Sorting and Distribution Bags

Perry Clarke distribution bag advertisement

Perry Clarke was a Rural Free Delivery carrier in Genesee County, New York. He offered his version of a mail distribution and sorting bag for sale to rural carriers.

William Corfman distribution bag advertisement
William Corfman RFD bag patent
Patent #770,354, September 20, 1904 –Rural Mail Distribution Bag

William Corfman, born 1835, lived most of his life as a farmer in Tymochtee Township, Wyandot County, Ohio. After RFD came to the county in the early 1900s, Corfman, then in his late 60s, obtained a rural delivery route. While working as a rural carrier, he devised an organizational system for his deliveries. In his patent application he noted that the object “is to provide a device that is simple, capable of being readily and cheaply manufactured, and constitutes convenient means into which mail may be sorted by the carrier and from which said mail can afterward be distributed without being mixed or delivered to the wrong addressee. . . . Each pocket is intended to hold the mail-matter for one of the patrons of the route and is preferably designated by means of a slip, sewed thereupon contiguous to its mouth, the slips having printed or otherwise marked upon them the said names of the patrons. The names are arranged in the order in which the mail is to be distributed.”

Mrs. Lillias M. Kelley distribution bag advertisement
Kelley distribution bag patent
L. M. Kelley mail bag patent

Corfman was not alone in creating, or even patenting, and selling a rural mail sorting and distribution bag. Advertisements in 1905 issues of R.F.D. News include ads for similar bags on behalf of Mrs. Lillias M. Kelley of Colo, Iowa and Joseph Woodland, a rural carrier in Audubon, Iowa. Mrs. Kelley, the rare woman advertiser of products to the RFD market, was the first to patent a mail organizing bag for rural carriers. Kelley patented her distribution bag in 1901 and included the illustration of the patent in her advertisements.

Woodland patent

Joseph Woodland was a rural carrier operating out of Audubon, Iowa. Woodland patented his design in 1905 and through his advertisements offered to sell individuals the “right to make them” along with directions for their manufacturer.