ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Important Dates in U.S. Post Office History Timeline: 1870 - World War II; Postal Mail Delivery Services

Updated on December 20, 2013

Important Dates in U.S. Post Office History Timeline: 1870 - World War II; Postal Mail Delivery Services

This is part 2 of the "Important Dates in U.S. Post Office History" Series. If you would like to read the first article in the series, click here. It covers the time period beginning in early colonial times and progresses through 1869.

Statute for Mail Fraud

A statute for mail fraud was enacted by Congress in 1872. It stated, “Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud ... for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice or attempting to do so, places in any post office or authorized depository for mail matter, any matter or thing whatever to be sent or delivered by the Postal Service ... shall be fined not more than $1,000,000 or imprisoned not more than 30 years, or both.” This statute was made to fight a post-Civil War outbreak of scams and swindles using the postal system.

In 1873, the penny postcard came into use, and remained in use until 1951 when the rate went up.


Universal Postal Union Established

The General Postal Union, now called the Universal Postal Union, was established in 1874. It is located in Berne, Switzerland and it is the second oldest international worldwide.

In 1880, Congress established the title of Chief Post Office Inspector whose responsibility is to ensure that the mail is moved quickly and uncompromised. They were originally known as postal surveyors.

The postal system, Special Delivery, set up a system to handle urgent mail in 1885.

In 1889, special trains were set up to transport mail between New York City and San Francisco, California. They were able to make the trip in 109 hours!

1893 Columbian Exposition Stamp - The First Commerative Postage Stamp
1893 Columbian Exposition Stamp - The First Commerative Postage Stamp | Source

Commemorative Stamps

The first issue of commemorative stamps rolled off the presses in 1893.

In the rural areas of Virginia, experimental free delivery routes were established for the first time in 1896. Rural Free Delivery (RFD) was soon established everywhere that could meet the requirement of having good roads. Hundreds of proposed rural routes remained closed because of poor road conditions. Soon, however, local governments stepped in and began improving the roads and highways. From 1897 through 1908, it has been estimated that these governments spent $72 million. It is documented that a group of farmers in Indiana even paid over $2,500 out of their own pockets for road improvements in order to qualify for Rural Free Delivery. These delivery routes later became permanent in 1902.

Airmail Stamp
Airmail Stamp | Source

Post Offices Also Served as Banks

Airmail was first attempted in 1911. In addition to this, many post offices began providing people who did not have access to a bank, a safe and convenient place to deposit and save money. This program was called the postal savings system.

In 1913, a national service began that provided for the delivery of packages or parcels. This service became known as parcel-post. The Collect-on-Delivery system was set up which would allow the post office to deliver items where the payment for those items was received by the postal worker when delivered rather than in advance.

After parcel post service was introduced in 1913, at least two children were sent by the service. With stamps attached to their clothing, the children rode with railway and city carriers to their destination. The Postmaster General quickly issued a regulation forbidding the sending of children in the mail after hearing of those examples.


Last Stage Coach Robbery Solved

Postal Inspectors investigated and solved the last known stagecoach robbery in 1916. The robbers had murdered the driver and absconded with $3000 from the mail on the coach. They were captured within 5 days of the robbery.

Experimental airmail routes were established in 1918. The Army Signal Corps used their planes and their pilots to make these flights.

In 1920, a metered postage system is initialized. This system allows postage amounts to be imprinted on a package which functions as a postage stamp, a cancellation and a postmark, all in one.

In 1924, mail between New York City and San Francisco, California took just 35 hours by air! This was a huge improvement over the train postal service established in 1889 that took 109 hours!

Special handling of unusual mail items such as live animals became a service offered by the postal service. This "Special Delivery" program was set up in 1925.

After a 3 ½ -year investigation, post office inspectors successfully captured the D’Autremont brothers in 1926. These three train bandits killed 4 men and blew up a mail car. They mistakenly thought the mail car was carrying $500,000 in gold.


The transfer of $15.5 billion of the nation’s gold reserve was initiated in 1934. The transfer began in New York and ended at Fort Knox. It took several years and 500 rail cars to complete. It occurred without incident.

The V-mail program began in 1942. V-mail, otherwise known as Victory mail, was used during World War II. It entailed microfilming the letters and then enlarging them at their overseas destinations again before being delivered. This process saved valuable cargo space that could then be used in a more productive manner.

This time period included a vast amount of new technology being implemented into the mail system, including airplanes and automobiles. Also, it bears being noted again, that the second oldest international organization was formed in this time period - the General Postal Union, now called the Universal Postal Union.

This ends this installment of the "Important Dates in U.S. Post Office History" Series. To read the last installment in this series covering 1945 through the present day, click here.

To read the first article in the "Important Dates in U.S. Post Office History" series which covers the early colonial times through 1869, click here.

All Rights Reserved

Copyright © 2011 Cindy Murdoch (homesteadbound)

Comments: "Important Dates in U.S. Post Office History Timeline: 1870 - World War II; Postal Mail Delivery Services"

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Murdoch 

      9 years ago from Texas

      Glenn - I'm glad you enjoyed the information presented in this hub. History is always important, although I enjoy it a lot more now than I did when I was a kid. Thanks for stopping by and for the votes.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 

      9 years ago from Long Island, NY

      This was an extremely interesting hub! You did your research well and I learned a lot from it. I think it's good to know and understand the history of the U.S. Post Office since it's such an important part of the heritage of the U.S. I really enjoyed reading this. Voted up.

    • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Murdoch 

      10 years ago from Texas

      Danette, yeah, a penny post card for that whole period of time and yet, it cost $5.00 for the pony express to carry a letter. Things just don't always make sense. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks

    • Danette Watt profile image

      Danette Watt 

      10 years ago from Illinois

      I am enjoying your series. Imagine - a penny postcard for almost 100 years. I did not know about the V mail. Interesting hub.

    • homesteadbound profile imageAUTHOR

      Cindy Murdoch 

      10 years ago from Texas

      It was a really interesting program that began in England. It helped save the cargo space for other things that were needed.

    • Cloverleaf profile image


      10 years ago from Calgary, AB, Canada

      An interesting follow-on to your first hub about US Postal History. I had never heard of the V-Mail program before!



    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)