United States Postal Service

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
United States Postal Service
legal form Independent government agency
founding 1775
Seat Uspsheadquartersatlenfantplaza.jpg
475 L'Enfant Plaza SW
Washington, DC  20260-2202
United States
management Louis DeJoy
Postmaster General
Number of employees 546,000 (2012)
Post offices about 30,000
sales $ 65.22 billion (2012)
Branch logistics
Website www.usps.com

The United States Postal Service ( USPS ) is an independent agency of the United States . It performs the tasks of a state-owned corporation that offers postal services and has a monopoly on certain postal services . Its headquarters are in Washington, DC and employs approximately 550,000 people.

The USPS was founded in 1775 on the basis of a decree of the Second Continental Congress by Benjamin Franklin . From 1792 to 1971 its head, the United States Postmaster General , held the rank of minister and was a member of the federal government .


Seal or logo of the United States Department of the Post Office prior to the establishment of the USPS
Benjamin Franklin , founder of the United States Postal Service (1898)


Little is known about the mail of the first settlers in America up to 1693.

In 1639, citizen Richard Fairbanks was hired by the government agency in Boston , Massachusetts to deliver and move letters. For every letter he received a penny.

On December 10, 1672, under British colonial administration , the governor of the New York colony had a monthly mail connection between New York and Boston. The mail items received handwritten posting notes. In New York and other places, one- or two-line location stamps were introduced from 1756 and date stamps were used. There were postal connections between New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Portsmouth, with riders taking over the traffic irregularly. A letter from New York to Boston then cost 9 pence.

Fairbanks in Boston, Massachusetts was succeeded by Hayward in 1677. He became the first real “postmaster” and his office in the town hall became the first post office.

In 1683 William Penn set up a post office in Philadelphia with weekly mail connections to the area. In Virginia , in the second half of the 17th century, mail bags had to be forwarded to the general public; one settler had to send mail by messenger to the next. The attempt to create an orderly postal system remained limited and incoherent in scope.

The establishment of a central postal organization began on February 17, 1691, when the British government transferred the exclusive right to exercise the postal service in the North American colonies to Thomas Neale for 21 years . Neale was chief of the Royal Mint in London. Postal laws were passed and thus the postage was determined. The aim was to establish post offices in every town in Massachusetts and Virginia and the other colonies. In 1692 Neale appointed New Jersey Governor Andrew Hamilton as American and West Indian Postmaster General with the task of establishing regular posts in the colony. Hamilton deserves the credit of having set up the Portsmouth – Philadelphia mail route on May 1, 1691 and maintaining it with great difficulty.

With Queen Anne's Great Postal Act of 1710, American mail was taken over by the English Crown. Benjamin Franklin , who was Deputy Postmaster General of the New England States from 1753 to 1774 and an equally distinguished inventor as a statesman, introduced a penny post for location letters. So there was “Spaulding's Penny Post” between 1847 and 1850 in Buffalo and New York. In Baltimore, Maryland, Davis' Penny Post carried out 1856 mail for several weeks.

In 1763 the 475 miles from New York to Buffalo took 4 days and the 400 miles from London to Edinburgh 7 days. The stagecoaches in America never drove at night. The country road system was well developed.

In June 1773, letters from Thomas Hutchinson to the British government urging the governor of Massachusetts for more troops to suppress local rebels were published by a Boston newspaper. In December 1773, Benjamin Franklin confessed to distributing the letters among rebels. In January 1774, Franklin was fired and replaced for "harmful activities".

Postage stamps

First two US postage stamps (1847)

The introduction of postage stamps in Great Britain in 1840 also attracted great interest in the United States. A private service provider, Alexander M. Greig in New York City, set up a "City Despatch Post" on February 1, 1842. He issued his own postage stamps showing the portrait of George Washington . Just a few months after founding his company, Greig sold it to the US government and the post was now called the “United States City Despatch Post”. The government took over the postal service on August 16, 1842.

The "Act of Congress" of March 3, 1845, which came into force on July 1, 1845, stipulated uniform fees for the entire national territory with 5 cents for distances of less than 500 km. It was not until 1847 that the congress allowed the production of postage stamps, so that the postmasters usually made their own makeshift arrangements (see postmasters' stamps).

On July 1, 1847, the first postage stamps for 5 and X (10) cents were issued on the basis of a congressional resolution. They show the picture of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington and the inscription "Post Office". In 1851 another series of 1, 3, 5, X and 12 cents stamps and the inscription "US Postage" came out, again with pictures of presidents. These marks still had to be cut from the sheet with scissors. From 1875 these stamps were perforated. The values ​​of 24, 30 and 90 cents were added as supplementary values, only provided with a perforation. At first most of the letters were franked in cash. Until January 1, 1856, when postage stamps were made mandatory,

Also in 1847 the American postal administration signed the first contract with a foreign government - Bremen - on the exchange of posts. On December 1, 1851, 16 steamers owned by the Post and four others were chartered in service.

