Happy 225th Birthday USPS!

The United States Postal Service was established on September 26, 1789, making 2014 their 225th year in operation. How has the postal service impacted Wyoming? Let us count the ways…

Happy Birthday USPS!! (WSA Brammar Neg 4750)

Happy Birthday USPS!!
(WSA Brammar Neg 4750)

A post office was usually the only institution necessary to be considered a town in Wyoming. And thus many “towns” sprang up with a population of 1…the postmaster. And many died when the post office was discontinued. Take Birdseye for example. Originally it was a stage station, but it served as a post office from 1906-1913. The post master estimated a population of 50 in the area, but served about 200. Nowhere near 50 lived in the town’s 3 buildings and a lean-to.

Hunters with post office and hotel, Birdseye Wyoming, 1917 (WSA Provence print 27)

Hunters with post office and hotel, Birdseye Wyoming, 1917
(WSA Provence print 27)

Before phone calls were cheap and well before the internet, the mail call was something to look forward to.

2 soldiers on a cot reading letters, Fort DA Russell, Wyoming  (WSA Bristol-Jackson Collection Neg 26-13)

2 soldiers on a cot reading letters, Fort DA Russell, Wyoming
(WSA Bristol-Jackson Collection Neg 26-13)

Postmasters, like Perry Smith of Rawlins, were sometimes almost an institution in themselves. They kept the mail on schedule.

Postmaster Perry Smith sorting mail, Rawlins 1898 (Sub Neg 9931)

Postmaster Perry Smith sorting mail, Rawlins 1898
(Sub Neg 9931)

As technology advanced, so did the mail system. From sorting by hand to today’s automated sorting machines, the USPS continues to modify its mechanisms. But the sorting room has always been the sorting room.

Cheyenne Post Office interior, 1910 (WSA Sub Neg 17533)

Cheyenne Post Office interior, 1910
(WSA Sub Neg 17533)

And then there came airmail in 1918. And the main route went right through Wyoming, stopping at Rock Springs and Cheyenne, the region’s main air hub. (No Neg, Two US Airmail pilots and a plane)

Wyoming’s airmail beacons even inspired the 5 cent airmail stamp used from 1928-1930. The artwork on the Beacon stamp depicts a plane and an airmail beacon that closely resembles the one at Sherman Hill, between Cheyenne and Laramie. This was the highest beacon of the 1,500 on the route.

Old Faithful Geyser also inspired a stamp, which celebrated its first day of sale at the post office in Yellowstone. (Sub Neg 2747, Sen. Joseph O’Mahoney & W.H. Jackson at window of post office, Gov. Leslie Miller is behind the window on the left. July 30, 1934)

According to Gallagher and Patera’s book Wyoming Post Offices, 1850-1980, 1,100 names have been used for post offices. There were 16 in existence in 1869 when Wyoming became a territory and over 200 at the time of statehood in 1890. Currently, there are about 153 post offices.

1940 Postal Route Map, showing airmail and driving routes

1940 Postal Route Map, showing airmail and driving routes

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