Benefit or Deficit?

refer to caption
1974 U.S. stamp, 10-cent Wheat Fields and Train

Rural Americans were not the only ones who urged free rural mail service. Newspaper publishers quickly came to envision a newspaper in every farmer's mailbox each day, offering them the most precious news of all - daily weather reports and market quotes. With such valued information, farmers would no longer have to guess when rain was expected, or when to get the best price for their crops.

In a January 14, 1892 editorial, the Atlanta Constitution echoed the sentiments of many supporters when it noted that the service,

“would increase correspondence and cause more newspapers and periodicals to circulate in the country. [Rural Americans] would be brought in touch with the progress of the great world. They would be more contented, and better able to improve their condition. . . . Give the farmers this convenience, and the inevitable effect will be more and better schools, more enjoyable social conditions, and a more prosperous business and industrial outlook.”

While supporters waxed poetic of the service’s possible benefits, fourth class postmasters and small town merchants were less enthusiastic. Postmasters feared losing their jobs in the new service, and merchants feared giving their rural customers one less reason to come into town.

refer to caption
Sheet music for "The Old Postmaster"