What’s Wrong With The Post Office? A Mr. Magazine™ Blast From The Past…

June 14, 2019

You may have noticed lately that I am not as active on the blog as usual.  Two reasons for that, first, the summer break and second, working on two books, the first on how to launch a magazine and the second on the magazines of the 1950s.

In my research I came across this article from Quick magazine, Feb. 16, 1953 about “What Wrong with the Mail?”

The similarities between now and then were striking to me, so I decided to publish the entire article here.  Would love to hear your comments…

Enjoy this blast from the past…


What’s Wrong With the Mails?

The deficit-ridden U. S Post Office Dept. was in for an overhaul-perhaps its most sweeping since the 1930’s. Behind the effort was a mounting tide of complaints about:

  • Slow mail delivery.
  • Once-a-day home delivery.
  • Damaged and lost mail.

One of the Government’s biggest and most criticized-business operations, the postal service, has 500,000 employes, spends $3 billion a year. The world’s largest postal service, it claims it is the world’s best. That final point is where debate centers. Congress has criticized the agency for its millions of deficits each year; patrons rail every time service is cut and at every increase in rates.

Will the Postman Ring Twice?

The Republican platform last year recognized these complaints, included promises of “more frequent deliveries.” Congressional committees are studying proposals from both Democrats and Republicans to restore twice-a-day home delivery, curtailed in 1950 to save money. But restoring it, Post Office officials say, will cost $150 million a year. This would set the deficit climbing again-and it has dropped only in the last year.

Postmaster Gen. Arthur Summerfield has ordered a complete study of the department to see how it can improve its finances, facilities and employe relations. The powerful National Assn. of Letter Carriers is clamoring for revision of personnel policies.

Career postal officials blame the deficit on congress, say that if the department budget needs to be balanced, Congress can raise postal rates. They attribute $160 million of the deficit to handling of “franked” mail for Government agencies and Congress, free mail for the blind, and other mail not covered by postage. Second-class mail (Newspapers and magazines) and air mail are handled at a loss.

Slow-Down Factors

Congress’ economy drives also are blamed for curtailed deliveries and night collections. These factors slow deliveries to the extent that an air mail letter may require three days for delivery from the time it’s posted between Portland, Maine, and San Francisco-though it travels between the cities in13 hours. Employee negligence also may slow deliveries-as in the case of the Alabama postman who dumped bundles of mail into a culvert during the Christmas rush. The Post Office retorts it’s understaffed.

Mechanical devices to speed mail have been researched, but with mixed success. Mechanical sorting machines have not proved satisfactory-it’s hard for a machine to read addresses. Costs of helicopter mail delivery between officials within New York, Los Angeles and Chicago have been found high-helicopters don’t carry the load that big mail trucks do.

Grounds for Argument

The Post Office claims a generally good record on deliveries, but there are slipups. Examples: 1) A Providence, R.I., theater owner put out a two-week advance notice on a new show left town; 2) the N.Y World-Telegram and Sun claimed that some test letters mailed in the city took longer to reach its office than others sent from London and Paris.

Pneumatic tubes have been used to link postal offices in part of the New York area, but this also is a high-cost operation.

The research has, however, developed special baskets for handling parcel post-to curb loss from breakage caused when packages are thrown around sorting rooms; and motor scooters are helping postmen manage heavy mail packs.

Many of the post office built in the 1930’s have been outgrown as population boomed. Crowded buildings hamper mail handling. Since 1940, there’s been no regular Post Office building program, due to defense demands on materials and money.

One great factor slowing the mails has been the huge increase in mailing-now an average of 315 pieces a year for each person in the U.S., compared with 219 pieces in 1941. These mountains of mail clog railroad and truck postal centers and slow up the handling of shipments.

Adding to the problem is the public’s attitude. A year ago, the Post Office got Congress to cut the maximum size for parcels. But instead of a major part of the parcel post business going to the Railway Express, as expected, postal authorities claim “Proof” that many mails just divided big packages into two smaller ones-adding to the postal glut.

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