duties. The beginning of a postal service in the United States dates from 1639, when a house in Boston was employed for the receipt and delivery of letters for or from beyond the seas. In 1672 the government of New York colony established "a post to go monthly from New York to Boston;" and in 1702 it was changed to a fortnightly one. A general post-office was established in Virginia in 1692 and in Philadelphia in 1693. A deputy postmaster-general for America was appointed in 1692 ; and by an act of parliament in 1710 he was directed to keep his principal office in New York, "and other chief offices in some convenient place or places in other of her majesty's provinces or colonies in America" The system, however, was a comparative failure until Benjamin Franklin became postmaster-general in 1753. Franklin filled this office until 1774 with such ability and efficiency that when he was removed the net revenue of the department exceeded $15,000.

In 1789, when the new Federal government was organized, the post-offices in the 13 states numbered only about 75. The following table will show the progress during a little more than the first century of our history :

Expenditures exceed the receipts. This is due to the fact that the postage on papers, books etc. is so low that they must necessarily be carried at a loss and also to improvements in the service from year to year. Some idea of the vast business may be obtained from the total number of letters, papers etc. carried in 1910: 13,883,431,326 pieces.

*The decrease in offices is due to the introduction of rural free-delivery.

Years

Offices

Revenue

Expenditures

1790

75

$ 37,935

$ 32,140

1800

903

280,804

213,994

1810

2,300

552,366

495,969

1820

4,5oo

1,111,927

1,160,926

1830

8,450

1,850,583

1,932,708

1840

13,468

4,543,523

4,718,236

1850

18,417

5,552,971

5,212,953

r86o

28,498

8,518,067

19,170,610

1870

38,492

19,772,221

23,998,837

1880

42,989

33,315,479

36,542,804

1890

62,401

60,858,783

66,645,083

1899

75,000

95,021,384

101,632,160

1910

60,144*

183,585,005

190,238,288

From the organization of the post-office department until 1816 the rate of postage on letters varied, according to distance, from eight to 25 cents. In 1816 these rates were so changed as to vary from 6^ cents to 25 cents; and in 1845 the rate was reduced to five cents for each letter not exceeding one half ounce in weight and five cents for each additional half ounce or fraction thereof, carried under 300 miles; over 300 miles 10 cents. In 1851 the rate was made three cents for all distances under 3,000 miles, if prepaid, and five cents if paid on delivery. In 1855 a law was passed requiring all letters to be prepaid; and in 1863 the rate was made uniform to all offices in the United States; and by act of congress, approved March 3, 1885, the rate was reduced to two cents for each ounce or fraction thereof, carried to any part of the United States or territories. The same rate is charged for drop-letters where there is free delivery by carriers; where there is no s .ch delivery, only one cent is charged.

Mailable matter is divided into four classes, of which letters and any matter sealed against inspection constitute the first. The second c ass embraces newspapers and all other periodicals issued reg larly at least four times a year. The postage on matter of this class is one cent a pound, except that such periodicals may be sent to actual subscribers, living in the county where they are published, free of postage. Matter in the third class includes books, transient newspapers an 1, in general, all printed matter, not issued periodically; it also extends to proof-sheets and manuscript copy accompanying the same and, in general, to any paper, cardboard or parchment on which an impression has been made by printing or other mechanical process, except the copying press or typewriter. The postage on matter of this class is one cent for each two ounces or fractional part thereof. The fourth class includes articles of merchandise and, in general, all mailable matter not belonging 1 y its nature to either of the other three classes, and the rat», charged on it is one cent an ounce. The limit of weight is four pounds. Matter belonging to th: first, third or fourth class may be registered on payment of eight cents in addition to the postage. In 1864 the money-order system was established at the leading post-offices, and has proved a great convenience. The following are the rates: For sums not exceeding $2.50, three cents; not exceeding $5, five cents, over $5 and not exceeding $10, eight cents; over $10 and not exceeding $20, 10 cents; over $20 and not exceeding $30, 12 cents; over $30 and not exceeding $40, 15 cents; over $40 and not exceeding $50, 18 cents; over $50 and not exceeding $60, 20 cents; over $60 and not exceeding $75, 25 cents; over $75 and not exceeding $100, 30 cents. A single