Post Office Dept. Research and Development, 1945-1970

Setting the Stage for a New Postal System

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By the late 20th century, the U.S. Postal Service had found ways to automate almost every aspect of sorting letter mail.

Setting the Stage for a New Postal System
Today’s challenges are not the same that faced the Post Office Department during America’s post World War II era when mail volumes were climbing uncontrollably quickly. The mail processing and transportation methods of the United States Postal Service (USPS) (1) is built upon the many ups and downs of developments during the years leading up to the USPS, from 1945-1970. A critical part of that development was the creation of their department for research and development. While the USPS is operating at a deficit, without the switch from manual to mechanical operations, the system would have failed entirely.

Today’s postal system relies on machines to cull, sort, cancel, process, and even move mail through gigantic postal facilities. The basics behind many machines developed in the Office of Research and Engineering’s past are still used today, even as contemporary postal processing R&D focuses on finding new ways to move more mail more quickly.

The basics of mail transportation have remained relatively similar to that of forty years ago. Much of the transcontinental mail travels by air. Many local deliveries are still being done by motor vehicle, even as testing on alternatives continue. The majority of testing and work being done in contemporary postal transportation focus on the productive use of energy-alternative vehicles.

1) The U.S. Post Office Department was reorganized in 1971. As a part of the transformation, it was renamed the U.S. Postal Service.