The Postman Always Knocked Twice

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Handheld door knocker for letter carriers

Yes, the postman really did once ring twice. Sometimes he blew a whistle or knocked twice. The double ring and knock was the carrier’s signal to a household that the mail was being delivered. Before 1916 the Post Office Department did not begin to require houses to have mailboxes or slots. So when carriers delivered the mail to a home, they had to hand it over in person.

For more than a few carriers, knocking on hundreds of doors day after day wore on their knuckles. So they purchased wooden, dumb-bell shaped contraptions to use as door knockers on their daily rounds.

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Narrator: The postman always rings twice.

Have you ever wondered where that phrase came from?

For decades after home mail delivery began, this was true because letter carriers handed mail over in person.

The typical doorbell signal was two rings.

Of course some homes didn't have doorbells.

Carriers got tired of knocking so they carried wooden knockers like this one.

But efficiency experts determined that two hours were being lost each day while postman waited for patrons.

So in 1916, the post office mandated mailboxes or mail slots for all homes.