Highway Post Office Service

Topical Reference Page
The museum's Highway Post Office Service bus on the highway

The museum's Highway Post Office Service bus.

The Post Office Department inaugurated Highway Post Office (HPO) Service on February 10, 1941. This service was to be a mail distribution network comprised of rapid pick-up, sorting, and dispatch to key points en route between two principal terminal cities.

Glossary: Highway Post Office Service


As railroad service to many small towns declined from the 1940s to the 1960s, the Post Office Department turned to busses to ensure that these communities would get their mail. The museum's Highway Post Office Service bus is not on display in the museum but some mail delivered by Highway Post Office buses is on display. It's located on the panel just outside the Railway Mail Service car, near Owney.

Object Spotlight

The first Highway Post Office bus was inaugurated on February 10, 1941, on a route running from Washington, D.C. to Harrisonburg, Virginia.

A screenshot of the Highway Post Office Service bus video showing a billboard with the front of a HPO bus
By the 1930s, a significant decline in railroad passenger traffic had caused a subsequent decline in the use of railway trains. To fill the void, the postal service transferred some en route distribution from trains to highway buses. Special covers were designed for the Highway Post Office first trips.
Motorized Highway Post Office Service envelope
See some of the envelopes carried on Highway Post Office bus inaugural trips.
5-cent Grant single on sorting & distribution wagon cover
Between Independence and 1792 the United States Gereral Post Office (1775-1829) changed little from...
The Highway Post Office bus service was referred to as the “Modern Day Pony Express,” and was one the most technologically advanced processing and transportation systems that the Post Office provided.
The museum's Highway Post Office bus being pulled out of a garage
The Highway Post Office bus, manufactured by the White Motor Company in 1941, has had an interesting history before becoming part of the Smithsonian’s collection in 1968.

Related Blogs

My Life With a Bus

For the past nine weeks, I have had the pleasure of being an intern at the National Postal Museum, in the Curation Department. This internship has been an opportunity of a lifetime! The more internships I do in this field, the more I find a passion for my work. Internships like the National Postal Museum make me very excited for future opportunities, and working with the curator, Nancy Pope, has led to an incredible summer. My focus this summer has been researching and writing about the Highway Post Offices (HPO). My main goal was to tell the story of the HPO bus #1, which is in NPM storage. The article will be put on the website and is the first piece of mine that will be for public viewing. All my past education has led me to this moment, and I hope to make my supervisors proud of the work that I have done.

Unexpected Treasures: Highway Post Office Bus

One of the largest items in the museum's collection is a White Company-manufactured bus. While a postal museum may not seem the most natural fit, this is a very special bus. It is the first bus built and used for the Highway Post Office service.

Bus, Not Horse, Power

This advertisement, for the White Motor Company, was published in a number of magazines, including the May 24, 1941 issue of “The Saturday Evening Post.”

Curator's Picks -- Did You Know?

Did you know that one of the first people to have their mail sorted on the new Highway Post Office bus was President Franklin D. Roosevelt?