U.S. Postal Service Review
Today, Feb. 24, 2012, is the anniversary of the first perforated U.S. postage stamp. The year was 1857. No celebrations have been planned.
The U.S. Postal Service is expecting to lose $18.2 billion a year by 2015 unless it can cut Saturday delivery and raise stamp prices. At the post office not so long ago I asked for a three-cent stamp. I was not being funny nor being a smart aleck. I think the clerk could see that for a moment I was still in the mid-20th century. At least I did not ask for a penny postcard.
Those of us who pay bills using envelopes affixed with U.S. postage stamps and still write friends using ink and paper are facing the very real possibility of a first-class stamp costing fifty cents.
In early colonial times, messages depended on any “going my way” friends or merchants. In 1639, the first official notice of a postal service in the colonies appeared. A good place to pick up your mail was at a local pub, tavern or coffee shop.
(For history buffs: William Penn established Pennsylvania's first post office in 1683. In the Southern colonies slaves or private messengers carried the mail from plantations to towns and settlements.)
In 1760, Benjamin Franklin reported a surplus to the British Postmaster General. Note that this historic first of making a profit, was twenty years before the U.S. Federal government began carrying the mail.
In the nineteenth century, Congress authorized the Postmaster General to release a 5 cent stamp which would carry a half-ounce letter 300 miles. At that rate said letter would not make it from San Angelo to El Paso.
For those with far-away friends a 10 cent stamp would take a half-ounce letter for distances greater than 300 miles, making it possible to get the letter out of the state sometimes.
William Penn established Pennsylvania's first post office in 1683. In the Southern colonies slaves or private messengers carried the mail from plantations to towns and settlements.
Suppose (or what-if?) back in the 1970s, a man named Frederick W. Smith had gone to work for the U.S. Postal Service? While an undergraduate at Yale University he wrote a research paper on how companies could make more money by being more efficient.
Mr. Smith went into business, making a profit where others were just getting by. He learned that most airfreight shippers were sadly inadequate, inefficient and economically not making the profit they could. What a difference it would have made had Frederick W. Smith, like Jimmy Stewart in the movie, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” took such findings to the national Postal Services in Washington, D.C. instead of going into business.
All Mr. Smith did was develop the efficient distribution system known today as FedEx.
Federal Express not only completely revolutionized global business practices, but defined speed and reliability while making a good profit.
Another money-maker is United Parcel Service (UPS) is older than FedEx. So old in fact their first delivery car was a Model T Ford.
Our Founding Father Benjamin Franklin probably had such ideas and dreams of an efficient and profit-making mail service. Who knows? Many have tried and many still hold out hope for a profit-making postal service.
Fredrick Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, wrote in last week’s USA Today: “Almost 90 percent of the red ink stems from a 2006 congregational mandate that the Postal Service pre-fund future retiree health benefits for the next 75 years and do so within a decade. This burden, borne by no other public agency or private firm, cost the Postal Service $5.5 billion annually.”
Before beating up on the Postal Service remember they are just doing what Congress has demanded. Happy First Perforated U.S. Postage Stamp Day.