All Systems at Work
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Each day the United States Postal Service processes hundreds of millions of pieces of mail and delivers to over 150 million addresses. At the center of this bustling postal network are more than a hundred Processing and Distribution Centers spread across the United States.

This video shows letters, catalogs, magazines, and parcels making their way through these centers. Click the "full-screen" button in the lower right corner of the above video, when playing, to watch full-screen.


When someone sends a letter, it enters a system already at work that most people never get to see.

The United States Postal Service processes hundreds of millions of mail pieces everyday.

The Postal Service delivers almost half the world's mail to over a hundred and fifty million addresses, through a network of thousands of post offices.

These offices are supplied by a network of hundreds of processing and distribution centers around the nation.

The Postal Service separates mail into three categories: letters, flats, and packages.

Small pieces of mail like letters, bills, and post cards are all processed by the same set of machines.

Processing letters begins with culling, or filtering out mail that cannot be handled by machines down the line due to size, shape, or weight.

Letters then enter the Advanced Facer-Canceller system.

This machine uses specialized cameras to take pictures of envelopes as they speed by.

These pictures are used by the computer to find the stamp, locate the address, read the handwriting, and compare the address against a database of known addresses.

It faces the letter in the right direction, sprays it with the unique ID tag and cancels the stamp with a postmark.

The letters are then transferred to the Delivery Barcode Sorter.

Postal workers feed the letters into this machine by hand.

This machine sorts letters into "delivery point sequence," or the order that postal carriers will deliver them along their routes.

After letters are sorted, they are moved to the loading dock.

Customers often bring large bundles of magazines to distribution centers for processing.

The Postal Service refers to magazines, catalogs, and similar items as "flats."

Large bundles of flats must be weighed and verified before they are processed.

They are then taken to a preparation area.

There, they are separated and ready for processing.

After they are prepared, bins of flats go into the Flats Sequencing System, a machine the length of a football field.

The flats travel along a conveyor system to a feeder, where they are removed from the bins and sent one by one to the scanning system.

A high-speed camera captures images of flats to identify their delivery addresses.

A computer interprets the scanned addresses and sends sequencing information to the machine's robotics system.

The flats are then sorted into delivery order for postal carriers.

Sorted flat so then transfers to trays and automatically loaded onto carts.

They are then moved to the loading dock.

Packages can be particularly difficult to process by machine because they come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes.

The Automated Package Processing System is uniquely equipped to deal with this kind of mail.

Packages are spread out as they move along a series of belts and rollers.

As the packages enter the scanning and imaging tunnel, the machine reads their addresses.

It determines the package dimensions... and weight, checks for proper postage, and scans the barcode, updating the package's tracking information.

The packages then travel along a conveyor, before being kicked off into bins by destination.

Packages are then moved to the loading dock, where they are loaded onto trucks along with letters and flats going to the same post offices.

As morning approaches, drivers deliver the sorted mail to the appropriate post offices.

After the mail arrives, postal workers separate it for pickup.

Carriers gathered the sorted letters, flats and packages to take out on their routes.

Mail delivery connects people and businesses all across the country.

Everyday technology keeps mail flowing through this constantly moving network.

All systems...

at work.

The Carrier Sequence Barcode Sorter (CSBCS)
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The CSBCS is an automated machine that sorts the mail through the barcode to an individual letter carrier’s mail route.

[Machine sounds throughout video]

The Multi-Position Letter Sorting Machine (MPLSM)
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MPLSM operators used 20-key keyboards to type in two or three numbers from the ZIP code, so the machine could then sort the mail into one of 277 or more bins representing sections of the country. These operators sorted mail at rates of 60 letters per minute.

[silent video]

Throwing Mail Into Bags
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Postal workers sorted some mail by tossing it into bags. This short, 57-second, silent video was produced by the "American Mutoscope & Biograph Company" in 1903. Notice the stage backdrop painted to resemble the interior of a post office.

