These brightly colored red, white and blue buses were common sights on American highways in the 1950s and 1960s. Clerks inside were hard at work sorting mail as the buses traveled between towns across the country. The system of sorting mail while in transit grew out of the Railway Mail Service, which Highway Post Office Service was created to replace. Buses helped fill the transportation void left by declining railroad traffic.
The first Highway Post Office bus was built by the White Motor Company of Cleveland, Ohio. On February 10, 1941, this vehicle inaugurated service between Washington, D.C., and Harrisonburg, Virginia, a distance of 149 miles. This bus is now part of the National Postal Museum collection. After the bus was decommissioned in the 1960s, a postal worker hid it in a succession of Post Office Department garages to keep it from being discarded as surplus. It was finally "discovered" and sold by the government. In 1961, it was purchased by the members of the United Federation of Postal Clerks (which later became the American Postal Workers Union), who donated it to the Smithsonian Institution and agreed to underwrite the cost of restoring the bus to its proper condition.