The year of 1915 was a banner year for mailing children.
November 7, 2015 1:29 PM   Subscribe

On January 27, 1913 Mr. & Mrs. J.W. Savis of Pine Hollow, PA entrusted their daughter to rural carrier James Byerly out of Sharpsville, PA. He delivered her safely that afternoon to relatives in Clay Hollow. It cost 45 cents to send their daughter. For the first few years of the U.S. Parcel Post it was legal to mail children, as long as they were under 50 pounds. [SLPDF]
posted by gottabefunky (30 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you're looking for a similar web article in place of/addition to the PDF, here's one from The Smithsonian's National Postal Museum Blog, titled Very Special Deliveries.

And for reference, Bureau of Labor Statistics' CPI Inflation Calculator says $0.15 in 1913 has the same buying power as $3.61 in 2015, which was the price to ship a child a mile, though it was a whopping $50 ($1,201.74 in 2015 dollars) to insure that child.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:42 PM on November 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm currently working on connecting my gmail account to a standard Federation Transporter in order to bring this practice into the digital age. To-date my efforts have been unsuccessful and, shall we say, messy.

(and, filthy light thief, I read that article as well and interpreted the insurance bit as $50 being the value the child was insured for, not the cost of the insurance).
posted by HuronBob at 1:50 PM on November 7, 2015


This is why mail chutes in the post below get clogged.
posted by nathan_teske at 1:54 PM on November 7, 2015 [45 favorites]


Then it struck him: he didn't have enough money to go to Wisconsin in the accepted fashion, true, but why not mail himself? It was absurdly simple. He would ship himself parcel post special delivery!
posted by Fuzzypumper at 1:57 PM on November 7, 2015 [17 favorites]


Parcel Post was revolutionary and tranformative for rural America. It dramatically improved selection and lowered prices (and was hell on local merchants). Sears and Ward's were the Amazons of that time making the most of it. It's sad what they have come to.
posted by Bee'sWing at 2:02 PM on November 7, 2015 [11 favorites]


In the case of the quoted text, I'm curious what the distances involved were like and the logistics of this.

It sounds like the postman transferred the girl door to door, on the same day? Is this like an early form of rideshare ("We'll pay you 45 cents if you let little Cindy Lou ride along all the way to Clay Hollow")?

It definitely doesn't sound like the modern day concept of mail delivery where postal workers pick up the mail at Point A, drop it off at a central staging point/post office, and then it likely goes out to another post office, and onward to Point B. Generally over the course of several days.

I can see it being totally normal to "mail" a person when "mail" just means getting a ride in the mail wagon. In fact it seems sort of odd that it would have been limited to children under 50 pounds. Is the idea that, in the same circumstances, an adult/bigger kid would just travel that distance under their own steam?

I tried looking up distances between Pine Hollow, Sharpsville, and Clay Hollow, but the former and latter seem not to exist. (There's a Clay Hollow about 300 miles away in West Virginia, but that doesn't seem feasible if the time frame is "later that afternoon" and it's a horse-drawn conveyance.)
posted by Sara C. at 2:18 PM on November 7, 2015


This did not happen. Those are joke photographs. Oh sure occasionally a good humored postal worker would take a kid along on his route to the RR station of the next town over or whatever--but people were not "mailing" their children. See FunkyLightThief's first link.
posted by LarryC at 2:25 PM on November 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is why mail chutes in the post below get clogged.

I have no idea how these people got their children wedged into the mail chutes, or why.
posted by Pink Frost at 2:47 PM on November 7, 2015 [10 favorites]


I live near the town where they invented mail-order baby chicks. Which was apparently a really hard sell at first, but is now bizarrely routine.
posted by SMPA at 2:53 PM on November 7, 2015 [5 favorites]




it was a whopping $50 ($1,201.74 in 2015 dollars) to insure that child

I thought it was saying they had insured the child for a value of $50 if ..uh, lost? Not that the insurance cost $50.


. This did not happen. Those are joke photographs.

It does say that the photos are jokes in the article in the FPP. But it also seems to have some stories of real instances as well. Do you have some kind of evidence that those aren't real?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 3:11 PM on November 7, 2015 [2 favorites]




The real problem is getting the children through the sorting machine, especially if they are at all creased.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:51 PM on November 7, 2015 [14 favorites]


Barbaric. Nowadays we deliver children by drone.
posted by um at 4:04 PM on November 7, 2015 [10 favorites]


So keeping your small children sickly was a benefit until they hit the 50lb. mark then it was more economical to bulk them up enough to work in the mills?
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:32 PM on November 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Barbaric. Nowadays we deliver children by drone.

