Money, But No Support

12-cent Grover Cleveland stamp
President Grover Cleveland thought the idea of free rural delivery to be a "crazy scheme."

On March 1, 1895 President Cleveland appointed William L. Wilson as his new postmaster general. The former Chairman of the US Committee on Ways and Means broke with many of his former allies in his support for free rural mail delivery. By 1895 at least three rural free delivery bills had been introduced in congress. In 1893, a bill authored by Tom Watson of Georgia called for the appropriation of $10,000 for an experimental service. Postmaster General Bissell had refused, saying it was not a Department priority, and added that the service would require $20 million to begin.

Unlike his predecessor, Wilson believed that a $10,000 Rural Free Delivery (RFD) experiment was possible. On October 1, 1896, the Department began that experiment in Wilson’s home state of West Virginia. The successful results led the Department to extend the experiment and by April 1, 1897, the rural residents of Hope, Indiana; Clarkesville, Arkansas; China Grove, North Carolina; Tempe, Arizona; Brunswick, Maine; and North Yakima, Washington were receiving free home mail delivery. As praise from happy residents hit the ears of Members of Congress and the Department officials began expanding the service to more counties and states across the continental US.