Rural Free Delivery wagon model
Manufacturers provided models such as this one to the Post Office Department, which then selected a type for production. The Terre Haute Carriage and Buggy Company of Terre Haute, Indiana, delivered this model for a two-person Rural Free Delivery (RFD) mail wagon to the Department’s headquarters in Washington, District of Columbia.
Winfield S. Ferree produced the wagon. The Terre Haute company was among the first to manufacture rural mail wagons. Its president, A. M. Higgins, inspected a number of rural postal routes under all weather conditions before drawing up the specifications for the company's RFD vehicles. Two wagon types are mentioned in a 1903 RFD News article—'The Postman', a simple side-entry vehicle, and 'The Carrier Pigeon'. The Terre Haute wagons were the most expensive on the market, but were renowned for their durability.
Once the Post Office Department designated a RFD route, the local postmaster was responsible for hiring a carrier who would travel the route delivering and receiving mail. Unlike the city carriers, RFD carriers were responsible for obtaining their own transportation. The only exceptions were a few experimental routes on which postmasters arranged for the purchase and use of special wagons that required two carriers to operate.
Each RFD vehicle functioned as a miniature post office on wheels, with carriers able to receive and postmark mail and sell stamps, money orders, and other postal supplies. The specially-designed two-person wagons allowed one carrier to drive the wagon while the other processed mail along the way. Each of these wagons had a bell that announced its arrival. They were used on an experimental basis in large counties, beginning at Westminster, Maryland, in 1899 and continuing to Carroll County, Maryland, Frederick County, Maryland, Washington County, Pennsylvania, Jackson County, Missouri, and Newton County, Georgia. The wagons did not prove as useful as first thought and were discontinued by 1905.
Bruns, James H. Horse-Drawn Mail Vehicles, Polo, Illinois: Transportation Trails, 1996, p. 63
National Rural Letter Carriers Association, RFD News, Chicago: NRLCA, 1903