|Photo courtesy Smithsonian Institute|
Nancy Pope, who is a historian at the
, recently researched a time when scores of small, rural offices were closed. Smithsonian Institute Postal History Museum
The number of Post Offices peaked in 1901 at 76,945, but in 10 years declined to just 58,729, according to the Smithsonian.
“More than 18,000 Post Offices closed in that decade,” she said.
It was primarily due to Rural Free Delivery, that ambitious new service that put horses, carriages, motorcycles and jalopies out on rural roads to deliver to people’s homes.
RFD gave birth to road improvements, mail order companies and improved standards of living.
But many small, fourth-class offices were no longer needed. Instead, the Postal Department consolidated many of these smaller offices into single, centralized offices.
“Many rural Americans welcomed the consolidations,” said Pope. “They may have lost a Post Office, but they gained regular mail delivery. It was a welcome exchange.”