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The United States Postal Service

The Mailing Industry and the United States Postal Service: An Enduring Partnership

Mail carrier and truck

The mailing industry consists of all the organizations that communicate with customers and constituents through the U.S. Mail on a large scale — from direct marketers, to publishers, to nonprofits, to public entities — as well as all the businesses that help prepare mail, such as ad agencies, print shops, software vendors, and transportation providers. It's an industry that touches all of us, from the child receiving the first issue of his favorite magazine, to the busy adult receiving a sale flyer from a local store, to the retiree receiving a catalog of giving opportunities from her favorite charity. The total economic value of the mailing industry exceeded $1 trillion in 2015.

cross-written letter
Saving on Postage, 1839
Before postage rates were lowered in 1845, two sheets of paper cost twice as much to mail as one sheet. To save money on postage, some people cross-wrote their letters.

At the heart of the mailing industry is the U.S. Postal Service, which has delivered for America for more than two centuries. An explosion of mail in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century drove post offices and large-volume mailers to work together to handle mail more efficiently. Mailers used new methods of paying for postage which reduced mail handling by postal clerks and enabled the presorting of mail by destination, speeding dispatch and delivery. Mail volume continued to grow to such an extent that by the 1960s, it threatened to overwhelm post offices when deposited en masse by businesses at the end of each work day. This pushed the Post Office Department to embark on a concerted, nationwide campaign to enlist the aid of large mailers in leveling out the daily "mountains" of mail. So began a unique public-private partnership, unprecedented in scope and scale, which continues to this day.

Political Circular, 1848 (detail)
Political Circular, 1848 (detail)
Circulars and handbills often promoted political and social causes. This circular was mailed in 1848 to organize supporters of the Free Soil Party, which opposed the extension of slavery into new U.S. territories.


America’s Mailing Industry