Setting Up Shop

Photograph of female rural carrier in snow
Women slowly joined the ranks of RFD carriers.
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Rubber and leather "lap robe" for winter use.

Unlike their city counterparts, rural carriers had to post a bond before being eligible for hiring. This requirement, along with standard arguments of the day regarding women’s strength and abilities, kept the job in men’s hands at first. As time passed, women gradually joined the ranks of RFD carriers, unofficially at first, as substitutes for ill husbands, fathers or brothers, but soon on their own merit, and with their own bonds.

Male or female, RFD carriers faced the challenge of keeping warm in freezing cold winters, keeping wagons or sleds moving across rutted, snow-filled, or muddy roads, and of course successfully completing their daily rounds. Many carriers found small heaters to be an absolute necessity during cold winter months, others found comfort in blankets and lap robes. Local newspapers and national carrier and postmaster publications were filled with a variety of goods aimed at the keeping RFD carriers warm, and their wallets empty.

Rural letter carrier's carriage heater
Heaters were critical equipment during cold winters.
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Handmade mail sorting bag designed to unfold in order as the carrier passed each home.