Mailable Matters from News to Mail

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:
Mailable Matters from News to Mail

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This chapter charts the transformation from a post organized around the circulation of newspapers to one organized around the exchange of mail in the modern sense. Though the United States Post Office had mapped routes, built branch offices, and introduced a federal bureaucracy into the lives of most Americans, it did so for the purpose of promoting a particular kind of national print culture. The posting of handwritten letters and material objects from one user to another was, through the first third of the century, a distinctly secondary and largely undeveloped feature of the system. Much of what was revolutionary about this era in postal history involved popular reappropriations and adaptations of what was primarily a news medium for the diverse purposes we now associate with the mail. Popular items of postal exchange, including money, daguerreotypes, seeds, and autographs, registered contemporary fascination with new possibilities of mail and shaped popular understanding of the post as a medium of long-distance communication involving more than just epistolary correspondence.

Keywords: post; print culture; letters; postal exchange; long-distance communication; newspapers; United States Post Office

Chapter.  9488 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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