[silent video]

Why Stamps Were Invented
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This animated video, used for the National Postal Museum's Stamps and Stories gallery in 1993, offers a whimsical look at why stamps were created.




Hey, be nice to that stamp, will you?


You see, before there were postage stamps, sending a message wasn't so easy.

Over 2,000 years ago, the Roman Circus Publicus had relay stations connecting all parts of the Empire.

But only for official government messages.

Even in the Middle Ages, the mails weren't for public use.

Individuals had to send our own couriers who carried documents in small chain-link metal bags called chain mail, which is how we got the word "mail".

[Breathing heavily]

By the 1700s, England's postal system was available for both public or private use.

While letters were sometimes paid for in advance, most were paid for when delivered - a system which didn't always work.


It wasn't until 1840, when Sir Rowland Hill invented the Penny Post in England. That prepaid mail became the rule with a gummed stamp as the receipt.



Today, you can send a letter or package anywhere in the country or around the world - all because of that little postage stamp.


But stamps are just for sending letters. Because of their beautiful designs and craftsmanship, they're treasured by collectors everywhere.

[Kissing sound]


[Whistling sound]

Delivering To You
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This video, used in the National Postal Museum’s video gallery offers a look at how mail was processed at the turn of the century.


This cat should not be here, he should not be about!

He should not be here, when your mother is out!

Oh the places you will travel Mr. Cat in the Hat!

Dear Mom and Dad, camp is great! I earned two new merit badges today!

Please join us for our daughter's dance recital, we are so proud of her accomplishment!

Waiting for a party invitation?

Looking forward to a note from an old friend?

Chances are, there's a piece of mail with your name on it, coming at you right now!

But how exactly does your letter find its way cross-town, cross-country, or across the world and into your mailbox? Your dedicated postal employees, of course.

But before that, your letter was one of over 200 billion pieces of mail that the United States Postal Service collects, sorts, transports, and delivers each year.

Behind the scenes, the United States Postal Service is a massive operation, almost 30,000 post offices serving the public. Over 400 processing and distribution centers, use cutting-edge technology to move millions of pieces of mail a day.

A work force more than 700,000 strong keeping the nation's communication flow unbroken.

The United States Postal Service is a living network, working together, to keep us in touch.

Dear Mom and Dad, I miss you all at home but I am making new friends here in a faraway land. You should know, that the work I'm doing here is very rewarding and I feel like I'm making a difference.

A birthday card for your grandfather, a job application, your electrical bill. It's got to get where it's going ...and fast.

You raise your mailbox flag or head to the nearest United States Postal Service dropbox and off it goes.

Your piece of mail is in the system, and soon, it will be processed at a local mail sorting facility and sent on its way.

But what if you're a small business looking to send hundreds of Flyers to potential clients? A mass mailing company with 10,000 coupons to get out? That's where the national bulk mail system comes in. In exchange for doing some of their own prep work, high volume mailers pay discounted postage rates. They bring their pre-posted, pre-sorted mail to bulk mail centers. These highly mechanized processing plants can handle enormous volumes of parcels and advertising mail, keeping the wheels of commerce spinning.

Season closeout sale! Save big on all baseball apparel and equipment. Thirty percent off all our best brands! Don't miss out! See this weekend circular for details!

Hey Jimmy, check out this ad my mom got in the mail. Look at all these cool jerseys and gear on sale!

After collection, mail is transported to a local sorting facility where it begins its processing journey. This mail goes onto a conveyor belt. Zipping through a series of belts and rollers, letters are separated from non-letter mail.

Next stop, a computer checks letters either for readability or to see if the ZIP code has been pre-printed as a barcode. ZIP codes are the keys to our mail's journey. It also determines if letters have postage, sets all envelopes up to face the same direction, and cancels each stamp.

The letters then make their way through the system to the optical character reader, also called the OCR. Here a picture is taken of the letter's address, which the OCR tries to interpret. If it can read your handwriting, it sprays corresponding barcodes onto the bottom of the envelopes, then sorts and divides them by ZIP code at an incredible speed of nine or more envelopes per second. How's that for speed!

