Arago: Exhibits

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Setting up Shop

Unlike their city counterparts, rural carriers had to post a bond before being eligible for hiring. This requirement, along with standard arguments of the day regarding women’s strength and abilities, kept the job in men’s hands at first. As time passed, women gradually joined the ranks of RFD carriers, unofficially at first, as substitutes for ill husbands, fathers or brothers, but soon on their own merit, and with their own bonds.

Male or female, RFD carriers faced the challenge of keeping warm in freezing cold winters, keeping wagons or sleds moving across rutted, snow-filled, or muddy roads, and of course successfully completing their daily rounds. Many carriers found small heaters to be an absolute necessity during cold winter months, others found comfort in blankets and lap robes. Local newspapers and national carrier and postmaster publications were filled with a variety of goods aimed at the keeping RFD carriers warm, and their wallets empty.

Automobile and driver's robe

Rubber and leather "lap robe" for winter use.

Rural letter carrier's carriage heater

Heaters were critical equipment during cold winters.

Rural letter carrier's handmade sorting bag

Handmade mail sorting bag designed to unfold in order as the carrier passed each home.

Female rural letter carrier in snow
Photographer: Unknown
Date created: c. 1910
Female rural letter carrier using a horse-drawn sleigh to make her daily rounds through deep snow. Rural carriers in cold winter climates often kept sleighs for winter use, in addition to their mail wagons. Such expenses were sometimes hardship for rural carriers, who were (and still are) responsible for purchasing their own vehicles.

Women slowly joined the ranks of RFD carriers.