Rural delivery service
refers to the delivery of mail
Mail, or post, is a system for transporting letters and other tangible objects: written documents, typically enclosed in envelopes, and also small packages are delivered to destinations around the world. Anything sent through the postal system is called mail or post.In principle, a postal service...
in what are traditionally considered rural areas. In the United States, rural letter carrier
Rural letter carriers are United States Postal Service employees who deliver mail in what are traditionally considered rural areas of the United States...
s began service with the experiments with Rural Free Delivery in 1891. RFD was adopted generally in the United States in 1902, resulting in progressive closure of post offices
A discontinued post office or DPO is an American postal term for a post office which has been discontinued. Some are in ghost towns, some victims of consolidation of mail service as small post offices are closed or a city expands. The introduction of Rural Free Delivery, RFD, in 1902 led to the...
from their peak of 76,945 in 1901 to the present number of about 36,000.
Much support for the introduction of a nationwide rural mail delivery service came from the The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, the nation's oldest agricultural organization. Fayette County
-2010 Census Data:As of the census of 2010, there were 24,277 people and 9,719 households residing in the county. The population density was 113 people per square mile . There were 10,898 housing units at an average density of 51 per square mile...
in southeastern Indiana
Indiana is a US state, admitted to the United States as the 19th on December 11, 1816. It is located in the Midwestern United States and Great Lakes Region. With 6,483,802 residents, the state is ranked 15th in population and 16th in population density. Indiana is ranked 38th in land area and is...
may be the birthplace of Rural Free Delivery. Milton Trusler, a leading farmer in the county, began advocating the idea in 1880; as the president of the Indiana Grange, he spoke to farmers statewide frequently over the following sixteen years. Formerly, residents of rural areas had to either travel to a distant post office
A post office is a facility forming part of a postal system for the posting, receipt, sorting, handling, transmission or delivery of mail.Post offices offer mail-related services such as post office boxes, postage and packaging supplies...
to pick up their mail, or else pay for delivery by a private carrier. Postmaster General John Wanamaker
John Wanamaker was a United States merchant, religious leader, civic and political figure, considered by some to be the father of modern advertising and a "pioneer in marketing." Wanamaker was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.-Biography:He was born on July 11, 1838.He opened his first store in...
was ardently in favor of Rural Free Delivery (RFD), as it was originally called, along with many thousands of Americans living in rural communities who wanted to send and receive mail inexpensively. However, the adoption of a nationwide RFD system had many opponents. Some were simply opposed to the cost of the service. Private express carriers thought inexpensive rural mail delivery would eliminate their business, and many town merchants worried the service would reduce farm families' weekly visits to town to obtain goods and merchandise.
The Post Office Department
The Post Office Department was the name of the United States Postal Service when it was a Cabinet department. It was headed by the Postmaster General....
first experimented with the idea of rural mail delivery on October 1, 1891 to determine the viability of RFD. They began with five routes covering ten miles, 33 years after free delivery in cities had begun. The first routes to receive RFD during its experimental phase were in Jefferson County, West Virginia
Jefferson County is a county located in the U.S. state of West Virginia. As of 2010, the population was 53,498. Its county seat is Charles Town...
, near Charles Town
Charles Town is a city in and the county seat of Jefferson County, West Virginia, United States. The population was 2,907 at the 2000 census. Due to its similar name, travelers have sometimes confused this city with the state's capital, Charleston.-History:...
Halltown is an unincorporated community along Flowing Springs Run in Jefferson County, West Virginia, USA. Halltown is located off of US 340 on West Virginia Route 230 between Charles Town and Bolivar. A few houses, a fork in the road, a tiny post office, and the large Halltown Paper Plant are the...
, and Uvilla
Uvilla is an unincorporated community on West Virginia Route 230 in Jefferson County, West Virginia, USA. Morgan Academy of West Virginia used to be located here, before moving to Gosling Marsh Road in Berkeley County, West Virginia...
After five years of controversy, RFD finally became an official service in 1896 under President Grover Cleveland
Stephen Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th president of the United States. Cleveland is the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms and therefore is the only individual to be counted twice in the numbering of the presidents...
. That year, 82 rural routes were put into operation. A massive undertaking, nationwide RFD service took several years to implement, and remains the "biggest and most expensive endeavor" ever instituted by the U.S. postal service.
The service has grown steadily. By 1901, the mileage had increased to over 100,000; the cost was $1,750,321 and over 37,000 carriers were employed. In 1910 the mileage was 993,068; cost $36,915,000; carriers 40,997. In 1913 came the introduction of parcel post
Parcel post is a service of a postal administration for sending parcels through the post. It is generally one of the less expensive ways to ship packages that are too heavy to be sent by regular letter post and is usually a slower method of transportation....
delivery, which caused another boom in rural deliveries. Parcel post service allowed the distribution of national newspapers and magazines, and was responsible for millions of dollars of sales in mail-order merchandise to customers in rural areas. In 1930 there were 43,278 rural routes serving about 6,875,321 families—that is about 25,471,735 persons. The cost was $106,338,341. In 1916, the Rural Post "Good" Roads Act
The Rural Post Roads Act of 1916 provided federal aid to the states for the construction of rural post roads. The term "rural post road" was construed to mean any public road over which the United States mail was then transported....
authorized federal funds for rural post roads.
Today, as in years past, the rural delivery service uses a network of rural routes traveled by carriers to deliver and pick up mail to and from roadside mailboxes. Formerly, an address for mail to a rural delivery address included both the rural route number and the box number, for example "RR 5, Box 10." With the implementation of the 911 emergency system
9-1-1 is the emergency telephone number for the North American Numbering Plan .It is one of eight N11 codes.The use of this number is for emergency circumstances only, and to use it for any other purpose can be a crime.-History:In the earliest days of telephone technology, prior to the...
in many areas, it has become necessary to discontinue the old rural route numbers in those areas in favor of house numbers and road names as used on city routes. This change enabled emergency services to more quickly locate a rural residence.
Rural route introduction
The following is a list of when the first rural route(s) were established in each state, along with the names of the Post Offices served.
|Branford, Guilford, Milford|
|District of Columbia|
|Gorham, Naples, Sebago Lake|
|Collinsville, Darrtown, Somerville|
|New Stanton, Ruffsdale|
|Cope, Orangeburg, Saint George|
|Fate, La Grange|
|Charles Town, Halltown, Uvilla|
|Hilliard, Sheridan, Wheatland|
- 1903 film of carrier receiving RFD mail to deliver in Westminster, Maryland
Westminster is a city in northern Maryland, United States. It is the seat of Carroll County. The city's population was 18,590 at the 2010 census. Westminster is an outlying community within the Baltimore-Towson, MD MSA, which is part of a greater Washington-Baltimore-Northern Virginia, DC-MD-VA-WV...
, from the Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...