For 1854, it is reported that, statistically, 1,000 Americans wrote 4,121 letters, compared with 14,760 in Great Britain .

The transport of the letter post (" Mail ") was leased through contracts with private entrepreneurs or railway and steamship companies.

The Pony Express was a mail delivery service in the United States organized as an equestrian relay on the initiative of William Hepburn Russell . For some time it was the fastest postal connection in North America.

The post shelving was exercised to a very limited extent. The transport of people, parcels over 4 pounds, money or valuables were left to private companies. All railway lines and all shipping routes were classified as postal routes under a law of 1853. Only the postal administration was allowed to carry letters and newspapers on them. This also applied to international shipping. The captains who were not bound by a contract received 2 cents for each letter from abroad and 1 cents from within Germany. For them there was then double the domestic postage.

Postal parcel service

The parcel post conference in Paris led to the conclusion of a parcel parcel agreement on November 3, 1880, which 19 countries joined and which came into force on October 1, 1881. Parcels are the parcels that are sent on the basis of the Parcel Agreement, a subsidiary agreement of the Universal Postal Union. Since September 11, 1899, the US has participated in this international package deal.

On January 1, 1913, a postal package service was established within the United States. 12 postage stamps with different motifs and the inscription "US PARCEL POST" were introduced. In 1928 another four stamps followed with numerical drawings with the inscription "SPECIAL HANDLING". A $ 1 stamp with the inscription "AIRLIFT" was issued in 1968 for American soldiers abroad. In addition to the parcel stamps, there was a series of five postage stamps with the inscription "US PARCEL POST / POSTAGE DUE".

Previously, the United States Post Office only dealt with the delivery of postal parcels in traffic with foreign countries. In internal traffic, merchandise, etc., could only be sent by post up to 4 pounds (1 pound = 16 ounces = 453.6 g), before 1863 only up to 3 pounds. Parcel transport has been provided by freight companies, the Express Companies, since 1839, each of which had the exclusive right to express delivery on certain railway lines and could increase the fees at will. The late introduction of this branch of service is explained by the supremacy of the Express Companies, which have always fought against the admission of postal parcels.

Modern times

Postal stationery as a parcel card for a registered parcel from Nebraska (1914)

After the Second World War , there were numerous special stamps , which led to an abundance of issues. The first self-adhesive stamps appeared around Christmas 1974. They were not particularly successful. The 3-cent standard postage for 1st class, which has been valid since 1933, was increased to 4 cents in 1958 until it had risen to 42 cents on May 12, 2008.

In 1971 the postal administration was reorganized and renamed the United States Postal Service.

The United States Postal Service has been a member of the Universal Postal Union since July 1, 1875 .

The number of letters is falling sharply in the United States, as in other countries, particularly because of the increasing importance of e-mail . This led to a reduction in staff from 800,000 to 600,000 at the US Post between 2001 and 2011. In the summer of 2011 it was announced that the US Post was on the verge of bankruptcy . She is demanding permission from parliament to be able to part with over 100,000 employees.

Postal services

Domestic Mail

The domestic mail ( domestic mail ) include a Monday- Saturday delivery (except on federal holidays ) to any address, post office box ( PO Box ) or the general delivery of mail in the United States or in any field post ( US military mail destination ).

Since May 1, 2007, the following postage fees have been set for private customers ( low-volume mailers ):

  • Express Mail - delivery within one night
    • Delivery on Sundays and Holidays is available at an additional cost.
    • The shipment is insured up to $ 100 free of charge .
    • Flat rate envelopes and boxes (of various sizes) available. Otherwise variable quantities according to weight, size and zip code.
  • Priority Mail - delivery in 2 to 3 working days
    • Flat rate envelopes and boxes (of various sizes) available. Otherwise variable quantities according to weight, size and zip code.
  • First Class Mail - normal delivery
    • Delivery within 2 to 3 days for letters and small packages.
    • Flat rate depending on size and weight:
      • Postcards (5 × 3.5 inches ) - 28 ¢
      • Letters (11.5 × 6.125 inches ) - 44 ¢
      • Large items (15 × 12 inches ) - 88 ¢ The item must be rectangular, evenly thick and not too rigid.
      • Package / Parcel (Up to 108 inches in length + width) - $ 1.13
  • Parcel Post
    • Slowest but cheapest way to send parcels domestically - uses land transport
    • Shipping time: 2-9 days in the US, 4-14 days in internal AK / HI / territories, 3-6 weeks between mainland and remote areas (travel by ship).
    • Variable quantities by weight and zip code.
    • Free forwarding if the sender has submitted a change of address and return if the item is undeliverable.
    • The USPS is not popular for domestic parcel shipments; instead, competitors DHL , UPS and FedEx are used more frequently .

