Between Independence and 1792 the United States General Post Office (1775-1829) changed little from its colonial forerunner. There were seventy-five post offices in 1790, most along the Atlantic seaboard post road from Maine to Georgia, the only significant exception being along the post road from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, the western-most post office. There was no postal service in the vast territory between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River.
Two important provisions of the 1792 Post Office Act laid the foundation for the General Post Office's explosive growth in the nineteenth century: Congress took away the executive branch's authority to establish post roads and thereby control the expansion of postal service and, to insure an informed electorate, newspapers were permitted in the mail at heavily subsidized rates. By the time the French writer Alexis de Tocqueville visited America in 1831, postal service had grown to 8,686 offices. He observed that “in the forests of Michigan there is no cabin so isolated, no valley so wild but that letters and newspapers arrive at least once a week” making the American frontiersmen better-informed that many of his own countrymen living just outside Paris. The Post Office Department (named this since 1829) grew to a peak of 76,945 offices in 1901 before Rural Free Delivery (RFD) began the consolidation of smaller rural offices. Distributing mail to this growing network of post offices made transportation a significant component of the postal budget.