Rural Free Delivery mailbox
The metal, tunnel-shaped mailbox has two access points. Mail could be pushed through the hinged flap marked "U.S. Mail" that tilted inward at the top. The flap opens to a maximum of 4 1/4 inches long by 1 3/8 inches wide, which is a tight-fit for today’s business-size envelopes. To deposit larger items or retrieve mail, the entire front is hinged and is secured with a lock. The right side has a moveable signal flag hand-painted red. Two small rectangular shadows, up and to the right of the flag as well as six below it, show that labels were once adhered to the box. The opposite side bears the faint lettering of the mailbox’s former user, "G. W. Colton."
F. C. Bates and W. G. Hawley held patent number 627,635, dated June 27, 1899, for their invention of a “postal-box signal” designed for use by Rural Free Delivery customers. Bates and Hawley’s patent included a mechanism that moved the signal flag when mail was deposited in the box (by either the letter carrier or the patron). This specimen manufactured by the Signal Mailbox Company of Joliet, Illinois lacks such internal mechanisms. The Bates and Hawley design also had two flags of different colors — one to show the carrier that there was mail to be picked up and one to show the patron that a delivery had arrived. The signals were intended to save time for carriers on long rural routes and patrons walking to an empty mailbox.