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Post Roads Connected Us

United States Department of the Post Office, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Welcome, this is Mary Scott remembering her childhood of anxiously awaiting the arrival of one of my favorite people, the mailman. Every summer, he was my connection to the outside world as I look forward to the arrival of letters from Grandma, a birthday card, or “Weekly Reader” (an old sort of newspaper for kids). I enjoyed looking at the different stamps, without realizing all the history involved.

Over the years I have appreciated the post office for other reasons, but unfortunately, I have also made my share of complaints. I would like to challenge all my fellow complainers to read How the Post Office Created America by Winifred Gallagher. Although I still appreciated the post office and think of them favorably, I have a new appreciation for the institution after reading this book. For your history lovers, or a student looking for a good project source, this is the book for you. Gallagher has taken a different approach to our American history which many will find refreshing.

Without giving away all the good stories, I found it interesting that improving the speed of mail delivery was the real reason the colonies got busy making roads. The post office quickly evolved to a community gathering place. This special value of smaller post offices is one reason small town citizens are discouraged, and rise up in outrage to see them closed. I realize we have the internet today, but internet is still not available everywhere, and the internet still lacks the human connection for many of us. Want to know what is going on in a small community, go to the postmaster.

Looking for local services from mowing to babysitting, look at the community bulletin board in the post office. Expecting a special package or book, the postmaster will make sure you get it, especially if they are a fellow book lover. I still remember with fondness the postmistress in Dearing, Kansas. The post office had to close promptly on Saturday, only being open from 9-11. I did not think of it as an issue because there were lock boxes for bigger packages unable to fit in your regular post office box. I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of the latest book in the Harry Potter series. However, on that day, all of the boxes were full. She stayed over ½ an hour to make sure I got my book that Saturday.

How the Post Office Created America would also be a great resource for any student exploring the history of communication before the digital age. Gallagher reminds us that mail was the main form of communication over a distance. Gallagher makes strong arguments supporting her thesis that the mail system helped create America. The book gives a nice history of the development of regular mail service from medieval to modern times, and covers some of the challenges and failures of the US Postal Service.

This has been Mary Scott for HPPR Radio Readers Book Club’s 2022 Fall Read reminding all of you that have complained about the post office that you need to read How the Post Office Created America.

Fall Read 2022: Rural Life Revisited 2022 Fall ReadHPPR Radio Readers Book Club
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