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Networking a Nation: The Star Route Service

February 21, 2006 — Permanent

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In 1845, postal officials tried a new approach to expand the nation’s mail service—Star Routes. The Post Office Department hired contractors for these new routes and allowed them to use any form of transportation they chose to carry the mail, from canoes to snowshoes. The mail has traveled along this network of Star Routes across America’s valleys, mountains, rivers, and highways ever since.

Security, Certainty, Celerity- Star Route logo

What is a Star Route? carry the mail with "celerity, certainty, and security."

photo of a truck and a man in the snow


Transporting the Mail

For Star Route contractors, the “best” technology was the one that fit the route.

illustration of a coach being pulled by horses

The Stagecoach

Concord-style mail coaches first appeared in the 1820s and remained in use into the early 1900s.

black and white photo of sled dogs in a line

Finding the Right Fit

Whether riding on horseback, wagon wheels, or massive truck tires, contractors adopted methods that sped the movement of mail.

photo of a man on a sled

Driving Change

...the efficiency and flexibility of today's Star Route Service is a tribute to the innovations that led the way.

stagecoach wreck illustration


The Star Route Service and its contractors work to ensure safe transportation of the mail.

crane assisting a mail car

Traversing a Nation

...Contractors navigated rough terrain, bad weather, and even political corruption.

a man wearing skis

"Snowshoe" Thompson

“... in those mountains he was the pioneer of the pack train, the stagecoach, and the locomotive.”

red and white US Mail steel pail


Mail Afloat

...The steamer lowered the pail to a smaller mail vessel to drop off and pick up mail.

photo of a coach being pulled by horses



“Neither rain, nor snow, or sleet or storm, or tornadoes, or cold weather, dogs, alligators, or floods will stop me. I will go.”

map of the US


The Star Route Service began as an effort to save money and expand the range of the postal system...

sepia photo of a house with a Model T in front


Today, over 10,000 Star Route contractors help network a nation.