Arago: Animal Powered

Animal Powered

Rural Free Delivery Mail sled


This Rural Free Delivery sled was probably built by local craftsmen in New Hampshire, where it was put into use in 1900, while the service was still in its experimental phase.

Rural Free Delivery (RFD) service began as an experiment on October 1, 1896, at Charles Town, Halltown and Uvilla, West Virginia. The number of RFD routes grew quickly. By June 1900, there were 1,214 RFD routes, serving an estimated 879,127 people in nearly every state. Six months later the number of routes had increased to 2,551. These provided mail service to almost 2 million Americans. Rural Free Delivery became a permanent postal service in 1902.

Early rural letter carriers made their rounds by whatever means they could. For most that meant by horseback or by buggies and wagons. During winter months, rural carriers who faced bad winter weather and could afford to buy another vehicle used horse-drawn sleds. Unlike city carriers, rural carriers were, and still are, responsible for purchasing their own vehicles. For those who used horses to draw their wagons or sled were also responsible for purchasing, feeding and stabling the animals.

Another difference between city and rural carriers was that the RFD carriers brought the post office to their patrons. RFD carriers not only made mail exchanges, but also had money orders, stamps, stamped envelopes and postal forms in their vehicles. Many used metal cashboxes to hold the stamps and other items. Rural carriers continue to offer a multitude of services to their carriers.

c. 1900-1920s
U.S. / Mail / R.F.D. / Route / No. 1 (marks on both sides of sled)
wood (ash); canvas; metal; paint (dark green, red)
Height x Width x Depth: 72 x 48 x 72 in. (182.88 x 121.92 x 182.88 cm) Height x Width x Depth (Crate): 78 x 97 x 51 in. (198.12 x 246.38 x 129.54 cm)
Museum ID:

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