The U.S. Postal Service Buzz

The latest word from the United States Postal Service, is that as of August 2013, Saturday letter delivery will cease. Packages will still be delivered on Saturdays and post offices will remain open. In the meantime, post offices continue to close and processing facilities will close, too; thus, staff will be reduced. The reason? The US Postal Service has been operating on a $15.9 billion deficit since last year. They have to reduce that deficit somehow. And with the rise in online bill paying and electronic communication, the postal service simply isn’t what it used to be.

Preservationists, what do you think? So we won’t be getting letters on Saturday. It’s not really a big since the post offices will remain open, which is probably a day that many of us go to the post office. Most of us probably send significantly more electronic messages than snail mail letters, right?  Will we mourn the loss of six day mail delivery, or adjust with the modern times?  In the 1900s-1940s, the mail at Overhills, NC was delivered by train to the post office, which sat adjacent to the tracks. In later years, the post office relocated to another building and trucks delivered the mail. The post office has evolved, just like everything else, however its existence depends on the quantities of mail that we send, which continues to decline.

Jumping to the modern era, do you use email, Facebook, or text messages more than the other? Do you miss the days of emails instead of Facebook messages? (I prefer email over Facebook.) Do you miss the days of instant messenger or do you prefer text messages? Technology continues to change and we all change with it. What will be the fate of the US Postal Service in 100 years?  I would say it depends on what we do as a society.

The issue that remains is the effect that closing small and/or rural post offices will have on our communities. In some towns, there is little more than a post office and a town office in terms of public buildings. Having an individual zip code is important for the identity of towns. In some places, like Ripton, VT, the post office is in a country store. This topic of conversation about post offices came up on PiP back in August 2011. A PiP post from July 2012 talked about the types of buildings in which post offices are located.


The Ripton Country Store located in Ripton, VT.

The Ripton Country Store located in Ripton, VT. (Preservation Photos #53)

What’s your mail preference? What do you think about no more letter delivery on Saturday? What about the closing of small post offices?

5 thoughts on “The U.S. Postal Service Buzz

  1. Erik says:

    I think it’s the right decision. I mean they aren’t closing altogether just shortening operational time. That might seem counter-intuitive but will actually help their business.

    As far as preservation goes, I think there are 2 ways to look at it. First, all of those postal trucks not on the road for one less day a week “preserves” our environment a great amount. Also, as you touched on using email or other forms of communication reduces the impact as well.

    Now, as far as the buildings of the post office go, some have been dealt the fate of demolition, re-purposing, and the brunt of time all before this most recent news. So it’s business as usual…

    I love the picture you used because it shows a prime example of what could be the wave of the future. And by that, I mean what it actually used to be – a multi-use community anchor. The old general store model, which looking back was more than a place to buy goods. Replaced by mega-grocers, walgreens/cvs, dollar stores, and others, it will all come back to where it all began, which is why preservation of those buildings is so crucial.

    • Kaitlin says:

      Erik, nice play on “preserves.” And a good point — fewer vehicles is less wear on all resources. Speaking of impact, I’ve thought that the USPS could save a lot of money by not sending their own postcards about buying stamps, etc. For some reason, getting mail about the USPS seems odd. But maybe it’s just me.

      And I hope it all comes back away from mega box stores.

  2. marylandis says:

    I dont really think losing Saturday delivery is a big deal. Businesses aren’t open and available for receiving mail delivery and as for the rest of us, does anybody get anything in Saturday’s mail that can’t wait til Monday?

    I actually can remember when we got two mail deliveries a day (one on Sat.) This was in Kansas City in the 1950s. And of course then we looked forward to real letters! My husband-to-be was in Korea at the time, and you can imagine how I looked forward to the mail!

    Now that we have practically quit putting words on paper, delivery of paper mail doesn’t seem so important. Bill payment and banking can be done online and even the catalogues which seem to constitute most of my mail, are online as well. I personally love getting handwritten mail, but I must admit I seldom write handwritten notes. (Thank you notes, condolences, maybe congratulations, but that’s it.) I use email. Haven’t advanced to texting and seems I miss IM altogether. Hate Facebook. Have an account, but do not message.

    As an historian for a preserved 19th century house, I really regret the loss of the paper record. I am writing a book on the preservation of the house, and the archival records containing correspondence of those in charge of the Museum operations and renovation from the 1930s forward is crucial to my work. There is no way that email or other digital records will be as available to the historian in the future as the carbon copies and later photocopies of correspondence, memos, etc. are to me.

    I do hope that many of the quaint—and not so quaint— post office buildings will be preserved so that people will be able to connect with the past and the way life was then. I don’t agree with Eric that we are going to return to the days of the general store. Rather, I see preservation of these buildings as having the objective of preserving historical memory.

    Let’s face it; the delivery of paper mail is just not going to be important in the future. If there is a real need to deliver paper, I’m sure that private companies will emerge to do that. Even now, email and faxing preclude most paper mail delivery. In New York, if business paper needs to be delivered, it is often done by messenger.

    • Kaitlin says:

      I have to admit, I did not know that mail came twice a day. As a kid, I loved waiting for the mailman and getting the mail from the box. And I love post office boxes, too.

      I agree with you on the digital records not being as available as paper records. At least not yet. Hopefully we’ll figure that out soon, because it would seem that digital records can be shared, copied and saved so much easier than hard copies.

      You mention faxing. I am always surprised that people still fax things – just scan and email!

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