Coney's Stamps

Font Decrease Font Increase

Boy putting mail in box

US Postal History

In the more than two centuries since Benjamin Franklin was appointed our first Postmaster General in 1775, the Postal Service™ has grown and changed with America, boldly embracing new technologies to better serve a growing population. We hope you enjoy exploring our rich history.

 

 

 

 

A quick glance at major US Postal events.

  • 1775 - Benjamin Franklin appointed first Postmaster General by the Continental Congress
  • 1847 - U.S. postage stamps issued
  • 1855 - Prepayment of postage required
  • 1860 - Pony Express began
  • 1863 - Free city delivery began
  • 1873 - U.S. postal cards issued
  • 1874 - General Postal Union (now Universal Postal Union) established
  • 1893 - First commemorative stamps issued
  • 1896 - Rural free delivery began
  • 1913 - Parcel Post® began
  • 1918 - Scheduled airmail service began
  • 1950 - Residential deliveries reduced to one a day
  • 1957 - Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee established
  • 1963 - ZIP Code inaugurated
  • 1970 - Express Mail® began experimentally
  • 1971 - United States Postal Service® began operations
  • 1971 - Labor contract negotiated through collective bargaining, a federal government "first"
  • 1974 - Self-adhesive stamps tested
  • 1982 - Last year Postal Service™ accepted public service subsidy
  • 1983 - ZIP+4® Code began
  • 1992 - Self-adhesive stamps introduced nationwide
  • 1993 - National Postal Museum opened
  • 1994 - Postal Service launched public Internet site
  • 1998 - U.S. semi postal stamp issued
  • 2006 - Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act signed
  • 2007 - “Forever” stamp issued
  • 2008 - Competitive pricing for expedited mail began

Since 1775, when the Second Continental Congress called for “a line of posts . . . from Falmouth in New England to Savannah in Georgia,” the United States Postal Service has delivered for America, reaching further as the nation has grown and moving faster as technology has developed.

The history of the United States Postal Service is rooted in a single, great principle: that every person in the United States – no matter who, no matter where – has the right to equal access to secure, efficient, and affordable mail service.
Form, function, and fashion.

Rates for Domestic Letters, 1792-1863 Rates listed below were for a “single letter,” defined as consisting of one sheet of paper until July 1, 1845, and thereafter as weighing ½ ounce or less, regardless of the number of sheets. “Double letters” were charged double. Not included in this chart are rates for ship and steamboat letters and drop letters (for local delivery), which were assigned different rates. The last rates listed were effective until July 1, 1863.

Effective Date
Distance
Postage, in Cents
June 1, 1792

not over 30 miles

over 30 and not exceeding 60 miles

over 60 and not exceeding 100 miles

over 100 and not exceeding 150 miles

over 150 and not exceeding 200 miles

over 200 and not exceeding 250 miles

over 250 and not exceeding 350 miles

over 350 and not exceeding 450 miles

over 450 miles

6

8

10

12.5

15

17

20

22

25

May 1, 1799

not over 40 miles

over 40 and not exceeding 90 miles

over 90 and not exceeding 150 miles

over 150 and not exceeding 300 miles

over 300 and not exceeding 500 miles

over 500 miles

8

10

12.5

17

20

25

February 1, 1815
all distances

50 percent increase
(revenue for War of 1812)

April 1, 1816
all distances
increase repealed
May 1, 1816

not over 30 miles

over 30 and not exceeding 80 miles

80 and not exceeding 150 miles

150 and not exceeding 400 miles

over 400 miles

6

10

12.5

18.5 *

25

July 1, 1845

not over 300 miles

over 300 miles

5

10

July 1, 1851

not over 3,000 miles

over 3,000 miles

3 if prepaid, 5 if not prepaid

6 if prepaid, 10 if not prepaid

April 1, 1855

not over 3,000 miles

over 3,000 miles

3 (prepayment required)

10 (prepayment required)

* increased to 18.75 by the Act of March 3, 1825

 

 

Effective Date
Postage, in Cents*
Per ½ Ounce
July 1, 1863
3
October 1, 1883
2
Per Ounce
July 1, 1885
2
November 2, 1917
3
July 1, 1919
2
July 6, 1932
3
August 1, 1958
4
January 7, 1963
5
January 7, 1968
6
May 16, 1971
8
March 2, 1974
10
December 31, 1975
13
May 29, 1978
15
March 22, 1981
18
November 1, 1981
20
February 17, 1985
22
April 3, 1988
25
February 3, 1991
29
January 1, 1995
32
January 10, 1999
33
January 7, 2001
34
June 30, 2002
37
January 8, 2006
39
May 14, 2007
41
May 12, 2008
42
* beginning September 14, 1975, additional ounces were charged a lower rate. Since July 15, 1979, a surcharge has been added for non-standard envelope sizes.

