RFD: To the Country

RFD: To the Country explores the history of Rural Free Delivery. Beginning in 1896, this service helped put rural Americans in better touch with the world.

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today we take daily mail service for

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granted but in the 1890s it was an event

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when the carrier brought a letter to

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your front door

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unfortunately home delivery was confined

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to the cities and two out of three

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Americans lived in rural areas it's hard

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to imagine just how isolated rural

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Americans felt a century ago there was

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no radio no daily newspaper often little

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contact with the world outside farmers

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were expected to pick up their mail in

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town winter and summer when the weather

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turned bad it might be weeks between

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visits yet farmers paid the same postage

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city folks paid at meetings of the

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National Grange the farmers best friend

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voices began to be raised it wasn't fair

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responding to pressures from the Grange

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and sympathetic postal officials

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Congress finally appropriated enough

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money in 1896 to experiment with rural

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free delivery in several communities

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RFD caught on immediately and though

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some senators complained that it would

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bankrupt the nation petitions requesting

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new mail routes poured into the Congress

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and all those farmers could vote in 1902

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rural free delivery became a permanent

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part of the postal system but it wasn't

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easy less than a hundred years ago most

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of rural America was connected by only

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the rudest of roads yet rural carriers

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who had to buy and maintain their own

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vehicles were among the first to invest

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in the new horseless carriages a 25 mile

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route could take a long time on roads

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like these postmasters had the power to

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refuse delivery to areas with impassable

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roads so the farmers organized to build

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new ones helping to spark a good roads

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movement

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its impact was felt all over the nation

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still the Postal Service would carry

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only small packages

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giant Express companies with powerful

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allies in Congress controlled parcel

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delivery the fight was long and bitter

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but popular sentiment won again and

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Parcel Post service began in 1913 RFD

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with Parcel Post transformed rural

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America it brought the farmers closer to

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the markets and gave them more control

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over when to sell their crops RFD

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enhanced the value of their lands - but

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it did more than that by bringing farm

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families newspapers magazines and

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mail-order catalogs it brought the world

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to their door life in rural America

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wasn't isolated anymore