International shipping options

  • Global Express Guaranteed ® (GXG) - Delivery in 1–3 working days - Price: $ 35- $ 905
    • Shipment is insured for free up to $ 100 . (Refund warranty)
    • Will be picked up free of charge by contractors
    • 10% online discount
    • The GXG shipments are processed and delivered by FedEx outside the USA
  • Express Mail International (EMI) - Delivery in 3-5 business days - Price: $ 25- $ 393
  • Priority Mail International (PMI) - delivery in 6-10 business days - price: $ 20- $ 393
    • Free insurance
    • Will be picked up free of charge by contractors
    • Flat rate envelopes and boxes (of various sizes) are available.
    • Optional as registered mail with insurance ( Registered Mail ™ )
    • 5% online discount
  • First-Class Mail International - normal delivery
    • An affordable way to send items under £ 4 to over 190 countries worldwide.
    • Flat rate depending on size and weight:
      • Postcards (5 × 3.5 inches ) - 75 ¢ –98 ¢
      • Letters (11.5 × 6.125 inches ) - 75 ¢ - $ 3.32
      • Large shipments (15 × 12 inches ) - $ 1.03-$ 30.15
      • Parcel (Up to 108 inches long + wide) - $ 1.23 - $ 30.35

Bulk mail

There are discounts available for bulk mails . Depending on the postage level, certain conditions must be met. If you choose optional flat rates, there is an additional discount:

  • Minimum number of shipments
  • Weight limits
  • Ability to pass through USPS processing machines
  • Standardized address formatting
  • Pre-printed, readable POSTNET or target code
  • Sorted by 3-digit ZIP prefix, 5-digit ZIP code, ZIP + 4code or 11-digit delivery point
  • Partitioned in trays, bundles or pallets
  • Delivered directly to a regional bulk mail center, destination (SCF) or post office of the destination
  • Certification as a fresh and accurate mass sender (e.g. correct postcodes, renewal of outdated addresses, correct processing of change-of-address messages)

In addition to volume discounts on Express, Priority and First Class Mail shipments, the following postage options are also available:

Field post

Field Post officers unload the mail on the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) .

The US field post connects the troops both with home and the troops with each other. The mail supply to the units in action is carried out by specially trained soldiers called field post officers. The USPS has the following field posts with the Department of Defense :

  • Army / Air Force Post Office (APO) - Postal facilities for the Army and Air Force
  • Fleet Post Office (FPO) - Postal facilities for the Navy and Coast Guard
  • Diplomatic Post Office (DPO) - postal facilities for the American embassies

Sorting and delivery process

USPS mail flow through national infrastructure.svg


United States Postal Service Envelope (2008)

For every shipment within the United States, USPS requires the following information on the envelope:

  1. Recipient's address: In the middle of the front of the envelope and a ZIP + 4 code for easier delivery.
  2. Sender address: This information is optional (but strongly recommended). This is the address to return if the recipient does not accept the shipment or the shipment has been incorrectly addressed. It is usually placed in the upper left corner or occasionally on the back.
  3. Valid postage: Each shipment must contain a notice that the postage ( US Postage ) has been paid. In most cases this is what the stamp represents.
The address is formatted as follows
Line 1: Name of the recipient
Line 2: house number + street or post office box
Line 3: City + state code (according to ISO 3166-2: US or field post code) and ZIP code
John Q. Public
19333 Vallco Parkway
Cupertino, CA 95014-2506

The USPS maintains an online tool for finding the correct zip code.

Post Code


The ZIP code is the United States zip code . This is an originally (1963) 5-digit code, which was later (1983) expanded by 4 digits. Due to the fact that the ZIP code extension has met with resistance from post office customers, the 4-digit addition is no longer required nowadays. Each of the approximately 30,000 post offices has its own number. The lowest number is on the east coast - 01001 for Agawam , Massachusetts - and the highest is on the west - 99950 for Ketchikan , Alaska .


In the United States, the official name for a postman isletter carrier ”.

There are three types of mail carriers: city ​​letter carriers , which are represented by the National Association of letter carriers ; Rural letter carriers , which are represented by the National Rural Letter Carriers' Association , and Highway Contract Route carriers , which are independent contractors.