 

 

Effective Date
Prepaid
1911-1916 –The Pioneer Period
Special official Post Office Flights at Fairs, aviation meets, etc.,per 1 oz.
Postal cards and postcards
(Regulations prohibited an additional charge for air service on Post Office authorized flights.)
1918, May 15 - July 13, 1918
Service between Washington, DC, New York and Philadelphia (including 10¢ special delivery fee), per 1 oz. 24¢
1918, July 15-Dec. 14, 1918
Service between Washington, DC, New York and Philadelphia (including 10¢ special delivery fee), per 1 oz 16¢
Additional ounces
1918, Dec. 15-July 17, 1919
Service between selected cities (other cities added later, special delivery no longer included), per 1 oz
1919, July 18-June 29, 1924
No specific airmail rate: mail carried by airplane on
space available basis but airmail service not guaranteed,per 1 oz.
Postal cards and postcards, per 1 oz
1924, June 30-Jan. 31, 1927
Airmail service per zone (New York-Chicago; Chicago-Cheyenne, Wyo.; Cheyenne-San Francisco),per 1 oz. (each zone or portion thereof)
1925, July 1-Jan. 31, 1927
Special overnight service New York-Chicago (with three intermediate stops), per 1 oz. 10¢
1926, Feb. 15-Jan. 31, 1927
Contract routes not exceeding 1,000 miles (first flight Feb. 15), per 1 oz. (each route or portion thereof) 10¢
Contract routes between 1,000 and 1,500 miles
(Seattle-Los Angeles, first flight Sept. 15) per 1 oz.
15¢
Mail traveling less than entire Seattle-Los Angeles
route per 1 oz.
10¢
Contract routes exceeding 1,500 miles (none established
during this rate period) per 1 oz.
20¢
Additional service on govt. route, per 1 oz. (each route
or portion thereof)
1927, Feb. 1-July 31, 1928
All contract routes or govt. zones, or combinations
thereof, per 1⁄2 oz.
10¢
1928, Aug. 1-July 5, 1932
All routes, 1st oz.
Each additional ounce or fraction thereof 10¢
1932, July 6-June 30, 1934
All routes, 1st oz
Each additional ounce or fraction thereof 13¢
1934, July 1-Mar. 25, 1944
All routes, per oz.
1944, Mar. 26-Sept. 30, 1946
All routes, per oz.
1946, Oct. 1-Dec. 31, 1948
All routes, per oz.
1949, Jan. 1-July 31, 1958
All routes, per oz.
Postal cards and postcards, per oz.
1958, Aug. 1-Jan. 6, 1963
All routes, per oz.
Postal cards and postcards, per oz.
1963, Jan. 7-Jan. 6, 1968
All routes, per oz
Postal cards and postcards, per oz.
1968, Jan. 7-May 15, 1971
All routes, per oz 10¢
Postal cards and postcards, per oz.
1971, May 16-Mar. 1, 1974
All routes, per oz 11¢
Postal cards and postcards, per oz.
1974, Mar. 2-Oct. 10, 1975
All routes, per oz 13¢
Postal cards and postcards, per oz 11¢

 

As of Oct. 11, 1975, separate domestic airmail service was abolished.

One more airmail rate was published; effective Dec. 28, 1975, 17¢ per 1st oz., 15¢ each additional oz., 14¢ for postal cards and postcards. It lasted until May 1, 1977.

For further study, we highly recommend the the American Air Mail Society’s book, Via Airmail, An Aerophilatelic Survey of Events, Routes, and Rates; Simine Short, editor; James R. Adams, author (available from the American Airmail Society, P.O. Box 110, Mineola, NY 11501.

