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Street Corner Mailboxes

In 1847, the United States issued its first federal postage stamps. Postal officials turned their attention to simplifying and lowering postage rates. Postage rates were no longer to be based on the number of sheets in a letter but on the weight and distance. By 1851, Americans could send 1/2-ounce letters across the country for as little as three cents. Reasonable rates encouraged more businesses and individuals to use the mails. The mid-18th century also saw an explosion in the mass production and use of envelopes. Armed with stamps and envelopes in their homes, Americans no longer had to travel to post offices to mail letters if another option was available. 

In the late 1850s, postmasters in cities like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia began to place a large number of mailboxes on street corners throughout their cities. Mail was placed in these boxes for pickup by city carriers. 

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