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National Postal Museum

Smithsonian National Postal Museum

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Customers and Communities

Customers and Communities uses a series of exhibits to examine the evolution of mail delivery to vastly expanding urban and rural populations in the 20th century.

Display in Serving the Cities gallery showing letter carrier paraphernalia

Serving the Cities
For most of the 19th century, the Post Office Department succeeded in delivering mail to Americans scattered across vast territories. By the 1880s millions of newcomers were surging into cities, posing unique obstacles to standard mail delivery as mail volume climbed dramatically.

Post and the Press

Reaching Rural America
Long after city dwellers began to enjoy free home mail delivery, rural Americans still had to travel to the post office—which was often located in a country store—to pick up their mail. Experimental rural delivery finally began in 1896.

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