Overview by Gordon Stimmell

With today’s “door-to-door” postal service, it’s hard to realize that America’s early postal system mostly delivered between post offices, not to and from homes. Before and after the Revolution, this gap was filled by carriers who were paid an additional fee – usually one or two cents – for such personal service. Of the early period, from 1689 to 1800, scant evidence survives on mail matter, but manuscript notations on stampless folded letters surviving from the 1800 to 1845 period show such services prospered in many cities. These progenitor “penny posts” were often run by carriers sanctioned by and working for the local Post Office.

By the time the first adhesive Carrier stamps were issued, in 1842, a multiplicity of mail services existed in a country rapidly expanding due to industrialization and immigrant settlement surges. As the West began to open up with the railroads creating boom towns, the Post Office had a very hard time keeping up with such explosive progress.

Operating with official sanction were the Carriers, those individuals working directly for the Post Office. Competing head to head with these official mails were Local Posts, enterprising private individuals and companies carrying letters within city limits – including to and from Post Offices. And by late 1843, more private firms joined the fray – The Independent Mails – transporting mail between a widespread grid of major U.S. cities for rates far cheaper than Uncle Sam charged, and over the same Post roads.

Helpful Links
The Carriers & Locals Society
Siegel Encyclopedia U.S. Carriers & Locals
Siegel Auction Gallery Adams’ City Express 2¢ Blue
Siegel Encyclopedia Franklin Official Carrier LO1
Siegel Encyclopedia Philadelphia Despatch & Bloods
Boyd’s, A Local Post: 1844 – 1887 by Lawrence LeBel
The Carrier Markings of Northern Liberties News Room 1835 – 1836 by Richard C. Frajola