Sadly, that is a true statement. For some values of "deliver," of course.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:33 PM on November 7, 2015 [7 favorites]


They'd have the kids wear wetsuits and go in the sauna to sweat them down to bantamweight.
posted by XMLicious at 4:46 PM on November 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


Presumably required postage and address label must be affixed to the child's forehead?
posted by Hairy Lobster at 4:54 PM on November 7, 2015


Sara C.: In the case of the quoted text, I'm curious what the distances involved were like and the logistics of this.

As noted by others, this was really just family and friends taking a kid (under 50 lb) for some distance. In the OP quote, it was likely around 3 miles, given that the article references $0.15 per mile and the trip cost the family $0.45.

Also, this humorous (and misleading) image of a postman with a small child circulated around previously (and is apparently one of the more popular images from Smithsonian.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:57 PM on November 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


After parcel post service was introduced in 1913, at least two children were sent by the service. With stamps attached to their clothing, the children rode with railway and city carriers to their destination. The Postmaster General quickly issued a regulation forbidding the sending of children in the mail after hearing of those examples.

The Postmaster General also liked blurting out punchlines before the person telling the joke got there, popping the balloons of wee tykes, and punching clowns at birthday parties. The Postmaster General was a busybody and a killjoy (although the punching clowns thing made up for a lot).
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:10 PM on November 7, 2015 [2 favorites]


You'd be bitter too if you had to personally approve each and every mailbox in the United States.
posted by dr_dank at 6:08 PM on November 7, 2015 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: where filthy light thief can get funky.
posted by datawrangler at 6:10 PM on November 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have few concerns about getting funky in most situations, but I do like the handle "funky light thief."
posted by filthy light thief at 7:11 PM on November 7, 2015 [3 favorites]


Pink Frost: I have no idea how these people got their children wedged into the mail chutes, or why.

You lack imagination.
How: coercion and/or brute force ("there's a bag of hard candy at the bottom of that chute" and some fireplace tongs).
Why: because you are tired of their little eyes staring at you - you can only take so much of "seen and not heard."
posted by filthy light thief at 7:13 PM on November 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


Like the Post Office Bus in rural Scotland, but for children who would now be considered to small to travel alone.
posted by elizilla at 7:52 PM on November 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am delighted that there are now two USPS posts in a row. The mail is awesome.
posted by Ragini at 10:26 PM on November 7, 2015 [4 favorites]


elizilla: Like the Post Office Bus in rural Scotland, but for children who would now be considered to small to travel alone.

What? Thanks, elizilla! This is more real than the USPS's short-lived child delivery service. I love MetaFilter!

How to send yourself around Scotland by Post
ON A LONELY lane a postman pulls up side-by-side with the first vehicle he has encountered all morning. Drivers' windows are wound down and the postman passes a handful of mail to the driver. An amazing coincidence? No, just a routine delivery for postman Hamish McNab in the gorse moors of north-west Scotland.

But in such remote areas, where public transport is sparse at best, the postal service delivers not only mail but also people, both locals and tourists.

Since the first Post Bus trundled off from Llanidloes to Llangurig in 1967, this little-known transport service has grown steadily to over 200 routes nationwide. While coverage remains patchy in England and Wales, the network now extends across most of rural Scotland where, for the tourist, they provide a novel and cost-effective way to get around.
The Wikipedia page on Postbus services notes similar services that run or ran in Austria, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Ireland.

I'm surprised this hasn't been done in more locations.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:12 AM on November 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


It sounds like the postman transferred the girl door to door, on the same day? Is this like an early form of rideshare ("We'll pay you 45 cents if you let little Cindy Lou ride along all the way to Clay Hollow")?

As a teenager I wanted to go visit a friend of mine across town but didn't want to deal with the two buses and hour or so of waiting and walking and sitting involved in getting there. So I called Franco's Pizza at the end of my block and ordered a delivery to his place. I then walked to the corner and explained who I was and asked if I could get a lift with the driver. No problem!
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:23 AM on November 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


i thought they were closing or had closed rural post buses? (old person living in UK who's used them says)
posted by maiamaia at 9:24 AM on November 8, 2015


Mailing May is a great kids picture book about May Pierstorff. It was my son's favorite for about a year when he was five or six. Highly recommended.
posted by alms at 6:39 PM on November 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


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