Many people are unaware that Benjamin Franklin was the United States’ first postmaster general when the Second Continental Congress officially established the United States’ first postal system on this day, July 26th, in 1775. Franklin would go on to place the foundation for a lot of the ways the post office and mail system works in today’s era. He set the stone for what was to come once again.
It’s important to note that back in the 1600’s, many people didn’t have any need for a postal system since sending mail was so rare. Because of this, there was never a need to upgrade the system they had. It would end up taking months for a letter to arrive to a destination across the Atlantic, so letters weren’t written very often. In addition, post offices were also not developed yet. In fact, most letters were left at inns and taverns, places people frequently visited.
In 1753, Benjamin Franklin – who was Philadelphia’s postmaster – was named the postmaster general of the colonies along with another person. He immediately saw the need for improvement with the mail system they had in place at the time. One of the biggest improvements he made right away was the delivery time for mail, which he did by setting up more logical and efficient routes for the mail people. In fact, he ended up cutting the travel time from Philadelphia to New York by nearly half and he did this by having the weekly wagon run both day and night routes via a relay concept.
Another improvement Benjamin Franklin made to the postal system was creating the system’s first rate chart, which explained and standardized rates and delivery expenses that were based on both weight and the distance of the delivery – similar to what we use now. However, Franklin would be fired from his job by the British in 1774 due to his involvement in the revolutionary activities that were occurring in that time period.
Franklin would regain his title of postmaster general of the United Colonies the following year when he was hired by the Continental Congress – a job he held until 1776. In that year, he was sent to France to act as a diplomat, leaving his legacy after making improvements to the postal system, which now ran from Florida to Maine regularly and to Britain on a regular basis, as well.
It wasn’t until 1789 that America would appoint their first postmaster general under the new constitution, a position appointed by President George Washington to Samuel Osgood – a Massachusetts congressman. At the time he was appointed, there were nearly 75 post offices throughout the country.
Today, you can find over 40,000 post offices in the United States. Nearly 212 billion pieces of mail are put through our postal service, which includes over 144 million homes/businesses located throughout the United States. Benjamin Franklin was a huge part in making all of that possible today and should be credited with most of the improvements we see in the postal service in today’s era.