Terence Hines spoke on “Economic Information from Postal Documents” at our Chapter meeting on October 14. He first discussed the relationship between postmaster income and mail volume (which was very directly related), and then described how postmaster compensation could be related to economic activity across the U.S. at any specific point in time.
Terence noted how GDP and nationwide postal income had a correlation of 0.98! He also described the use of the Federal register to determine compensation for postmasters and their staff. While studies have been made regarding the relationship between population growth and postal income, such correlations have varied significantly over time. He also showed various postal documents, including the postal money order ledger of Woodville, OR that covered transactions during the late 1890s. All in all, it was a very informative discussion of how postal documents can shed light on economic activity during the 19th century.