in The Postal Age

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print November 2006 | ISBN: 9780226327204
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226327228 | DOI:

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This introductory chapter discusses the emergence of the postal culture in nineteenth-century America. In 1820 most Americans did not engage directly in any form of interactive, long-distance communications network, while by 1870 most of them did. The crux of the change may be dated around the years 1845 and 1851, when Congress enacted substantial reductions in the cost of sending a letter, thus bringing an expanding system of post roads and mail carriers within the grasp of millions. From 1840 to 1860 the number of letters carried annually by the U.S. Post Office increased from about 27 million to about 161 million. What changed was not simply the volume of correspondence or the number of correspondents but the expectation of contact and the perception of access. During the middle of the century, it became increasingly common to describe postal access as a fundamental condition of modern life. An overview of the subsequent chapters is also presented.

Keywords: postal culture; letters; nineteenth-century America; long-distance communications; correspondence; postal service; U.S. Post Office

Chapter.  5101 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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