Arago: Exhibits

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Finding Their Rhythm

Rural carrier's Christmas post card
Creator/Photographer: Unidentified creator
Date created: 1915
Christmas postcard from Pittstown, New Jersey rural carrier John S. MacIlroy to William Taylor dated December 21, 1915. The back of the postcard has a printed five stanza poem titled 'If' that includes the verse, 'when packages due don't come on time / And those who are sending don't raise their sign / it sure would save anxiety / if I knew you and you knew me.' Many rural letter carriers left holiday postcards for their patrons, though few went as far as Mr. MacIlroy in creating specialty cards such as this one. Fortunately for MacIlroy, he remembered to place a stamp on this postcard. Carriers who simply placed postcards in their patrons' mailboxes without stamps were subject to disciplinary measures for misuse of the mailbox.

Over the years, a number of rural carriers have bent the rules of "only stamped mail" being placed in mailboxes. Many left their patrons Christmas and holiday postcards. From time to time, carriers who did not pre-stamp those cards found themselves in trouble with postal officials.

In 1897, there were 1,843 miles of rural routes in the nation. By 1904, RFD routes covered over ½ million miles in the continental US. Rural Free Delivery had become an outstanding success. Even Members of Congress who had been reluctant to experiment with the idea of free rural delivery found themselves now eagerly forwarding petitions for the service to the Post Office Department. Each petition of at least 100 local signatories, held the potential for an equal number of happy voters once the service was enacted.