“When we can all have the conveniences of city life in our country homes (and the free postal delivery is one of them) there will be less desire for city life.” —E. A. Wheeler, Westside, California, 1898
Long after city dwellers began to enjoy free home mail delivery, rural Americans still had to travel to the post office—which was often located in a country store—to pick up their mail. Many journeyed considerable distances over tough and muddy roads to get their mail, with no assurance that any letters would be there. Farm families, who paid the same postage rates as the rest of the nation, began to complain. For decades Congress was reluctant to act, fearing that the country was so large that free rural delivery would be a financial disaster.
Experimental rural delivery finally began in 1896. Eight years later, the enormously popular service became an official part of the Post Office Department.