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Postal service, federal

Soon after the commencement of the first session of the first national Congress, Ebenezer Hazard, Postmaster-General, suggested (July 17, 1789) the importance of a reorganization of the Post-office Department. A bill for the temporary establishment of the general post-office was passed soon afterwards. The subject was brought up in Congress from time to time, until the present system in its general features was adopted in 1792. When Franklin resigned the office of Postmaster-General in 1776, the whole number of post-offices in the United States was 75; the whole number on Jan. 1, 1901, was 76,594, classified as follows: First-class, 208; second-class, 941; third-class, 3,280; fourth-class, 72,165; and Presidential, 4,429. Among these were 30,205 money-order offices and 2,085 money-order stations. The entire receipts of the Post-office Department during the administration of Dr. Franklin—about fifteen months—were $27,985, and the expenditures $32,142; in 1900 the receipts of the Post-office Department for the fiscal year were $102,354,579, and the expenditures $107,740,268. The rates of postage from the organization of the department until 1816 were: For a letter composed of a single piece of paper, under 40 miles, 8 cents; under 90 miles, 10 cents; under 150 miles, 12 1/2 cents; under 300 miles, 17 cents; under 500 miles, 20 cents; and over 500 miles, 25 cents. The rates were made by law in 1816 for a single letter, not over 30 miles, 6 1/4 cents; over 30 and under 80 miles, 10 cents; over 80 and under 150 miles, 18 3/4 cents; over 400 miles, 25 cents, and an additional rate for every additional piece of paper. If a letter weighed an [275] ounce, four times these rates were charged. After railroad facilities were established, these high rates caused many letters to be carried by express between the several

Sorting the newspaper mail.

cities, at rates much below those of the post-office. As early as 1836, Edward Everett, in Congress, proposed measures for reducing the postage. The matter was agitated in public discussions until 1843, when the general discontent was manifested by resolutions passed by various legislatures instructing their Senators and requesting their Representatives in Congress to adopt measures for reduction. The Postmaster-General (Wickliffe), in an elaborate report, recommended a moderate reduction, and in 1845 the following rates were established: For a letter not exceeding one-half ounce in weight, under 300 miles, 5 cents; over 300 miles, 10 cents, and an additional rate for every additional halfounce or fraction thereof. In the next Congress unsuccessful efforts were made to increase the rates on letters, but on newspapers and magazines they were raised, and prepayment was required. Postage on circulars was raised to 3 cents, and newspaper postage to Oregon and California, at the close of the war with Mexico, was fixed at 4 1/2 cents each. The letter charge to California via Chagres and Panama was 40 cents.

In 1851 a law was passed establishing the following rates of letter postage: For a letter of one-half ounce in weight, under 3,000 miles, if prepaid, 3 cents; or if not prepaid, 5 cents; over 3,000 miles, 6 or 12 cents; to foreign countries not over 2,500 miles, except where postal arrangements had been made, 10 cents; over 2,500 miles, 20 cents. Transient newspapers, circulars, and other printed matter, 1 cent an ounce under 500 miles, and greater distances in proportion. Books, under 32 ounces, 1 cent an ounce, if prepaid; 2 cents an ounce if not. The next year the law was modified. Letters sent over 3,000 miles and not prepaid were charged 10 cents; newspapers, etc., under 3 ounces, 1 cent. Books weighing less than 4 pounds, under 3.000 miles, 1 cent an ounce; over 3,000 miles, 2 cents. By an act of the same year (1852), stamps and stamped envelopes were ordered. By a law of March 3, 1855, the rates on single inland letters were reduced to 3 cents for all distances under 3,000 miles, and 10 cents for all over that; and all inland letter-postage was to be prepaid.

In 1863 the rate of postage was made uniform at 3 cents on all domestic letters not exceeding half an ounce in weight, and 3 cents additional for every half-ounce or fraction thereof. The rates on printed matter were also modified. In 1868 the law was so amended as to allow weekly newspapers to be sent free to regular subscribers residing in the county. By [276] the act of 1855, provision was made for the registration of valuable letters on the payment of a specific fee; but the government is not liable for the loss of any registered mail-matter; the system simply provides for greater certainty in transmission. In 1874 the cost of registration was reduced from 15 cents to 8 cents, in addition to the regular postage. In June, 1875, it was raised to 10 cents, but afterwards restored to 8 cents.

The money-order system was established in the United States Nov. 1, 1864, in order to promote public convenience and insure safety in the transfer by mail of small sums of money. That security is obtained by omitting from the order the name of the payee, which is added on the receipt of the order. Orders are issued for sums not exceeding $100; larger sums by increasing the number of orders accordingly. The charge for issuing a money-order for sums not exceeding $2 50, 3 cents; $5, 5 cents; $10, 8 cents; $20, 10 cents; $30, 12 cents; $40, 15 cents; $50, 18 cents; $60, 20 cents; $75, 25 cents; $100, 30 cents. On Jan. 1, 1901, there were 32,290 money-order offices and stations.

By act of June 8, 1872, the Postmaster-General was authorized to issue postalcards to the public at a cost of 1 cent each. The first cards were issued in May, 1873. The rates of postage established by acts prior to 1876 were as follows: Single letters (domestic), uniform for any distance, 3 cents for every half-ounce, and for each additional half-ounce, 3 cents. This applies to all sealed matter, whether in manuscript or printed. There are two other classes of mail-matter; one embraces all regularly supplied newspapers, magazines, and periodicals, exclusively in print, and the other embraces pamphlets, transient newspapers, magazines, and articles of merchandise, seeds, roots, scions, engravings, etc., for all of which there are graded prices. Letters not taken from a post-office, or the directions of which are not clear, are sent to the Dead-letter Office in Washington, where they are examined, and, as far as possible, they and their contents are returned to the sender. The quantity of these letters is very large. Postal arrangements have been made with foreign governments by which great facility and security are obtained in the transmission of letters. In February, 1883, Congress, by act, fixed the postage on single letters at 2 cents after Oct. 1, 1883. Second-class matter (periodicals), is carried at the nominal rate of 1 cent per pound.

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Benjamin Franklin (2)
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