Early American Map of Postal Road Between Boston and New York City
In the early American colonies, there was no organized postal service until the late 17th
century, and even then it operated much differently than it does today. Before this time,
the Americans relied on friends, merchants, and sometimes even the Native American
population to carry their mail for them.
British North American Postal System
At the command of British King and Queen William and Mary in 1692, New Jersey
Governor Andrew Hamilton established postmasters in each of the existing North
American colonies. The very first "long distance" route was between Williamsburg, VA
and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Because there was no official post office, the early
postal riders would deposit mail at taverns in the community instead of delivering
directly to a person's address.
Richard Fairbank's Tavern, in what is now Boston, Massachusetts, was the official
repository for mail received from overseas at the time, and is thus the first American
The United States Post Office USPO
Before the American Revolution, very little
official mail was exchanged throughout the
colonies. However, when things began to heat
up in the 1760s, a much greater need arose for
a more organized postal service. When the
Stamp Act of 1765 sent an uproar through the
colonies, the citizens began planning to
overthrow the British Imperial Post and open
up a purely American one.
The United States Post Office (USPO) was
ordered by the Second Continental Congress
on July 26, 1775. Benjamin Franklin oversaw
its creation as head of the department for a
The Post Office Department (USPOD)
In 1789, George Washington appointed Massachusetts resident Samuel Osgood as first
American Postmaster General. At the time, there were 75 official post offices and more
than 2,000 miles of post roads. The Post Office Department hired post riders who would
take desolate roads hundreds of miles through treacherous conditions to deliver the
mail to the various post offices. One of these postal riders was Israel Bissell, one of the riders commissioned to alert the colonies that the British troops were moving in the
early stages of the American War for Independence.
The first official Congressionally recognized Post Office Department opened in the
United States in 1792, it's central hub being Philadelphia. Article I, Section 8, Clause 7 of
the newly ratified United States Constitution empowered Congress to establish Post
Offices and Roads under the supervision of the executive branch.
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