Year
Event
1638
June 3: Massachusetts Bay Colony required postmasters to mark incoming mail.
1639
Post offices established in Boston, Mass.
1657
June 12:
1 New Netherlands director-general and council forbid boarding of incoming vessels until letters delivered.
2: Colonial Court of Virginia decreed official letters must be conveyed free of charge to next plantation by messenger as they arrived.
1693
Postmarks authorized by Massachusetts Bay Colony.
1672
Governor of New York, Francis Lovelace, established the Merchants Exchange and the inter-colonial post
1673
Massachusetts province act require "messengers be sent posts"
1674
24 post routes in operation
1677
John Hayward appointed postmaster of Boston
1683
William Penn, granted the right to carry letters, Penn Post
1684
Gov. Thomas Dongan, New York, unsuccessfully tried to establish an inter-colonial post with Sir John Werden, who held the English monopoly for all post offices in America
1685
Edward Randolph appointed postmaster for the Colonies
1688
July 22: prescribed post rates between England and Jamaica
1689
King James II deposed from office and Randolph's postal activities ceased New Jersey had six post offices
1692
Feb. 17: Thomas Neale received postal patent (concession) for the American and West Indies Colonial Post; Neale never saw America; Neale appointed Andrew Hamilton as his deputy
1693
1: May 1: Hamilton started weekly service between Portsmouth, N. H. and Virginia.
2: Campbell, Duncan and John organized first postal network in America, for mail to and from Boston to New York.
1698
Neale dropped Hamilton; Hamilton had revenue of less than 2,000 dollars, expenses totaling app. 5,000 dollars for period in office
1702-14
Packet service between England and Jamaica (The Plantation Islands), by Edward Dummer
1710
1: Stage coach wagon, Amboy-Burlington route.
2: Parliamentary act directed that a post office be established at New York as center of operations.
3: Crown repurchased Neale grant with payment of 1,664 pounds; appointed John Hamilton, son of Andrew Hamilton, as Deputy Postmaster General with a salary of 200 pounds per year.
4: Established rates.
5: Post started between New York and Virginia with six-week delivery time required
1711
Post road completed between Boston and New York
1717
John Dickenson wrote that trip between Boston and Williamsburgh, Virginia completed in four weeks, except in winter when it took eight weeks
1718
1: Virginia House of Burgesses declared that the Crown had no authority to impose a tax upon them without their consent; House exempted all merchants' letters from payment of post fees.
2: Bradford post, via New Castle, was removed from office due to poor accounts and was first postmaster who "went wrong."
1721
Hamilton replaced by John Lloyd of South Carolina
1729
Map of American Colonies showed the Post Road from Portsmouth through Boston, New York and ending in Philadelphia
1730
1: Postmaster Richard Nichols of New York advertised for a postman "whoever inclines to perform the foot-post to Albany this winter."
2: Alexander Spottswood became Postmaster for the Colonies, headquartering at Philadelphia, named Benjamin Franklin as Postmaster of Philadelphia
1737
1:Franklin named supervisor of the posts, his son William, was a post rider at Philadelphia.
2: Opened the mails to all newspapers
1740
Post road completed between Jersey City and Philadelphia
1744
mail stage route in New England
1747
Dr. Douglas wrote that post was not dispatched until a sufficient number of letters were deposited to pay the charges.
1750
New Brunswick to New York time shortened to five days
1753
Franklin appointed Deputy for the Crown and with, William Hunter, Postmaster Generals for the Colonies. Franklin: established business-like practices putting the post office in good financial condition; established post service from Maine to Georgia with cross roads at necessary points; visited every post office in the colonies; pioneer in day and night posts; arranged for weekly post between New York and Philadelphia; served as Deputy Postmaster General until 1774
1755
Nov. 15: British Post Office started regular mail packet from Falmouth to New York
1756
1:Penn Post switched to stage coaches from horses.
2: Town names used in postmarks, New York in two lines found on cover
1757-62
Franklin in England as lobbyist for the colonies
1760-70
Bishop Mark, sent to New York and Quebec post offices from London, without the dividing line in center, to mark date mail received at post office.
1761
1: Franklin-Hunter post offices sent London Post office 499 pounds as net profit for year, first in history
2: Hunter died and Thomas Foxcroft appointed to replace him
1763
1: Franklin returned to America for one year, made tour of inspection.
2: appointed Hugh Finlay postmaster of the English province of Canada
1764
1: Franklin returned to England.
2: Two sailing packets operating from the Colonies to Great Britain
1765
1: Oct. 10: Parliament created rates for inland conveyance within British dominions in America
2: "Sons of Liberty" stated that ships' captains must deliver mail to coffee houses instead of the post offices
