Postal Communication

Mail Truck Driver

Reading through the 380’s (Commerce, Communications, & Transportation) has brought us to a section called Postal Communications. How much could there possibly be to say about this topic? It turns out there is quite a bit to say! However, that means that this is one of those posts which I wish I could include way more information than I will be able to include in a single post. The postal system goes way beyond just packages and letters. There is so much interesting American history associated with the United States Postal Service that I would never be able to include it all. For that reason, I will try to give a synopsis while encouraging Dewey Hop readers to explore this topic in depth.

The United States Postal Service surpasses all other mail delivery systems in the world and is even twice as efficient as Japan, Germany, and the UK. Postal workers are a vast army of postal workers. As of 2017, the United States Postal Service (USPS) employed 503,000 postal workers. Among those workers 24% of them are veterans and disabled veterans making the USPS one of the largest employers of veterans in the United States.

Though it’s not officially associated with the USPS, the majority of us have heard the phrase “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” This phrase comes from a translation of an ancient Greek work of Herodotus in which he was describing an ancient Persian courier service.  The phrase was made popular in the United States when architect William M. Kendall added it to one of his buildings while working with the architectural firm McKim, Mead & White.  Though this phrase is not the USPS motto, one could gain the impression that it is since it appears to be true.

The USPS is legally required to deliver mail 6 days a week to every household and business in the US. Handling 40% of the world’s mail volume, the USPS delivered 149.5 billion pieces of mail and 5.7 billion packages in 2017. In order to accomplish this massive job, the USPS sometimes has to get creative. There are many different methods in which mail is moved from place to place. The postal service employs various modes of mail transportation. Trucks are used:

mail delivery vehicles

express mail

Planes are used:

USPS Plane

Trains are used both as a means to transport mail and sometimes even as a post office:

Rail Post Office

Boats, ferries, and ships are used:

MailboatTryouts_2011 055-M

Mail Boat 2

The mail boats actually have to have tryouts (top picture) to hire their employees and the competition is fierce. Mailboats also offer tours  and venues for parties and weddings. So popular are these services that one must plan ahead because the calendar of events fills up quickly.

Believe it or not, even mules or donkeys are used:

Mule Mail  Mule Mail 3Mule Mail 2

One place the mules are used is at the Grand Canyon. The mules travel deep into the canyon to deliver mail to an Indian reservation which can’t be reached by other modes of transportation.

Of course some postal workers drive a mail truck to their general delivery area and complete most to their deliveries on foot:

Letter Carrier

I truly wish I had time to get into all of the fascinating aspects of the USPS, but since I don’t, I will highly recommend this book:

Neither Snow Nor Rain

Devin Leonard discuses USPS history, post office business, stamp collectors, and Amazon among many other fascinating topics in this book.

There are people who have made it a goal to visit every post office in the United States. Some of them blog about it. One such person is Evan Kalish who writes Postlandia. Kalish describes interesting details about the actual post office buildings and shares information about his trips. It is quite eye opening.

All of us receive mail 6 days a week whether at work or at home – and most of us take that amazing service for granted. Postal workers are very dedicated and must jump through several hoops to become a postal employee. USPS employees must pass the Postal Worker Exam. To help, Fulton County Public Library offers these study aids:

Postal Exams

Postal Worker Exam

Master the Postal Exams

I have always been an avid fan of the USPS and use it frequently. I still send cards, letters, and  packages. I love being able to brighten someone’s day with an unexpected surprise. Everyone deserves to get something in the mail once in awhile besides bills and junk mail. After reading more of the history of the USPS, I’m an even bigger fan.  The USPS website offers amazing services.  I encourage you to check it out if you haven’t done so lately.

Do you use the USPS service regularly? When was the last time you visited a post office?


Commerce (Trade)

Flea Market

Human beings have been trading and bartering things almost since the beginning of time. During the Stone Age valued trading stones were used to procure hunting equipment, tools, and raw materials to make tools. Obsidian was particularly important in the making of stone tools. Trading and bartering was generally confined to small groups of people in the community and with other communities short distances apart. As people began to domesticate animals and farm, there were more and more things to trade. Surplus of food meant that food could be traded for other needed items such as stone farming tools, clothing, and even decorative items. As the bartering system became more common, it gave rise to a group of people called merchants.

Merchants en route

Merchants began to travel thousands of miles on foot (later adding pack animals) trading, buying, and selling to communities along the way. Pottery was beginning to be used in parts of Asia and various other parts of the world and was a hot commodity. As human civilizations advanced there were more and more products to trade including livestock, surplus items, salt, copper, shells, pottery, animal skins, farming tools, seeds etc. Traveling merchants eventually developed trade routes and as trade expanded it eventually developed into the world wide trade we have today.

Paying for Groceries

Though most of our trade today involves exchanging money for goods and services, trade and bartering are still very much in vogue. Have you ever tried to buy a car from a dealership? Did you just pay the sticker price or did you try to get a better deal? Have you ever offered to “trade” services with someone? For instance I have in the past offered to tutor or babysit children in exchange for haircuts and other services. More recently I exchange cooking (food) for small house repairs. I know of a lawyer who provided legal services and the client “paid” by landscaping his yard.  There are thousands of scenarios and the value of such things changes based on what your needs are at any given time.

It is this bartering and trading and getting a “good deal” that make garage sales, yard sales, tag sales, flea markets and the like so popular. Many people have made businesses out of buying up cheap items at flea markets and yard sales, making improvements to their purchases and then reselling them. Others do this type of thing as a hobby or even just to express creativity.  Some good books about this sort of thing available at the Fulton County Public Library  are I Brake for Yard Sales: and Flea Markets, Thrift Shops, Auctions, and the Occasional Dumpster  by Lara Spencer

I Brake for Yard Sales

and From Flea Market to Fabulous by Kerry Trout.

From Flea Market to Fabulous

Though some of the crafts shown in this book may be dated, the techniques are still applicable and will definitely inspire the reader to other applications.

At this point in the blog, I have to confess that I am addicted to Flea Markets, second hand stores, craft shows, etc. and all books related to such things. I love to take furniture and various other items and rework them although I haven’t been able to do a lot of this in recent years. I also love to follow blogs related to crafting skills. A few of my favorites are kellysdiy and tierneycreates.

Have you ever gotten a great deal by trading or bartering? Do you like to “rework” or “repurpose” things?