Preparing for All Those Packages

Postmasters in a number of cities across the country prepared for the expected onslaught of packages in the mail by ordering new vehicles to help move them between their towns’ post offices as well as between post offices and railway stations. The extra vehicle allowance was granted to a number of cities by the Postmaster General in anticipation of need following the beginning of the new service. He had also allowed many cities to retain the extra help hired for the 1912 Christmas mail for the first few weeks in January. The help was needed. More than 300 million packages were mailed by the new service in its first six months of operation. Postal officials responded to the service’s popularity by increasing the weight restrictions over the next few years.

Parcel Post wagon in Benton Harbor, Michigan
Above: Parcel Post wagon in Benton Harbor, Michigan

Parcel Post wagon in New Bedford, Massachusetts
Above: Parcel Post wagon in New Bedford, Massachusetts

When the service began in 1913, automobiles were growing in availability and use. Those who could, purchased trucks for package delivery, others had to remain content with adding new horse-drawn wagons to their vehicle inventory. Atlanta postmaster Hugh L. McKee had an automobile waiting at the train station along with six wagons for incoming packages. The automobile was loaded to capacity, and used to ferry packages to addresses across the city. The vehicle must have made a sight, loaded with packages, as well as Atlanta mail superintendent Hart on board. On both sides and on the rear of the vehicle were painted, in large letters, “U.S. Mail – Parcel Post Delivery.”(1) In New York City, postmaster Morgan ordered 10 automobile wagons, 25 new horse-drawn wagons, and three motorcycles for the new service.

Parcel post truck loaded to gills
Above: Parcel post truck loaded to gills

Parcel Post truck, Hoover Wagon Company - York, Pennsylvania
Above: Parcel Post truck, Hoover Wagon Company - York, Pennsylvania

Postmasters used the new trucks in one of two ways. Some were used to transport packages between post offices, or between post offices and railway stations. Others were used as home and business delivery vehicles. Most cities added a parcel post delivery trip to their twice a day letter deliveries to homes. The result in a number of cities was that a homemaker could mail a letter or postcard to a local business in the morning and have an item delivered later that same day.

Parcel Post truck, Johnstown, Pennsylvania
Above: Parcel Post truck, Johnstown, Pennsylvania

Electric Parcel Post truck
Above: Electric Parcel Post truck

In their eagerness to get packages into the parcel post, many people found their parcels being turned away at the parcel post windows. For some, the fix was as simple as buying the right stamps to affix to their packages. But for most the packages were rejected for not being well wrapped. The Post Office Department offered a number of instructions on how to properly wrap a package, everything from directions to showcases in post offices were offered across the country.

1) The Atlanta Constitution, January 3, 1913, p. 7

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