How the Postal Service helped stamp identity on America – and continues to deliver a common bond today

Americans overwhelmingly support a federal bailout for the cash-starved United States Postal Service. They view the USPS as a vital civic institution – one that despite a crisis brought on by massive debts and falling revenue continues to reliably deliver medicine, communications and absentee ballots that allow Americans to vote safely during the coronavirus pandemic.

Equally important, the postal service delivers a common bond that has helped shape American society for more than 250 years. Research for my recent book on the postal inspector Anthony Comstock introduced me to the prominent role the postal service played in enabling Americans to conceive of themselves as a singular nation.

Sending a letter from Virginia to New England in 1640 was no easy task. Settlers in Southern Colonies mostly relied on the open seas to deliver their mail, and more than three times as many vessels followed trading routes to Europe than to the Northern Colonies.


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