Each bar code represents an 11-digit ZIP code that helps make mail fly from collection to delivery faster than ever. You may not even know you had an 11-digit Zip code, but the United States Postal Service knows it. Computers use the extra two numbers to sort mail down to the final delivery address.

Now if your handwriting is messy and can't be read, your mail piece is temporarily bumped out of the system. Images of eligible male are automatically rerouted to Remote Barcoding Computers where a reliable set of human eyes deciphers the addresses and relays the correct barcodes back to the OCR which in turn tosses the mail back into the system to continue its journey. Larger flat packages move to the center in a similar process. After letters and flats are sorted into trays or tubs for shipping, they are broken down for either air or surface transportation. Robots handled this task! Moving in a mechanical ballet, robots pack the letters and flats for dispatch, sorting again by ZIP code. These complex robotic systems work side by side with the postal workers.

Now, what about all those packages that are dropped off for delivery? Priority Mail and First Class packages are separated by postal workers as either priority letters, packages, or boxes. They travel the same paths as letters and flats but as individual pieces rather than in trays, tubs, or pouches.

Computers use the ZIP code to book space for the mail trays and packages on airplanes, trucks, and trains. The first part of your mail's complex journey is now complete.

Your mail that arrives at the Processing and Distribution Center nearest its destination. Each center is a 24-hour factory, postal workers processing mail around the clock moving millions of pieces a day. Here, incoming mail is even more finely sorted down to city, and neighborhood; next step, the local post office.

This is where your mails journey ends. As a local mail carrier heads out in his daily rounds, delivering to your post office box, office, or home.

Without the advancements made in mail processing technology equipment, ever increasing volumes of mail would overwhelm the Postal Service, and slow mail delivery to a crawl. The United States Postal Service and its partners continue to explore new ways to speed mail processing and delivery through innovative technology.

All of this waiting is driving me nuts. I hope it comes today. Maybe she forgot me?

Hi Cleo, let's see if we have anything for you today...

Like blood circulating through the body, the United States mail system is in constant motion, supplying the whole country with an unending flow of information and goods.

Every day, the Postal Service transports over 550 million pieces of mail, over three million miles a day, and they'll do whatever it takes to deliver, even if you live in an igloo, on a bayou, or at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

With such a vast territory to cover, it's no wonder the United States Postal Service has always been on the cutting edge of transportation technology.

Today a modern fleet of vehicles and their dedicated crews keep the mail stream surging, full steam ahead.

Even in the face of brutal storms or violent natural disasters, your carrier will be there, delivering that letter you've been waiting for, keeping us all connected through the mail.

Why yes, there is a package for you here Cleo.

Mom, Dad the mail arrived, she remembered after all! Look at this beautiful gift Grandma sent me for my birthday!

Exhibit-Related Videos

River of Mail
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River of Mail was produced by the Post Office Department in the late 1960s to teach the public about mail processing methods used during that decade.


Letters of greeting,

letters of pleading,

letters of gossip,

of friendship, of love.

Checks for purchase,

checks for payment,

checks for deposit to account,

checks for just about any amount.

Advertisements from the stores,

hometown papers with all the scores,

manuscripts, postscripts, notes, codes,

thousands of votes, millions of quotes.

We are the writing-est people in the history of mankind,

well over 80 billion pieces of mail a year.

And each year, up three billion or so.

A surging river of mail.

The mid century challenge of the Postal Department:

find modern ways to help move the mail.

Move swiftly into the present, mechanize, computerize, modernize.

The time for the new is now.

Mail is vital. Everyone must help.

Those who manufacture, those who trade, those who sell, those who buy,

insurance, banking, and stock market men, letter writers all.

Of each ten letters, eight are for business;

eighty percent is business mail.

Office buildings are factories where the product is mail.

Improve the service and everyone gains.

The post office and business working together can overcome problems

of high-rise proportions.

Mail rooms for buildings, machinery to speed the internal flow.

