Mailbox History

Updated on December 21, 2021

The mailbox, like everything else, once invented by man, has its history of appearance. Just a few centuries ago, a mailbox in a public place was used for these purposes.

The legacy of the conquerors of the seas

Navigators were the first to apply this approach. In addition, people used systems resembling a hiding-place in some sense (only the sender and recipient of the message knew about the location). The development of mail delivery was facilitated by the discovery and development of North America. The ship captains going to the United States transferred parcels and letters for 1 penny. Large hotels collected these shipments, and on the other side of the world, other inns received them (in fact, they were prototypes of modern post offices).

There is also a case in history when, after a shipwreck at the Cape of Good Hope, the survivors nailed a shoe to a tree and put a letter describing the events there. After a while, compatriots (Portuguese) found the message and built a chapel in memory of those who died. And, later, there was a residential settlement formed around it.

The official prototype of the familiar mailbox

Officially, the first street mailbox was patented in New York in 1858. But prototypes existed much earlier. Navigators used large boulders with crevices for these purposes (they put the letters there). The Cape Town Museum keeps a similar device.

Parisian Tricks

In Paris, letterboxes were also used, in which, in addition to the shipment itself, it was necessary to put a delivery fee. Such a system has not caught on in the French capital.

Courier service in the Middle Ages

The first analogs of couriers in Austria existed already in the XVIII century. Their operating system was honed and improved by introducing innovations that accelerated the delivery processes. In 1875, in Vienna, for the convenience of couriers, there was a whole network of mailboxes enveloping the city like a spider’s web.

And how about the Russians?

As for Russia, the Russian Empire officially introduced the first mailboxes in 1848. At first, they were made of wood.

In 1928 in the USSR, mailboxes started appearing in trams.

The city of Yekaterinburg has the only mailbox museum in Russia, which contains actual mailboxes from different countries.

Not flawless Germany

Until the beginning of the XIX century, Berlin had only one post office from which you could send a message. Because of this, huge queues accumulated in the metropolis, in which sometimes people stayed up to 3 days. Half a century later, they introduced a network of mailboxes. But it took a long time for poorly educated Germans to get used to the innovation because they were afraid to trust letters to an inanimate object.

Prototypes of parcel lockers of the beginning of the XX century

To quickly send messages in England at the beginning of the XX century, the so-called express devices were installed. The sender dropped money and a letter into the machine and twitched a specific lever to call the courier.

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