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three carrier wearing the uniforms and hats are each loaded down with with packages to be delivered
Mailmen loaded down with Christmas packages, c.1910-1915. (George Grantham Bain Collection / Library of Congress)

Visions of Packages Danced in Their Heads

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I love the featured image for this post and the Christmas season gives me the excuse for a short post where I can feature it! The photo was taken just a decade or so before another image I love, seen below:

the side of a truck decked out for Christmas with greenery and the sign XMAS POST OFFICE, WASHINGTON DC with a Santa and some steps waving out of the back
Christmas mail truck in Washington, D.C. from December 1921. (Library of Congress)

Inside Adams has published a number of mail-related blog posts:  one on the ZIP code from 2013, which we turned into a This Month in Business History entry; another on house numbers, from 2021; one in 2011 about post offices and their distances from Washington D.C.; and the Christmas appropriate “Ready. Set. Mail! The Christmas Rush is On!” in 2017. While developing those posts, I ran across so many more images in the Library’s Prints and Photographs collection that I wanted to use! If you want to look at what we have, I have linked to a few searches on our web page:

Mail

Mailmen or Mailman

Mail carrier and the less used Mail orderlies

Postmen or Postman

Post Office

Air mail and mail plane

Mail steamer

Mail truck

Mail car

Mail teams

Christmas packages

Mail call

If you want still more mail-related images, the United States Postal Service has photos on their website of people, vehicles, and equipment, as well as a collection of holiday-themed images. The Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. has permanent exhibitions on moving the mail, which include images. They have also created virtual exhibitions  and pages for previous exhibitions, such as “Postmen of the Skies,” “Alexander Hamilton,” “Mail Trolleys,” and more, including several related to World War I.

four mailmen on scooters wearing hats in front of the post office one man stands to the right
These postal employees stand in front of a Post Office in Washington, DC, a building that now houses the Postal Museum, c.1911-1917. (Harris & Ewing Collection / Library of Congress)

And finally, there are the newspapers in Chronicling America* where you can find a variety of articles, including pieces on general mail delivery or specifically discussing mail at Christmas, some of which boast images. Among the newsprint, for example, I found a photo of the Zion Post Office in 1948; a 1916 photo of a huge pile of bags, filled with undelivered packages, in Chicago; a 1908 photo of the Dead Letter Office; and a number of photos from Christmas of 1944, featuring U.S. troops overseas.

If you are interested in more Business and Science topics, then subscribe to Inside Adams — it’s free!

*The Chronicling America historic newspapers online collection is a product of the National Digital Newspaper Program and jointly sponsored by the Library and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Comments (2)

  1. Take this Uber, Lyft, Bird, and Lime! (Re. picture of postal employees in front of the former post office at Union Station).
    Again, a wonderful blog post, Ellen! I particularly appreciate the numerous links to the collections that you provide. They are a fabulous way to actively engage the public.

  2. More on the last photo:

    The Motorized Scooter Boom That Hit a Century Before Dockless Scooters
    Launched in 1915, the Autoped had wide appeal, with everyone from suffragettes to postmen giving it a try
    Jackie Mansky
    April 18, 2019
    https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/motorized-scooter-boom-hit-century-dockless-scooters-180971989/

    https://link.usps.com/2017/06/20/gone-but-not-forgotten/
    “Autoped motor scooters. Designed to travel short distances, these compact scooters were tested around 1916 but deemed impractical partly because carriers couldn’t transport large parcels using the scooters.”

    American postal messengers use autoped (1917)
    British Pathé
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLd4HHxqGLo

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autoped

    The Sun, New York, New York, Sunday, October 8, 1916, Page 6
    https://fultonhistory.com/Newspaper%209/New%20York%20NY%20Sun/New%20York%20NY%20Sun%201916%20%20Grayscale/New%20York%20NY%20Sun%201916%20%20Grayscale%20-%205921.pdf
    What May Happen if the Haughty Descendant of the Small Boys Pushmobile Becomes Popular

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