From city to city

to town and village,

crossing the continent on pavement and rail,

the river of mail is the economy's life blood.

If it'd stop flowing, so would prosperity.

Mail began flying over 50 years ago.

We've come a long way from Jenny to jet.

First Class today gets first-class service.

All Priority Mail that's going long distance now travels by air.

Hundreds of small towns get this new service.

From feeder lines and charter planes.

With the mail flights come added passenger flights.

That independent spirit the man on the street can help too,

mailing early in the day, using ZIP Codes on all his mail.

Taking advantage of innovations like self-service postal units

open 24 hours a day.

For the Service man overseas, there's nothing quite equal to a letter from home.

Wherever he is, the mail follows.

The distance adds importance and meaning,

bridging that distance with the finest mail service ever, is a big job for both the Post Office and the Military.

To keep the precious postal link unbroken,

means planning for new techniques and modern machines to handle the flood.

Machines that can stack, can cancel and sort.

Machines that can read more swift than the eye.

Giant computers that will measure, record, and predict.

New tools, new ideas.

A new postal service for the future.

Man and machine, commerce, industry, and government, the postal employee and you,

working together, can bring change.

And change is coming, to cope with the flow.

“Swingin' Six” ZIP Code Video
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“Swingin' Six” ZIP Code Campaign Public Service Announcement Video produced by the Post Office Department, mid-1960s.




Well hello my friend. How do you do?

We hope you have a moment or two to listen to what we have to say to each and every one of you.

It concerns our postal system.

Our lifetime friend, as all of you know.

They’ve never failed us through the years, through driving rain, sleet or snow.

But now they’ve got a problem, and what are they to do?

The answer, my friend is very simple. It’s up to you to see them through.

Doo do do do do do do do do do do do,

doo do do do do do do do do

Well, back in the days of the thirteen colonies the cry was freedom and how to defend it.

Mailing a letter wasn’t much trouble; there weren’t too many places to send it.

But now it’s a different story. They’ve got more mail than ever before.

It’s stuffed in bags, stacked on shelves. There’s hardly room for anything more.

There’s been a mail explosion! They’ve got a terrible load! You’ve got to help them right away,

before the U.S. Post Office explodes!


It wasn’t so long ago that communication was a simple act.

But the range of the human voice is limited.

So, man’s ingenuity found ways to bridge distance.

He invented writing, and typographical errors.

To carry messages across vast distances, man developed roads, highways, turnpikes,

bunions, calluses, and a rare assortment of aching limbs.

Yes, up until recently, communication remained a simple act.

What matter if it took two weeks to go from New York to Atlanta, a month to St. Louis.

If the letter from Uncle Ben arrived a day or so later, nobody fussed.

The times were tuned to wagon wheels, footpaths, and the puff of wind against sails.

Distance was measured by weeks and months. Everything was a far time off.

Then, slowly, the country got up steam. Commerce shook off its sea anchor

and headed westward, all the width of the continent. There was a new idea: speed.

Everything was coming up to date in the Kansas Cities and the Portlands.

Communications became the most vital aspect of our economy.

The post office became the prime artery of commerce.

For a time, the Department was perfectly able to keep up. If the mail piled high,

put on another piece of equipment. And if that didn’t do the trick, add a few more clerks, or a flock of carriers.

But by World War One, the post office carried

more advertising in a week then all the newspapers and magazines could carry in a year.

It was the country’s bill collector, check deliverer, errand runner.

The volume of mail delivered leaped to twenty billion. By 1948, it had doubled – forty billion.

This year, doubled again – nearly eighty billion pieces of mail.

Literally, the post office stands to be swamped, overwhelmed, drowned, in a sea of mail.

Where do we go from here?

Patchwork, piecemeal solutions based upon obsolete transportation routes will not work.

The answer has to be as new as the challenge is new. And the post office has the only logical answer.

ZIP Code. Mail distribution via the straight line.

Always the shortest distance between two distant points.

ZIP Code.

Five trailblazing numbers like this one, launch every piece of mail

with space age speed and precision.

