Technology changes

Evolution of the Mailbox

I enjoy watching classic movies. Many of them feature telephone booth conversations.  It’s a quick way for the viewer to learn the characters’ thoughts and what is happening unseen. It’s pretty rare to see a standalone phone booth now. (Where does Clark Kent don his Superman cape?) Another item that has diminished in importance is the mailbox.

To my grandkids: You can sneer at snail mail all you like. Some of us still post items. Mailboxes and adhesive postage stamps came into existence in the late 1840’s. Prior to that, all mail was hand-carried to the post office.  Free home delivery began in 1863. Carriers either knocked on the door, rang the doorbell (twice) or whistled to alert the homeowner that they had received mail. To save wear and tear on the knuckles, some carriers used a handheld wooden device to do the knocking.  The Smithsonian’s National Postal museum depicts all things postal, from stamp designs to collection box designs.  The slideshow begins with this link:

By 1923 mailboxes were mandatory. The cost of mailing was updated to charge by weight and distance rather than number of paper sheets sent. The familiar road-side blue collection box design has changed very little in more than a century.  Home collection devices have evolved from door letter slots to street-side boxes to on-house boxes and back to street-side boxes. The older Van Dorn metal boxes make me think of ammunition boxes.  Some were painted bright red. After the public confused the red mailbox with red fire alarms and police call boxes, the Post Office decreed that mail receptacles should be painted dark green. Gradually the ugly iron boxes were replaced with lighter metals and prettier designs.

As I sat at my computer this morning, I snapped a photo of a check and magically deposited it to my bank account. I paid my bills on-line, using electronic transfer. I emailed a thank you message for a gift received. Super convenient; no snail mail involved. My Amazon search on mailboxes brought back more than 6,000 returns, so I think the public-servant container is safe from the fate of the phone booth.

Mailbox in snow.JPG