Excerpt from"Postal Services in the Colonies, 1592-1775,"
The Southern Philatelist 2, no. 6 (March 1891): 87-8.
The first Parliamentary Act for the establishment of a postoffice in
the English American Colonies was passed in April, 1692, when a royal
patent was granted to Thomas Neale for the purpose. He was to transport
letters and packets 'at such rates as the planters should agree to give.'
Rates of postage were accordingly fixed and authorized, and measures
were taken to establish a postoffice in each town in Virginia, when
Hale [?] began his operations. Massachusetts and other Colonies soon
passed postal laws, and a very imperfect postoffice system was established.
Neale's patent expired in 1710, when Parliament extended the English
postal system to the Colonies. The chief office was established in New
York, where letters were conveyed by regular packets across the Atlantic.
A line of postoffices was soon after established on Neale's old routes,
north to the present City of Portsmouth, N.H., and south to Philadelphia,
and irregularly extended a few years later, to Williamsburg, Va. The
post left for the South as often as letters enough were deposited to
pay the expense. The rates were fixed, and the post-rider had certain
privileges to travel. Finally an irregular postal communication was
established with Charleston.
In 1753 Dr. Franklin was appointed Deputy Postmaster-General for the
Colonies. It was a lucrative office, and he held it until 1774, when
he was dismissed because of his active sympathy with the colonists in
their quarrel with the Ministry. For a while the colonial postal system
was in confusion. William Goddard, a printer, went from colony to colony,
making efforts to establish a 'Constitutional Postoffice,' in opposition
to the 'Royal Mail.'
When, in 1775, almost every vestige of royal power was swept from the
Colonies, the Continental Congress appointed (July 26) Dr. Franklin
Postmaster-General. In the autumn of 1776, when Independence had been
declared, and Franklin sailed for France, the whole number of postoffices
in the United States was 75; length of post routes, 1,875 miles; revenue
for about fifteen months, $27,985; annual expenditures, $32,142.
For further information on this subject, see:
Postal Service in Colonial America: A Bibliography of Material in the
Smithsonian Institution Libraries National Postal Museum Branch.
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