Now that’s easy to say, and it sounds just fine, but let’s put this question right on the line.

What is the ZIP Code – a postal quirk?

What does it do? How does it work?

If you’ll lend an ear we’ll be glad to explain how the ZIP code eases your postal pain.

The first digit tells me what part of the nation your letter will find its destination.

Since the country’s divided into ten big sections,

each with a number to establish direction, before your letter has even departed, we’ve already got it started.

The next two digits go hand in hand, to a major post office over land.

Since each big section has town after town…

we need these numbers to really narrow things down.

We’ve got the section, we’ve got the city, just two more numbers and we’re sitting pretty.

These last two digits are really specific. They’re your local post office number.


What a system; as you can plainly see, just five little numbers, quick as can be.

But if you have a question or if you have a doubt, if you’re still not sure what the whole thing’s about,

just always remember ZIP Code defined means city to city in one straight line.

But don’t take it from us. Don’t take it from me. Try it yourself.

You’ll see.

It’s a better deal than you’ll get from any other post office department.

Yes, ZIP Code is a better deal.

Moving the mail in one straight line; straight as an arrow.

And on Valentine’s Day, it could be Cupid’s arrow.

The time: before ZIP Code.

A boy, a girl, a valentine.

There was a boy in New York City who loved a girl by Frisco Bay.

He sent a card to say he loved her, to say he cared that special way.

His letter zigged and zagged along the way.

His lonely letter lagged day after day.

She waited more and lonely hours just to hear what he would say,

but when his words were finally spoken, all her love had gone astray on a sad, sad Valentine’s Day.

And now, another valentine, carefully ZIP coded, here and here.

A different girl, still far away by Frisco Bay, but the same boy, a little older and a little wiser.

His letter flew across the country in just one day it reached her hand.

In just one day, she knew the answer, the happiest girl in all the land.



And those ZIP Code numbers will help clear up two of the major problems that give the Post Office Department fits.

Scene: The Dead Letter Office.

Have you ever asked yourself this question? Why do postal clerks get indigestion?

There are many reasons. I won’t bother to list them. It’s all the stamp glue we take into our system.

I guess that’s as logical as a man can get,

but that’s not the reason for their stomach upset.

It’s from trying to read the American hand, illegibly written throughout the land.

This letter will prove exactly what we said. The name of the city simply can’t be read.

Oakdale. Oakfield.

Oakhurst. Oakpark?

Oakwood. Tuscaloosa.

Tuscaloosa? Tuscaloosa?

Now you see what we mean? If the writing’s no good, this letter might as well be carved out of wood.

If you think bad handwriting is only hard

on your eyes, just try this problem on for size.

I’ve got a letter here for someone from Springfield.


I’m from Springfield, Massachusetts and I’m telling you, pal there’s no place I’d rather be.

I’m from Springfield, Pennsylvania and there’s been a mistake.

This letter is apparently for me.

I’m from Springfield, Arizona and I want you to know I’ve been waiting for this letter since a weekend ago.

Oh what good does it do to send a letter my way when I’m in Springfield, USA.

I have looked into this problem, and I’m telling you boys,

you’re angry and you have a right to be.

There are very many cities with identical names, and Springfield is not the least of these.

There are twenty four Springfields causing postal delays, and they’re all abbreviated with a two letter phrase.

Oh what good does it do to send a letter my way, when I’m from Springfield, USA.

There’s a Springfield, AR and a Springfield OH, a Springfield, FLA, and a Springfield, MO.

A Springfield, IL and a Springfield, ID. A Springfield, KY, and a Springfield, SD.

There’s a Springfield, ND and a Springfield, GA.

There’s a Springfield, NJ and a Springfield, PA.

There’s a Springfield, OR, and eleven more if you really feel like keeping score. Oh!

Oh! Oh! What good does it do to send a letter my way when I’m from Springfield, USA.

ZIP Code is bringing the mail explosion under control.

