The Railway Mail Service
Colonel Thomas P. Cheney
originally published in 1884
Edited for the web by Laurel O’Donnell
[Superintendent New England Division United States Railway Mail Service.]
It is not the purpose of this paper to give a history of the growth of this important branch of the government service, so much as to impart, perhaps to an indifferent degree, the methods of its intricate workings, and the care and study employed to expedite the vast correspondence of the country. A system as colossal as the Railway Mail
Service of this country is, could not be organized but through a process of development meeting needs as they arise. This development is best shown by a comparative illustration from an early date to the present time.
In 1811, there were 2,403 post-offices, and during the year the mail was carried 46,380 miles in stages, and 61,171 miles in sulkies and on horseback. In Postmaster-General Barry’s report for the fiscal year ending November 1, 1834, it is said, that, “The multiplication of railroads in different parts of the country promises within a few years to give great rapidity to the movements of travelers, and it is a subject worthy of inquiry whether measures may now be taken to secure the transportation of the mail upon them. Already have the railroads between Frenchtown in Maryland and New Castle in Delaware, and
Ye Faste Maile Of Ye Olden Tyme.
between Camden and South Amboy in New Jersey, afforded great and important facilities to the transmission of the great Eastern mail.” The lines of railway at that time, 1834, amounted to seventy-eight miles.
In 1838, the Railway Mail Service began with 1,913 miles of railroad throughout the country. In 1846, mails were carried over 4,092 miles of railway, which increased in 1882 to 100,563 miles.
*Illustrated by pen and ink sketches furnished by the author.