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Starting the System

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photo of the Starting the System exhibit at the museum

George Washington envisioned a nation bound together by a system of post roads and post offices. Starting the System documents America's increasing need for a mail system to ensure the free flow of information between citizens and their government.

Key Objects

close up of Queen Anne's Act

Queen Anne's Act

The Queen Anne Act was instrumental in creating a functioning postal system in the American colonies.

illustration of a rural building

Colonies and the Mail

The British government needed a reliable mail service in the American colonies in order to communicate with its colonial governors.

close up of Franklin's portrait

Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin helped bring form to the disorganized British colonial post, but was fired from his post for his pro-revolutionary activities.

close up of Washington's bill

Washington's Postage Bill

George Washington, while a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, was given this bill for letters sent him by Colonel Fairfax.

Other Objects

close up of rate chart

Colonial Rate Chart

Co-Deputy Postmasters General, Benjamin Franklin and John Foxcroft, created a chart that converted postage charges from British to colonial currency.

illustration of William Goddard

William Goddard and the Constitutional Post

Printer William Goddard petitioned Congress to accept his plan for an independent postal service in 1774.

signature of Thomas Jefferson

1790 Act Signed by Jefferson

In 1790, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson signed this copy of the act for the "Temporary Establishment of the Post Office."

open book

1792 Postal Act

The Postal Act of February 20, 1792 defined the character of the young Post Office Department.

close up of front of newspaper

Mary Katherine Goddard

Mary Katherine Goddard became Baltimore, Maryland's postmaster in 1775. She held the post for 14 years.