236 Years and Counting? U.S. Postal Service Faced With Pondering Place in Digital Age

usps071306.jpg“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” has been popularly associated with the U.S. Postal Service to describe its commitment to delivering the mail. (One route in Magnolia Springs, Ala., near my hometown, boasts the only remaining postal delivery river route in the country.)

In truth, the unofficial motto is an inscription on New York City’s James Farley Post Office, but has expanded to refer to the job the currently more than 40,000 post offices and 700,000 civilian workers and their predecessors have done since what would become the U.S. Postal Service was founded on this date in 1775 by the Second Continental Congress.

Much of the fundamental organization of the system was designed by the nation’s first postmaster, Benjamin Franklin. It’s thought that the postal service was established as a means of communicating with folks back home in Britain, since it’s unlikely colonists were sending mail amongst themselves. And in those early times, since there were no post offices in Colonial America, letters were often delivered to popular local gathering spots like inns and taverns.

We’ve come a long way from those days. But not only have our methods of communication become more sophisticated and innovative, we’ve also become so reliant upon them that it’s hard to imagine our world without the likes of email, Facebook, Twitter and the portable gadgets that make them (and much more) so accessible on the go.

Most of us are probably still receiving our magazines by mail, save for the relatively few who are downloading the digital versions on their iPads, Kindles, Nooks and other e-readers. And more and more publications have released apps of themselves or have them in the works.

It’s hard to imagine a totally “paperless” magazine world or the absence of a system like the U.S. Postal Service that would deliver your publications–not to mention the billions of pieces of letters, cards and packages they sort and bring to your door. Then again, email and near-instant methods of communication (no stamp needed) were absurdly far-fetched 236 years ago.

Even as the U.S. Postal Service contemplates major changes like rate increases or cutting out Saturday delivery, the more underlying general question about its modern significance could be how much more may technology alter our world and how far-reaching might those changes be.

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Michelle Ryan

About Michelle Ryan

Michelle Ryan is obsessed with good food, great shoes and Alabama football way down South in Savannah, Georgia. She hasn’t met a kitchen gadget she hasn’t at least thought about buying (trying them is another story) and devotes her time to Bikram Yoga, baking and trying to overcome long-held finicky eating habits.