Postal facilities

A typical post office station in Medina , New York

Each post office writes the respective zip code above or next to the main entrance. Although popularly always post office called, there are different types of USPS postal facilities, including the following:

  • The main post office (formerly General Post Office ) is the primary postal facility in the community.
  • The station or post office station .
  • The branch or post office branch .
  • The bulk mail center (BMC) , a hub for bulk mail .
  • The classified unit .
  • The contract postal unit (or CPU ).
  • The community post office (or CPO ).
  • The finance unit , a branch with a counter that accepts letters but does not deliver them.
  • The processing and distribution center ( P&DC , or processing and distribution facility , formerly General Mail Facility ),
  • The international service center (ISC) is a hub for international shipments, of which there is one each in Chicago, New York, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
  • The sectional center facility (SCF) .
  • The auxiliary sorting facility ( ASF ).
  • The remote encoding center ( REC ).

Evolutionary Network Development Program

In 2006 the USPS announced that it would replace the nine existing plant types with five new processing plant types in accordance with the Evolutionary Network Development Program (END):

  • Regional Distribution Centers (RDC) , which process all types of parcels and letters and serve surface transfer centers;
  • Local Processing Centers (LPCs) that sort single letters from the mailing process;
  • Destination Processing Centers (DPC) , sorting the mail for the individual postman;
  • Airport Transfer Centers (ATCs) , transfer point for airmail ;
  • Remote Encoding Centers (REC) .

Automated Postal Centers

An APC kiosk in the main post office of Webster, Texas

In 2004, the USPS began providing the Automated Postal Centers (APC). APCs are machines that are capable of weighing shipments, franking them accordingly and then storing them for later collection. It also sells stamps for domestic and international mail.

In a test phase between August 23, 1989 and May 7, 1990, two Autopost output devices were installed in Kensington and Washington. The devices had built-in scales and a postage calculator, programmed for the domestic rates for letters and for parcels. In addition to the country name and value, the printed ATMs contained a large number of other information.

For priority shipments over 11 ounces and parcels, there was an ATM where instead of the words “USA” the post office code entered by the customer on the screen was printed out both in digits and as a bar code. Most of all printed Autopost ATMs come from the dispatch point, all with the printing date on the first day. Machine stamps were equivalent to the usual postage stamps and were valid throughout the country.

For the Universal Postal Congress in Washington in 1989, two more machines were in use that delivered ATMs with the special location IDs 11 and 12. Letter from the Universal Postal Congress with ATM No.11 and the special advertising field "Developed by Technology Resource Department" for this device.

In 1992 there was another operational test with a total of 30 stamp printers from the manufacturer Gard. The devices were again lavishly equipped with scales and postage calculators, and their appearance was reduced to a minimum. Indication of value in typewriter-like typeface on small horizontally perforated forms, which otherwise only show the small American national coat of arms.

Another experiment with 15 stamp printers from the US manufacturer Unisys with a significantly improved printing mechanism. The new ATM had a different perforation, a different typeface and a different national coat of arms, with plate number A11 on every 24th mark.

Between 1999 and 2001, self-adhesive machine stamps were used in various patterns, the appearance of which was more like postage stamps (with the date and barcode printed).

US Post Service machine stamps.jpg


value Coding
1 POSTNET 1.svg
2 POSTNET 2.svg
3 POSTNET 3.svg
4th POSTNET 4.svg
5 POSTNET 5.svg
6th POSTNET 6.svg
7th POSTNET 7.svg
8th POSTNET 8.svg
9 POSTNET 9.svg
0 POSTNET 0.svg

POSTNET (short for Post al N umeric E ncoding T echnique) is the name of the barcode that the United States Postal Service prints on letters and postcards . The barcode is applied to the mailing in the first letter center passed through. This enables faster machine forwarding and sorting.

The ZIP code or the ZIP + 4 code is given in half and / or full bars. Usually the last two digits of the address or the post office box number are given, often the transition point is also given. The barcode begins and ends with a whole bar and has a check digit after the ZIP code or the transfer point.

There are 4 ways the POSTNET barcode is used:

  • The 5-digit (including check digit) barcode, which only has the basic ZIP code, is known as the A-code. A total of 32 bar code bars.
  • The 6-digit (including check digit) barcode contains the last 2 digits of the ZIP code or the last 4 digits of the ZIP + 4 code. It is referred to as a B-Code with a total of 37 bar code bars.
  • The 9-digit (including check digit) barcode contains the entire ZIP code or the entire ZIP + 4 code. It is referred to as a C code with a total of 52 bar code bars.
  • The 11-digit (including check digit) barcode contains the entire ZIP code or the entire ZIP + 4 code and the transition point. It is known as the DPBC code (Delivery Point Bar Code) with a total of 62 bar code bars. This barcode has been in most use since 2005; it enables the Post Office to sort the items at the transfer point in the correct order.

