In the Line of Duty

Dangers, Disasters and Good Deeds
Postal worker wearing rubber gloves while sorting mail
October 8, 2003 - February 2, 2007

“Neither snow nor rain
nor heat nor gloom of night
stays these couriers from the swift completion
of their appointed rounds.”

—Phrase engraved on the outside of the old James A. Farley Post Office building at 8th Avenue & 33rd Street in New York, New York. It was a translation by Prof. George H. Palmer, Harvard University, from an ancient Greek work of Herodotus describing the Persian system of mounted postal carriers c. 500 B.C.

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Postal Inspectors are early to disaster scenes from which mail is to be located and secured are offered counseling assistance.

The history of America's postal service is filled with stories of those who risked their lives for the mail. The events of September and October 2001 have brought the courage and strength of these workers to light again.

In the Line of Duty: Dangers, Disasters and Good Deeds is an exhibition dedicated to America's postal workers.

About 24 letter carriers posing for the camera, circa 1900.

It takes courage to face dangers and disasters in the line of duty. The men and women of the United States Postal Service have been doing this for more than two hundred years.

A private stagecoach pulled by hourses

America’s postal service was the major medium of news and information in the nineteenth century. Stagecoach lines that moved the mail, as well as money and minerals, were frequently ambushed and robbed.

Railway Mail Service clerks posing with Owney the dog in front of a railcar.

From the start of the Railway Mail Service in America in 1832, postal clerks who rode with the mail did so under life-threatening conditions. Ever present were the dual dangers of robberies and wrecks.

Seven airmail pilots posing in front of a plane.

Constantly challenged to move the mail faster and faster, the United States established airmail service in 1918. Those who undertook the perilous task of flying the mail found it a dangerous and deadly business.

Two mail clerks sorting mail

The RMS Titanic was more than the largest and most luxurious ocean liner of her time. She was a Royal Mail Ship, with postal clerks on board who would pay dearly for this privileged duty.

Sorting clerks at work in large city post office.

On May 1, 1919, a New York City mail clerk became a postal legend. With one heroic deed, Charles Caplan saved many of America’s most prominent leaders from certain danger and possible death.

Church Street Station adjacent to Ground Zero.

On September 11, 2001, America experienced the worst terrorist attack ever. Thousands of lives were lost and others were injured as the World Trade Center vanished from the New York skyline.

Sign prepared by a child that reads, Thank You Postal Worker for being so Brave!

The tragic events of September 11, 2001 caused America to reel in grief and disbelief. Then, just one month later, another form of terrorism—bioterror— threatened the integrity of the United States Postal Service and the lives of its workers.

A mail handler holding a bin and operating a machine.

The men and women of the United States Postal Service believe that their job is more than sorting and delivering over 600 million pieces of mail to over 130 million addresses each day. A vital part of providing the best mail service in the world is a sense of caring.

Child recovered through ADVO standing next to exhibition wall panel.

In 1985, the United States Postal Service stepped beyond the boundaries of “business as usual.” USPS joined ADVO, America’s largest company specializing in targeted direct mail services, and NCMEC, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, in forming a private-sector partnership with a heroic mission.