USPS logo LINK — USPS employee news Printable

Mailbox milestones

Rural boxes have come a long way

An advertisement for an early 1900s mailbox.
An advertisement for an early 1900s mailbox.

The larger mailboxes being tested in states like Colorado and North Dakota may seem a little unusual, but rural boxes have been evolving from the beginning.

When the Post Office Department started Rural Free Delivery in 1896, customers sometimes made their own mailboxes using materials they found around their homes and farms.

Rural carriers delivered to a variety of homemade, not-always-functional mailboxes. Old coal, syrup and food containers were commonly used as mailboxes mounted onto poles along the roadside.

In 1901, the Post Office Department issued regulations for mailboxes. One rule required mailboxes to be mounted “buggy high” for carriers, a tradition that continues today.

By 1903, more than 40 companies were manufacturing rural delivery mailboxes. The boxes that passed scrutiny were marked “Approved by the Postmaster General” — another tradition that endures.

Post-story highlights