Featuring Research Volunteer Contributions

Customers & Commerce

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Two-slot postage stamp vending machine

Complex economic, social, and political forces drive relationships between individuals, businesses, and the postal system. Every U.S. resident receives mail service through the public obligation of universal service. By providing mail delivery to every address, the postal system connects people, the marketplace, and the government. Access to the public through local post offices has allowed the federal government to offer customer services that have no connection with postal business. While fulfilling these services and obligations, the system must also remain economically viable.

The volume of mail generated by businesses today largely sustains the U.S. Postal Service. Businesses use the mail to find customers, to deliver goods to consumers, and to maintain supplies and capital. In addition to companies that build their assets by creating mail, other firms have found a market by catering to mailing needs. From envelope manufacturing to supplying specialty equipment such as stamp vending machines, the postal system has provided the impetus for many commercial ventures.

Lynn Heidelbaugh, National Postal Museum


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Patent model of an envelope-folding machine

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Rural Free Delivery warded mailbox padlock

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Four-dozen egg crate, circa 1913 - 1950s

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Postal money order rate card

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Pitney Bowes Desk Model (DM) postage meter

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Peerless hanging letter scale

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Schermack stamp vending machines

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