Featuring Research Volunteer Contributions

Mail Processing

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Swedish mailbox, mid 20th-early 21st Century

Mail processing is a similar activity around the world. After all, the purpose of postal service is to transport letters and packages from one location to another, and in every country postal employees have to collect, sort, and distribute the mail.

Most of the mail processing activity is invisible to the general public. When was the last time you toured a mail sorting center? But everyone is familiar with the starting point of the process – collection boxes.

Despite their different appearances, collection boxes around the world have the same function. Someone inserts a letter through a slot in the top of the box, and carriers collect the letters through an access panel at the base. Compare the international mailboxes to the US collection boxes. Can you see the history of a country reflected in mailbox design? The international mailboxes come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. They have different symbols, logos, and written directions, but they are all easily identifiable, iconic objects in their home countries.

Allison Marsh, National Postal Museum