America’s Bicentennial – The U.S. Post Office.

Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail shall keep the postmen from their appointed rounds. The postal worker’s motto since 1896.

In the early 1970’s – in preparation for the Bicentennial celebration – the U.S. Post Office issued a variety of commemorative stamps honoring the event. One such series was the Postal Service Employees series.

(L-0084) Below – this cover was postmarked in Davenport, Iowa. Hats off to my dad, George Boller, whose first job after returning from WWII was serving as a postal clerk at the Wayland, Iowa post office. Here he is pictured with his mom, Olive Boller, in the late 1940’s.

If you’re a long-time reader of Our Iowa Heritage, you know that I started all this Iowa history writing because of my life-long interest in collecting United States postage stamps. Read more about that here. In truth, a person simply cannot appreciate Iowa’s rich heritage without having an equally strong appreciation for the importance of the U.S. mail. When early settlers first started to occupy Iowa territory in the mid-1830’s, one of the most vital components to everyday life was the hope of receiving an occasional letter or two from back east. As early as 1833, some mail was being delivered to pioneers who were settling a new community on the Great River named after its founder, Julien Dubuque.

Cyrus Sanders – early Johnson County Settler. This rare postal cover (above), dated August 5, 1839 indicates that the little town of Napoleon did, indeed, have Johnson County’s first postal station. The 21-year-old Ohio-born pioneer, Sanders played an integral part in Johnson County earliest days. Click here to read from Sander’s 1839 journal.
(C-0260) Here’s an 1841 letter addressed to Gilman Folsom in Iowa City.

By 1838, a letter or two might occasionally be delivered by horseback from Bloomington (Muscatine) to John Gilbert’s Trading Post in the Johnson County town named after the French general, Napoleon. And by the following year (1839), Gilbert had been officially named as the county’s first postmaster. Read more about that here.

(S-0078) (S-0079) This 1989 block of four stamps honors four primary modes of mail delivery. Stagecoaches were very common in Iowa in the 1840’s, and while riverboats were reliable on the Mississippi River, navigating the Iowa River was not proven to be a successful solution.

(S-0021) (S-0022)When the railroad came into Iowa (1856), mail delivery made a huge jump forward. Within a few years of the first arrival, RPO’s (Railway Post Offices) were created, where the postmaster did all of his sorting and postmarking from a moving railway car attached to every train moving across the state.

1881 The Iowa Railroad Network. Click here to read more about RPO’s.

The classic RFD mailbox. In the late 1890’s, Rural Free Delivery (RFD) brought the world to the Iowa farmer’s front gate, and then to his front door. Read more here.

(S-0024-S-0031) 1912/1913 – Honoring the Workers & Services of the US Postal Service. When the U.S. Postal Department introduced parcel post service in 1912, twelve stamps with various denominations were issued to prepay this fourth-class rate. The four Parcel Post stamps with the lowest denominations (1¢, 2¢, 3¢, and 4¢) feature Postal Service employees at their jobs, while the four stamps with denominations of 5¢, 10¢, 15¢, and 20¢ feature Postal Service transportation of the mail.

(S-0030) (S-0031) At the turn of the century (1900) two new forms of transportation came into use in delivering the mail. The first was the automobilethe second was the aeroplane.

(C-0131) 1933 – NRA – The National Recovery Act postage stamp was given a Second Day of Issue in little Nira, Iowa. Click here to read how Nira, Iowa handled the postal rush!
(C-0139) Iowa Statehood Centennial Stamp. Iowa City was the host for the First Day of Issue for the 1946 Iowa Centennial stamp. Click here to read more.
(L-0055) (L-0056) Herbert Hoover Stamp Day – August 10, 1965. I was there in West Branch that day with my Mom, and my two grandmothers, Edie Boyer & Olive Boller. 22,000 people poured into West Branch on that very hot day. Former President Dwight Eisenhower and Former Vice President Richard Nixon were the main speakers. Click here to read more.

In 1847, the first two postage stamps were issued – honoring George Washington, America’s first president, and Benjamin Franklin, America’s first postmaster general. Below is a First Day Cover from May 17, 1947, when the USPS celebrated the 100th anniversary of those stamps. In 1997, a wise collector added the two new stamps issued to celebrate the postage stamp Sesquicentennial.

(C-0247, C-0248) Since 1847, Washington and Franklin have appeared on more U.S. postage stamps than any other individuals.
(C-0264) In 1993, the National Postal Museum in Washington DC opened and these four postage stamps celebrated the occasion.

In closing, allow me to simply say, I love U.S. postage stamps…and I love the long, illustrious history the U.S. Postal Service has built in this country. Oh sure, there are lots of reasons the postal system (USPS) isn’t what it once was, but to this day, I still get a little bit excited when I hear the familiar roar of the U.S. mail truck as it makes its way down our street in Iowa City.

Here’s to the U.S. Postal Service and all those men and women who have served us through the years.

Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.

Where The ‘Postman’s Motto’ Originated, Clearwater Tribune, June 7, 2017

Rural Free Delivery, Wikipedia

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