Did you know that the US Postal Service does way more than just deliver your mail and parcels? While most people never think twice when they see their local letter carrier or one of those iconic red, white, and blue trucks, our country’s social and economic standing simply wouldn’t be the same without the Postal Service. Let’s look at four big ways that USPS helped shape America into the country it is today!
Nationwide Infrastructure Development
First and foremost, USPS was one of the driving forces of our country’s infrastructure expansion at the turn of the 20th century. USPS’ ability to deliver mail to every American’s home led to massive road building, which allowed people to fan out and settle across the nation. In addition, postal contracts allocated money to fund the construction of transcontinental railways. Without these postal contracts at that time, railway construction would have been economically unstable for America. While our nation’s infrastructure is now pretty much all developed, postal contracts still usher in enormous economic benefits. In fact, USPS paid out $15.9 billion in postal contracts during 2018! This places the Postal Service at the center of a trillion-dollar industry that employs an estimated 7.5 million people!
The Birth of Commercial Aviation
It’s hard to believe it in the age we live in, but there once was a time when the skies weren’t peppered with airplanes. In the early 20th century, most people didn’t see the obvious benefits to commercial aviation…including those in the US Government. According to a report detailing USPS’ contributions to national infrastructure, USPS asked Congress for money to fund air mail beginning in 1912. However, Congress refused for years. The Government finally gave in, and in 1918, allocated $100,000 to establish the first air mail route between Washington and New York. Air Mail led to the creation of airfields, towers, beacons, and runways all across America. In 1925, Congress passed the Kelly Act. This legislation was meant to “encourage commercial aviation and to authorize the Postmaster General to contract for mail service.”
The commercial air industry was largely dependent on US Mail in the early days, but the Postmaster General at the time advocated for larger planes and passenger travel. He was one of the few with the foresight to see the potential benefits of commercial aviation…and he was right. Without USPS, the aviation industry as we know it might have turned out very differently! Here’s another fun fact: one of the first Air Mail pilots even went on to become quite famous. You may have heard of him. His name was Charles Lindbergh.
Upward Economic Mobility for Black Workers
The Postal Service has also long been responsible for ushering in upward social mobility. The early to mid-20th century was a tumultuous time for all people of color in America, when racism and discrimination ran rampant. It was a dark period in our nation’s history, and black people inarguably suffered the most. In addition to not being able to eat in certain restaurants, stay in certain hotels and more, black workers weren’t given access to the same employment opportunities and wages as their white counterparts. However, USPS didn’t follow along with the tide. In the 1920’s, black people actually accounted for between 15 and 30 percent of all postal employees! The statistics speak for themselves. USPS was one of our country’s foremost incubators of the black middle class, even before the Civil Rights movement. If that doesn’t deserve a round of applause, we don’t know what does.
The Success of eCommerce
Last but not least, let’s not forget about the Postal Service’s impact on eCommerce! At its core, the foundation of eCommerce is built on two things: the Internet, and a reliable parcel delivery network. Due to USPS’ unparalleled network and ability to deliver to every single residential address in America, eCommerce has thrived. In fact, eCommerce accounted for 51.9% of all global retail sales growth in 2018, with no signs of slowing down! Most eCommerce businesses choose the US Postal Service not just because it allows them to reach their customers anywhere in the nation (or the world). With USPS, small business owners also enjoy the best mix of affordable rates and fast delivery, and this is crucial for any online retail operation. Without USPS, our nation simply wouldn’t be experiencing the eCommerce boom we currently find ourselves in.