Before Jan. 1, 1913, sending and receiving packages through the US Mail Service was a complicated endeavor, and the domestic mail strictly limited mail items to weigh less than four pounds. The US Post Office Department received funding from Congress who rejected an official US Parcel post service.
Rural mail delivery was limited for much of 19th century to a corner of their local General Store and their rural patrons came into town mainly to buy supplies and to check to see if they had received any mail. They had to use private shipping company services which were very expensive there were so few operating.
After many decades of a free home mail delivery service in every major city, rural Americans across the nation had pleaded for both free rural mail service and a national postal parcel post service beginning in the 1880s; however, pleas became demands after the free rural mail delivery finally passed in 1896.
Domestic parcel post delivery eventually was initiated by Postmaster General Frank H. Hitchcock on January 1, 1913 under the administration of President William Howard Taft. Many rural customers took advantage of reasonable Parcel Post rates to purchase furniture, clothing, shoes and much more from businesses located hundreds of miles away for delivery by mail.
After the parents of Charlotte May Pierstorff, a five year old, had been mailed (by train) to her grandparents in Idaho in 1914. Unfortunately, May was not the first nor the last child mailed, because most were mailed during 1915.
The beginning of domestic parcel post service, which entirely operated ground transportation systems such as truck or rail shipment, greatly boosted mail volume of goods in the U.S. while inspiring the growth of nationwide trade and commerce finally reaching rural America as a market.
In 1917, the Post Office imposed a maximum daily shipping limit of 200 pounds per customer per day after a business entrepreneur, W.H. Coltharp, used inexpensive parcel post rates to ship more than 80,000 masonry bricks some 407 miles via horse-drawn wagon and train for the construction of a bank building in Vernal, Utah.
“At that time of year when packages of all shapes and sizes have been flying through our various delivery systems, it’s fun to take a moment and look at a time when that was a new and exciting adventure,” said Nancy Pope, historian and curator at the museum.