Relationships

Households receive about 11 billion pieces of First-Class Mail correspondence.
More than half (about 6 billion) of all correspondence is sent by businesses or other organizations to households. Households send about a billion pieces to businesses. Households send about 4 billion pieces to other households. Additional correspondence is sent between organizations.

2014 USPS Household Diary Study

Keeping Us Connected

In a world where we have numerous ways to communicate mail remains a unique and important part of our lives. Most correspondence is generated by businesses and other organizations, but even as technology has moved many from letters to email to texting, some are finding their way back. Apps allow us to send personalized postcards and letters that can be printed out and placed into the mail to the recipient. Yes, indeed, there is an app for that. In fact, more than one.

Forever stamp showing Love written with ribbons
Forever Love stamp
Forever Love stamp

Keeping Mail Relevant

Technology continues to help industries support First-Class mail. Printing innovations allow firms to send millions of letters, personalized to each recipient. Entrepreneurs have developed ways to reduce the cost of producing, processing and delivering letters. Specialized businesses emerged to help firms manage difficult issues.

A stamped, First-Class mail letter is an attention getter that is private, secure and protected by the Postal Inspection Service, the oldest federal law enforcement agency in the country.

  • It suggests the sender has a personal relationship with the recipient, or has done business with him or her in the past.
  • It can contain personal information that is not ordinarily put in e-mails or shared online sites.
  • It is an official or business document required by law to be handled or signed personally.
  • It can be an invitation to an event or a reminder of an appointment. 
  • It can be a recall for a product.
  • It can be a card commemorating a special occasion or sharing a feeling.
  • It can be a personal letter.
  • It suggests that it be opened, read, acted upon or stored for future reference.

 
Revolutionary Mail

Long before American colonists sought their freedom, people relied on letters to keep in contact over distances. As the nation’s postal system was forming, letters were few. Postal costs restricted access to the mails to governments, businesses and the wealthy. The American colonies began as lonely coastal settlements, separated by dense forests. Settlers were more eager for news of their families and homelands overseas than for news from other colonies. The British government, however, needed reliable mail service throughout the American colonies for official communications with colonial governors. 

The postal system was critical to the success of the American Revolution. Committees of Correspondence used the mail to coordinate actions. Boston patriots formed the first such committee in 1764, followed the next year by a similar group in New York and later in other colonies. Such correspondence was critical in the formation of the First Continental Congress in 1774. When the British government took to opening suspected revolutionary correspondence, a publisher named William Goddard designed a distinctly American postal system to challenge the Crown post founded upon the principles of open communication, freedom from governmental interference, and the guaranteed free exchange of ideas. On July 26, 1775 the plan, now known as the "Constitutional Post" was adopted and implemented, ensuring communication between patriots and keeping the general populace informed of events during the American Revolution.

25-cent Love stamp showing two birds and a heart on a branch
25-cent Love stamp
25-cent Love stamp

America’s Love of Letters

Following the Revolution and the establishment of the new postal system, the cost of sending a letter continued to keep mail out of the hands of most Americans. Not until the 1850s would mail begin to find its way into American’s daily lives when Congress finally agreed to lower postage rates. In addition to rate changes, educational reforms of the 1830s helped lift literacy rates, providing larger audiences of writers and readers. At the same time the evolution of manufacturing helped make envelopes more readily available to the public. Finally, the Civil War drove more Americans to their pens and papers, desperate to keep in contact with friends and family during that turbulent period. By the 1870s, letters were commonly exchanged all across the country, providing connections as people moved into new territories, beginning new lives.