With today’s "door-to-door"
postal service, it’s hard to realize that America’s early postal
system mostly delivered between post offices, not to and from homes.
Before and after the Revolution, this gap was filled by carriers who
were paid an additional fee - usually one or two cents - for such
personal service. Of the early period, from 1689 to 1800, scant evidence
survives on mail matter, but manuscript notations on stampless folded
letters surviving from the 1800 to 1845 period show such services
prospered in many cities. These progenitor "penny posts" were
often run by carriers sanctioned by and working for the local Post
By the time the first adhesive Carrier stamps were
issued, in 1842, a multiplicity of mail services existed in a country
rapidly expanding due to industrialization and immigrant settlement
surges. As the West began to open up with the railroads creating
boomtowns, the Post Office had a very hard time keeping up with such
Operating with official sanction were the
Carriers, those individuals working directly for the Post Office.
Competing head to head with these official mails were Local Posts,
enterprising private individuals and companies carrying letters within
city limits - including to and from Post Offices. And by late 1843, more
private firms joined the fray - The Independent Mails - transporting
mail between a widespread grid of major U.S. cities for rates far
cheaper than Uncle Sam charged, and over the same Post roads.
The golden age of local stamps, the privately
printed adhesives used by enterprising individuals to deliver mail
within many U.S. cities, ran from 1842 to 1860. The largest companies
with the most extensive emissions, were Bloods in Philadelphia and
Husseys and Boyds in New York City. In the Scott catalogue, several
categories are combined in one comprehensive listing under Local Stamps,
including some express companies, the Independent Mails, school and
institutional stamps and the classic local posts. Most firms did
strictly private business not involving the Post Office, but others
acted in a supplemental capacity, delivering mail to and from the Post
Office, especially where such service did not exist, or was lacking in
efficiency or manpower. The majority of local posts had a very short
shelf life, with some Valentine posts lasting mere days. Local posts
operated out of stationery stores, tobacconist shops, book stores and
other merchants venues, as well as in express company buildings.
The legacy of the Independent Mails carried on with the advent of the
far west opening up, with the Western Expresses in gold rush regions and
of course, with the famous Wells, Fargo and Co. which launched its
speedy pony express mail with its running pony stamps (Scott 143L1-9)
across vast tracts of cowboy country in 1860-62 . Letters sped from the
urban East to the California coast in 12 days, once again proving that
private enterprise was faster off the mark than the U.S. government.
to Top -