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Benjamin Franklin And The US Postal System: Founding Father Of American Mail

One of the United States' most famous founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin is credited with establishing America's first mail system and serving as our first Post Master General


The United States Postal Service (USPS) has been around since Benjamin Franklin established it in 1775. Benjamin Franklin was a founding father and one of the nation’s most well-known figures, so what role did he play with the founding of the USPS? Well, Benjamin did start up this American institution but not as we know it today. Benjamin’s original mail system consisted of riders on horseback who would take messages from city to city along some pre-established routes.

First Post Office Philadelphia, PA

Early life

Born in Boston, Benjamin Franklin began his career as a printer and writer. He published the Pennsylvania Gazette at age 20 and founded Poor Richards Almanack four years later. By 1737, Franklin had entered into a partnership with David Hall to publish The General Magazine or American Monthly Chronicle of Literature, Politics, History and Natural Sciences under the pseudonym Timothy Selfmade-Man. In 1738, he was appointed Deputy Postmaster for America by King George II of Great Britain but would not take office until after Benjamin’s return from London following his son’s death.

In 1751 Benjamin relocated to Philadelphia where he purchased an estate home on Market Street near High (now known as South) Street that became known around town as “Franklin House.” Benjamin would spend the next 34 years as a resident of Philadelphia, during which time he served in various capacities including Postmaster for America.

5 Cent Postage Stamp

Founding of the Postal System

The United States Postal Service traces its roots from Benjamin Franklin. In the early 1770s, Benjamin Franklin was postmaster for Philadelphia and had a discussion with Benjamin Towne about setting up an American postal system. The first class of mail consisted only of letters; there were no newspapers or magazines sent at this time. Letters traveled by either stagecoach or ship. Benjamin Franklin had the idea of tracking mail destinations and “establishing some speedy means of conveyance.”

George Washington saw Benjamin Franklin’s plan and was very interested in the idea. Benjamin Franklin suggested to him that a postmaster be appointed for every county, with a salary paid by the United States Congress. Benjamin Franklin also suggested that postmasters be appointed in to New York City and Boston, as well as five other major cities. Benjamin Franklin also suggested that postmaster’s should be appointed to the more important towns, so they would have a central location of gathering and sending mail. Benjamin Franklin’s plan for the postal system was accepted, and from 1775 until today, it has been used as a model by many other countries.

Benjamin Franklin’s contribution to the US postal system is one of the most significant contributions he made in his lifetime. His idea for a mail system was the first of its kind in America and it has been used by many other countries. Benjamin Franklin laid the foundation for a postal system that is still in use today.

selective focus photography of a mailbox
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The Postmaster General And His Role In The Postal System

The Postmaster General is the chief executive of the United States Postal Service, as well as a member of the Board of Governors. The postmaster general has many duties such as approving new post offices, establishing the rate of postal service for letters and parcels. Benjamin Franklin held this position from 1775 to 1776 and was a very successful postmaster general. Benjamin Franklin’s service as the first Postmaster General of America was an eventful one. Benjamin Franklin introduced many new innovations; he created routes for mail delivery, surveyed postal rates, and established uniform postal rates. Benjamin Franklin also created a list of post offices and made sure that all mail was being delivered to the correct location, as well as implementing more stringent qualifications for postal workers. Benjamin Franklin’s role in this time period was crucial because he set up many of the guidelines and standards we still use today within the USPS system.

University Of Pennsylvania: Franklin Statue

Mailing Services Today

The Postal Service is very different from back in Benjamin Franklin’s time and has evolved over the years. Benjamin Franklin didn’t fully understand how mail would be delivered in his lifetime; he had the idea of a speedy means to convey mail, but it took many years before that became possible. Benjamin Franklin’s idea was very pioneering for his time and allowed America to be on the forefront of postal innovations.

Today, mail can be delivered very quickly, with the use of airplanes and trucks. We have created complex distribution systems and mail sorting facilities to keep up with all the packages that are being delivered. Benjamin Franklin would be very proud of how quickly we can send an email, or send a package across country- he had no idea this type of technology was possible. Benjamin Franklin laid the foundation for what is now one of America’s oldest institutions; USPS has evolved over time but still relies on Benjamin Franklin’s original postal system in order to function.

black and gray digital device
Photo by Torsten Dettlaff on

The Impact Of Franklin’s Innovations On American Culture

Franklin is one of our nation’s founding fathers and has contributed a lot to the history of America. Benjamin Franklin was instrumental in helping to shape American culture through his inventions, discoveries, writings, as well as civic engagement. His contributions ranged from the postal system that we use today all the way down to bifocals! He helped establish the first public library in 1731 and was a founding member of The American Philosophical Society. Benjamin Franklin also helped to create America’s first volunteer fire department that we still use today, as well as being one of the founder’s of Philadelphia’s Union Fire Company where he served for 20 years!

Benjamin Franklin’s impact on our culture and way of life can be seen throughout our lives, from the local post office to our daily tasks, Benjamin Franklin has left a legacy that we can’t ignore.

Benjamin Franklin’s contributions are something that cannot be matched and we should all take a moment to thank Benjamin Franklin for the impact he has had on our daily lives.

a river in the city
Photo by Trevor Adams on

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