Arago: Postal Collection Mailboxes

Postal Collection Mailboxes

Mailbox remnant from Johnstown, PA, flood


The humble mailbox is a symbol of everyday life in towns all over the country. The 1889 Johnstown, Pennsylvania, Flood was an engineering disaster, and this mailbox remnant is a reminder of the many lives lost on a normal day in an average American community.

Only the front of the iron mailbox survived the Johnstown Flood. The door and a section of the base are held together by the hasp, which has a round lock attached. The letter slot is protected by an iron cover held in place with two pins. "US MAIL" and an eagle design have been cast into the front of the box. The front of the lock reads, "US STREET LETTER BOX" and the back reads, "SQR SMITH & EGGE DEC 23, 1873 PATENTED". The iron is quite corroded, and rust has partially obliterated the design on the front. Traces of the original green paint may be seen on the door.

At 3:10 P.M., May 31, 1889, the town of Johnstown was wiped out. After days of relentless rain, a dam built by South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club to create an artificial lake at their mountain resort finally ruptured. Over 2,209 people died and thousands more were injured as a wall of water flooded the Conemaugh Valley in one of the worst disasters in our nation's history.

May 31, 1889
Height x Width x Depth: 13 x 7 1/16 x 1 1/2 in. (33 x 18 x 3.8 cm)
Museum ID:


  • Mailbox remnant from Johnstown, PA, flood
  • Mailbox remnant from Johnstown, PA, flood
  • Mailbox padlock
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