It is as up to date as the computer,

as timely as the fantastic ZIP Code scanner, electronically reading ZIP Codes and sorting the mail.

It is a success, but to make ZIP Code work, you must use it.

Remember, only you can put ZIP in your postal system.

To get any ZIP Code numbers you may need, including your own,

just call your local post office.

Keep it all in your head, there’s no better way.

Use ZIP Code every day.

You know you’ve gotta have a ZIP Code on the envelope, a ZIP Code so you won’t just have to hope.

A ZIP Code morning, noon and night, and everything will be alright.

Well, you get faster service and a lower cost. Fewer mistakes, no time ever lost.

A lot less handling along the way. No damage for you to pay.

You know you’ve gotta have a ZIP Code on the envelope, a ZIP Code so you won’t just have to hope.

A ZIP Code morning, noon and night, and everything will be alright.

Well, meet a fellow called Mr. ZIP. What he can do for you will really make you flip.

So if you have any further postal demands, we’re gonna leave you in his hands.

You know you’ve gotta have a ZIP Code on the envelope, a ZIP Code so you won’t just have to hope.

A ZIP Code morning, noon and night, and everything will be alright.

And now, my friend, we’ll say so long.

We hope you’re singing our ZIP Code song.

We’ve told you everything we know.

It’s up to you to make ZIP Code go.

You know you’ve gotta have a ZIP Code on the envelope,

a ZIP Code so you won’t just have to hope.

A ZIP Code morning, noon and night, and everything will be alright.

You know you’ve gotta have a ZIP Code on the envelope, a ZIP Code so you won’t just have to hope.

A ZIP Code morning, noon and night, and everything will be al...

everything will be al....

everything will be alright!

On The Road
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On The Road chronicles the use of motorized vehicles to move mail within America's towns and cities.


Americans in towns and cities take door-to-door mail service for granted.

But, it wasn't always this way.

Until the mid-1800s, city folk had two ways to get their mail.

Richer people paid someone to fetch their mail for them.

But most went to the post-office themselves.

It was a time-consuming chore.

Ladies were discouraged from being seen around rough-and-tumble post offices.

In 1858 came a new way to mail letters, the letterbox, attached to lampposts across the city.

Then in 1863, and 49 northern cities, another change, "City free delivery."

This meant that mail would be delivered to your door, free of charge, by the Post Office, and each year, more and more cities would get free mail delivery.

Of course the mail still moved at the speed of a horse.

But by the end of the 19th century, America's cities swelled and the demand on the postal service increased.

The Post Office unveiled new innovations: streetcar mail service, underground pneumatic tubes.

Letterboxes had to be bigger.

In 1894, free-standing mail boxes began to appear.

But the biggest innovation of the mall was the horseless carriage.

It changed the way we carry people and had revolutionized the way people carried the mail.

Cleveland, 1899.

The Winton motor wagon became the first motorized vehicle to carry mail over a 22 mile route, in one-third the time of a horse-drawn wagon.

Some postmasters followed up with automobile tests of their own.

But the car was in its infancy - and most roads were better suited for horses.

Could the horseless carriage really carry the ever-growing volume of mail in America's cities?

In the fall of 1906, assistant Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock decided to find out.

He ordered two Columbia Mark 3 Touring Cars to make test runs around Baltimore, Maryland.

The result: and overwhelming success.

The horse-drawn wagons days were numbered at the Post Office.

By 1912, 30 cities had adopted motor cars to carry the mail.

Or at least to carry the mailman.

In larger cities, post men would pile into a wagon at the start of the day, be driven to their routes and deliver the mail on foot, with new mail distributed to them throughout that day.

Then they were driven back to the post office.

In 1913, that volume would get much larger, with the introduction of Parcel Post Service.

The Post Office Department was now also in the package delivery business.

Boxes, newspapers, magazines - by 1920, letter carriers had moved two and a quarter billion parcels - in addition to the increasing load of regular mail they were already carrying.

The smaller motor-cars that carried the mail became overwhelmed.

Soon, the post office was using trucks.

