Our speaker for December was Ed Siskin, who gave an excellent PowerPoint presentation entitled “Birth of the U.S. Post Office.” Ed began his talk on the postal situation existing in 1774, with 72 post offices in the nation. He then discussed the many events leading up to the American Revolution, including William Goddard’s attempt to start a Constitutional Post.
Ed discussed the extent of censorship in the mails before and during this period and then showed a letter sent by a supporter of the British from Boston in 1775, that travelled privately through the rebel lines and was then posted in Providence, RI, in order to avoid being read along the way. Ed also noted that Massachusetts set up an independent postal system and that other states joined shortly after.
Some of the most interesting folded letters showed the impact of inflation as the Continental currency was devalued over the course of the Revolutionary War. This included letters, posted in 1780, marked with 20X and 40X the original rates. By 1781, postal rates were being paid in specie (coinage) as opposed to paper currency.
Another highlight was the first American year-dated postmark (Baltimore, MD, 1782). Ed also discussed the various Postmaster Generals at the time and illustrated free franks from each of them (including Benjamin Franklin). He also showed many examples of unique postal markings.