1766
John Barnhill route, Philadelphia to New York took three days
1769
Profit sent to London was 1,859 pounds
1771
Town names used in postmarks, Philadelphia found on cover
1772
1: Bishop Mark, sent to Boston post office from London, without the dividing line in center, to mark date mail received at post office.
2: Town names used in postmarks, Boston found on cover.
3: Dec.: Finlay appointed Surveyor of the Post Offices and Post Roads on the Continent of North America
1773
Paul Revere employed by the Selectmen of town of Boston to carry the account of the destruction of the tea to New York and in 1774 to carry their dispatches to New York and Philadelphia calling for a Congress
1774
1: profit sent to London was 3,000 pounds.
2: Jan. 3: Franklin dismissed from his major office of Colonial Post.
3: Feb. 25: Finlay replaced Franklin as Deputy Postmaster General in North America, John Foxcroft named Resident Deputy Postmaster General, start of Constitutional Post.
4: May 14: Paul Revere sent by the Committee of Correspondence of Massachusetts with important dispatches to the Southern Colonies, Revere was not a postal employee, known then as post riders.
5: June 16: news item in Boson paper from London stated that "as soon as General Gage arrives he will stop the career of this new Post, Riders and their employees."
6: July 2: public notice appeared in The Maryland Journal by William Goddard, advertising for an American Post office on constitutional principles
1775
1: Elias Nixon appointed postmaster for province of New York.
2: May 8: John Holt began independent service of the Constitutional Post in Hartford, could not function in Boston since British were in control of the city.
3: May 29: Continental Congress made first effort to establish posts through the continent.
4: June: Rhode Island Assembly resolved to establish post offices and appoint post riders.
5: July 26: Postmaster General to be appointed for the United Colonies with office in Philadelphia, line of posts be established from Falmouth in New England to Savannah, Georgia, rates of postage shall be 20 percent less that those appointed by Parliament; Ebenezier Hazard appointed Postmaster of New York by the Continental Congress, and Franklin unanimously chosen as Postmaster General.
6: Dec. 5: Provincial Congress of Maryland resolved not to permit the Parliamentary (British) Post to pass through their province, and an independent post was opened same day.
7: New Jersey helped the Revolutionary Post Office by resolving that a man and horse be kept ready in various towns to forward all expresses to and from the Continental Congress. 8: thirty Constitutional post offices existed
1776
1: Goddard appointed surveyor in the Post office Department of the Constitutional Post, New York taken by British and post office moved to Dobbs Ferry, then Fish Kill.
2: Postmasters and post riders exempted from military duty during the revolutionary period.
3: Aug. 30: Congress decreed that post riders shall be employed for every 25 or 30 miles. 4: Franklin appointed envoy to France, and his son-in-law Richard Bache named Postmaster General
1778
July 9: Articles of Confederation established a federal post office, limited to inter-state mail
1781, March 1
United States of America created
1782
1: Hazard succeeded Bache as Postmaster General; all the surplus income of the post office was to be used for new post offices and the support of packets.
2: hand stamp Paid and Free on official mail came into use
1784, Feb.
State of Vermont passed an act establishing post offices in that state, post riders were given exclusive rights to carry mail free mailing rights were given to the Governor and other such persons as authorized by the legislature.
1785, June
First stage line established in New York between New York City and Albany
1789
1: Congress passed a resolution that all rates of postage be doubled.
2: April 3: George Washington inaugurated President of the United States.
3: Sept 26: Washington replaced Bache with Samuel Osgood as PMG, there were 75 established post offices, PMG moved to Philadelphia with three penny post carriers, New York had only one carrier
1790
The 75 post offices carried 265,545 letters, revenue $7,526 with expenses at $7,578.
1793, Dec. 2
Congress passed an act designating the President and other named officials to send and receive their letters free of charge, "free letters" with post officials receiving two cents for each free letter, ended in 1847 when the government appropriated money to the Post Office Department for the "free" postal services.
1794
City delivery authorized carriers received two cents on each letter delivered, in lieu of salary, but many residents received their mail at post offices
1799
President George Washington given the "free" frank privilege for life
1800
Martha Washington given the "free" frank privilege for life
1802
The government operated its own line of stages between New York and Philadelphia
1829
PMG admitted to cabinet, PMG submitted his reports to the Treasury department during Constitutional Period