World War one created a surplus of trucks that were drafted into service by the Post Office.

The Post Office had forty-three different types of trucks, a nightmare to maintain.

They needed to pare down their fleet.

By 1923 the Post Office simplified its fleet to only a few manufacturers making mail trucks, the largest of which was the Ford Motor Company.

In the 1930s, this fleet began to age, but the Great Depression prevented the Post Office from upgrading its trucks.

Then, World War II broke out.

And manufacturers turned out vehicles for the war effort, but none to move mail.

The Post Office's truck fleet aged still more.

By 1945, 90% of the Post Office's vehicles were obsolete and by 1950, the fleet was hopelessly out of date - some trucks had been on the road as long as 30 years.

Through all this, however, the average city resident still got his or her mail from a letter carrier traveling on foot, braving the elements to deliver a steadily increasing volume of mail - more than they could carry at one time.

After the war the Post Office had a plan.

Letter carriers would drive their mail to their route, or even from house-to-house.

They were sheltered from the elements and wouldn't have to go back and forth for more mail.

So, by 1950, the Post Office had put more than 19,000 mail trucks on the road, in a hodgepodge of styles.

The fleet needed to be simplified and made more efficient.

For this, the Post Office needed a light flexible fuel-efficient vehicle.

It had to be inexpensive.

And from this the Mailster was born.

The three-wheeled lightweight Mailster was unveiled with great optimism in 1957.

The Post Office was changing the way the mail was delivered.

The letter carrier could now carry the 35 pounds of regular mail - and deliver parcels, too - faster.

Nearly 10,000 were on the road by 1962.

But, the Mailster was a lemon.

It was too small and flimsy - even dangerous.

It struggled up hills.

It was top-heavy and tipped over too easil.

It could not get through more than three inches of snow.

It choked the carrier with its own exhaust.

Letter carriers gave it terrible reviews.

The Mailster would become a notorious flop.

So, the Post Office turned to a vehicle very familiar to the World War II generation - the Jeep.


The tough, nimble Jeep had earned its stripes in battle and was well-suited to the task of delivering urban and suburban mail in all weather conditions.

The steering wheel was moved to the right, trimming 30 to 60 minutes off a delivery day.

The Jeep had been used in the 1950s, and when the Mailster failed, the Jeep became a mainstay of the carrier's fleet for more than 20 years.

In the 1980s, the Postal Service decided to have a vehicle built to their specifications that would carry carriers and their mail.

It had to be able to cart more mail, be reliable in bad weather as well as good, and hold up to the demands of mail delivery service.

They had learned the lesson of the Mailsters.

The Long-Life Vehicle, or LLV, first rolled off assembly lines in 1986.

Made of lightweight aluminum, but large, enclosed and tough as a truck, the LLV went through a test phase as if it were an astronaut-in-training.

Three prototypes were developed of this vehicle, but only one company would be rewarded with a contract to produce the LLV.

It had to run up to 20 hours a day, seven days a week.

It would be tested 960 miles over brick at 23 miles an hour, 14 miles an hour over cobblestone.

Each wheel would hit a pothole 35,000 times!

The LLV can carry a half-ton of mail in Arizona summers and Vermont winters.

It became the meat-and-potatoes vehicle of the letter carrier.

Grumman Company would make 99,150 of these familiar vehicles, which are still delivering most of the mail today.

Long life indeed.

But a new century demands a next-step vehicle.

Meet the Flexible Fuel Vehicle, or FFV.

More than 21,000 FFVs were deployed in 2002.

The FFV runs on a combination of unleaded gasoline and ethanol, a renewable fuel made from corn.

The FFV conserves oil and cuts emissions.

Horses, motor carriages, Jeeps, Flexible-Fuel Vehicles, they've revolutionized mail delivery.

New vehicles and innovative ways of moving the mail are constantly being explored.

As time marches forward, the Postal Service keeps step always with an eye for what is just around the corner.

It's rich tradition continues to evolve and change right alongside America's diverse landscape.

Systems at Work