The POSTNET barcode is gradually being retired, it will be completely replaced by the Intelligent Mail Barcode (IM barcode). The Intelligent Mail Barcode combines all previous barcodes and markings in one barcode. The IM barcode was originally supposed to be introduced at the beginning of May 2011, but the United States Postal Service postponed this, so postal customers are still receiving shipments with the POSTNET barcode since the May 2011 deadline.


In order to encode the ZIP + 4 code 55555-1237 , the check digit 2 is appended so that it is the sequence of numbers 5555512372, which looks like the following as a barcode.


Postal control

The United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), which is a police authority of the USPS, controls the mail . The federal authority was founded in 1772. Its task is to combat and prevent crime in connection with misuse of the postal service, the postal system and the employees. The Washington, DC- based agency has 4,000 employees, including 2,000 investigators. Head of agency is Acting Chief Postal Inspector , since March 2019 Gary R. Barksdale. The current motto is "Preserving the Trust" .

In June 2013, a mass surveillance program launched after the 2001 anthrax attacks , the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking Program, became public . Computers take photos of the exterior of all paper mail that is processed in the United States of America and convert the data into plain text using OCR - around 160 billion items in 2012. This collected information ( metadata ) makes it possible, at the request of law enforcement authorities, to subsequently track postal correspondence.

Vehicle fleet

The USPS operates the largest civil vehicle fleet with 260,000 vehicles. Ordinary USPS vehicles do not have license plates if they are used domestically, but visibly have internal numbers.

In some areas, right-hand drive vehicles are also used in order to be able to put mail directly from the car window into the mailbox.

See also

Web links

Commons : United States Postal Service  - collection of pictures, videos, and audio files
Commons : The Post Office in the United States  - collection of pictures, videos, and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Josh Dawsey, Lisa Rein and Jacob Bogage: Top Republican fundraiser and Trump ally named postmaster general, giving new president influence over Postal Service. The Washington Post , May 7, 2020, accessed July 15, 2020 .
  2. Postal Facts 2012. (PDF; 6.1 MB) United States Postal Service, accessed February 20, 2013 .
  3. Form 10-K 2012. (PDF; 1.5 MB) United States Postal Service, accessed February 20, 2013 .
  4. The Hutchinson Letters . Smithsonian Institution .
  5. ^ Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) . Smithsonian Institution.
  6. ^ Postal Reorganization. United States Postal Service, accessed September 7, 2011 .
  7. United States of America. Universal Postal Union, accessed April 21, 2013 .
  8. Senate Hearing: US Post wants the right to mass layoffs. Handelsblatt, accessed on September 6, 2011 .
  9. a b c d USPS - Frequently Asked Questions - Domestic mail estimated delivery times. United States Postal Service, archived from the original on September 1, 2011 ; Retrieved September 5, 2011 .
  10. a b c d e f g Postage Price Calculator. United States Postal Service, accessed September 5, 2011 .
  11. ^ A Customer's Guide to Mailing. (PDF; 2.8 MB) United States Postal Service, accessed September 5, 2011 .
  12. ZIP Code ™ Lookup | USPS. Retrieved September 9, 2019 .
  13. ^ Postal Terms. United States Postal Service, accessed September 5, 2011 .
  14. ^ Equipment scheduling at mail processing and distribution centers. Archived from the original on March 11, 2008 ; accessed on April 8, 2020 .
  15. USPS Postal News Release No. 08-063. United States Postal Service, accessed September 1, 2009 .
  16. ^ Postal Mail Processing Plant Consolidation Information. Postal Reporter, accessed September 5, 2011 .
  17. USPS Plans for Stamp Vending Machines as Automated Postal Centers Are Deployed. Postal Reporter, accessed September 5, 2011 .
  18. United States Postal Service: Domestic Mail Manual - 708.4 Technical Specifications . (American English, PDF file; 0.6 MB [accessed September 6, 2011]).
  19. Postal Service Relaxes Upcoming Requirements for Automation Prices. United States Postal Service, accessed September 6, 2011 .
  20. ^ About the Chief Postal Inspector. United States Postal Inspection Service, accessed September 5, 2011 .
  21. ^ Ron Nixon: US Postal Service Logging All Mail for Law Enforcement. New York Times, July 3, 2013, accessed October 7, 2014 .