Today, July 26, 1775: US Post Office Established by Congress

On March 22, 1765, the British Parliament enacted the Stamp Act. This act required American colonists to purchase or pay a special tax or fee:

“For every skin or piece of vellum or parchment, or sheet or piece of paper, on which shall be engrossed, written or printed, any declaration, plea, replication, rejoinder, demurrer, or other pleading, or any copy thereof, in any court of law within the British colonies and plantations in America, a stamp duty of three pence.”

The act went on to specify any use of skin, vellum paper and parchment could cost a colonist anywhere from three pence to as much as ten pounds, depending in the item and its use. At the time, one pound equaled 20 shillings or 240 pence (penny’s).

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The British also controlled all postal services in the colonies and in the 1760s and 1770s, the British postal service was anything but reliable, especially when it came to delivery posts to and from colonists. British postal workers placed a definite priority on anything associated with official British business and far less priority on colonial business.

In the 1770s, William Goddard printed the Pennsylvania Chronicle, a paper that supported the growing Patriot views. Goddard was forced to rely on the unreliable British postal service to obtain important news and for the delivering of his newspaper.

On October 5, 1774, Goddard presented a plan for a Constitutional Post in which a colonial postal service would be created. Even with the backing and support of Benjamin Franklin, Goddard’s plan received little attention by the Continental Congress.

On April 19, 1775, the shot heard around the world was fired on the Lexington, Massachusetts common, launching the American Revolutionary War. Many things changed at this point, including the British postal service in the colonies

On this day, July 26, 1775, the Continental Congress created the United States Postal Service and appointed Benjamin Franklin as the first US Post Master General.

On November 7, 1776, Franklin was named the US emissary to France so his son-in-law Richard Bache took over as the second Post Master General.

Although Franklin only served as Post Master General for barely over a year, he managed to establish regular postal delivery routes with the help of surveying information from Maine to Florida. Today, that first historic postal route from Maine to Florida is better known as Route 1, which runs 2,377 miles from Fort Kent in Maine, near the Canadian border, to Key West, Florida.

Franklin also established an overnight transportation of mail between Philadelphia and New York. Today, the bulk of US mail is transported by a variety of means, overnight to help insure timely deliveries.

In the early days of the postal service, fees for delivery letters and such were often collected from the person receiving the letter. Local postmasters would determine the delivery cost based upon the type of item and its weight and right the amount in the upper right-hand corner of the item or letter being delivered. Then it was up to the postal carrier to collect that amount from the recipient. Often, the rates were arbitrary and varied depending upon the local postmasters.  It wasn’t uncommon for a letter recipient to refuse delivery because of the cost involved.

On May 6, 1840, Britain issued the first postage stamp, known today as the Penny Black. It covered the postage for sending any letter of half an ounce or lighter anywhere within the British Isles.

On February 1, 1842, Alexander Greig’s City Despatch Post issued the first adhesive postage stamp. The City Despatch Post was a private New York City carrier company. Eventually, the US Postal Service bought Greig’s business and continued to print stamps with adhesive on the back.

In 1845, postal rates were standardized and a number of local postmasters began issuing stamps at the newly established rated. Collectors know these issues as Postmasters’ Provisionals.

On March 3, 1847, Congress authorized the production and issuance of official US postage stamps.

On July 1, 1847, the US Postal Service issued the first official US postage stamps. The first stamps came in two denominations – 5¢ with a picture of Benjamin Franklin and 10¢ with a picture of George Washington. They were printed on non-perforated sheets with adhesive on the back. Postal clerks and individuals used scissors to cut the stamps apart.

In 1855, the postal rate was set at 3¢ for half ounce for any distance up to 3,000 miles. If sending further than 3,000, the rate was 10¢ for half an ounce. Drop letters (a letter that will be picked up at or delivered by the same post office it was mailed) were 1¢.

In 1856, a 5¢ stamp with a picture of Thomas Jefferson was issued. Up until 1856, all previous methods of payment or postage was accepted, but this year Congress made use of USPS stamps mandatory, which was curious since the postal rate for all US letters of half ounce was set at 3¢.

In 1863, a 2¢ stamp with a picture of Andrew Jackson was issued.

In 1885, US postal rates were set at 2¢ per ounce.

In 1917, US postal rates increased to 3¢ per ounce. The increase was referred as emergency increase.

In 1919, the postal rate was returned to 2¢ per ounce.

In 1932, the postal rate was increased to 3¢ per ounce.

In 1958, the postal rate was increased to 4¢ per ounce. I remember when that happened and my brothers and me collected quite a few 4¢ stamps.

In 1963, the postal rate jumped to 5¢ per ounce and again we collected a lot of different stamps and pasted them into our stamp books.

The follow postal rate increases per ounce are as follows:

1968 – 6¢

1971 – 8¢

1974 – 10¢

1975 – 13¢

1978 – 15¢

1981 – 18¢

1981 – 20¢

1985 – 22¢

1988 – 25¢

1991 – 29¢

1995 – 32¢

1999 – 33¢

2001 – 34¢

2002 – 37¢

2006 – 39¢

2007 – 41¢

2008 – 42¢

2009 – 44¢

2012 – 45¢

2013 – 46¢

2014 – 49¢

Looking at the list above, you know that the rate will till top 50¢ an ounce soon. Your only hope of salvation may rest on how many Forever Stamps you purchased in 2007 when they were first issued. The USPS continues to issue forever Stamps at the current postal rates at time of purchase.


Sources for the above includes: Postal History; Congress Establishes U.S. Post Office; U.S. Postal Rates; The Stamp Act; History of Stamps


Dave Jolly

R.L. David Jolly holds a B.S. in Wildlife Biology and an M.S. in Biology – Population Genetics. He has worked in a number of fields, giving him a broad perspective on life, business, economics and politics. He is a very conservative Christian, husband, father and grandfather who cares deeply for his Savior, family and the future of our troubled nation.

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