July 26, 1775 marks the official date the United States established their own postal service separate from the crown. One of many first steps for America’s Independence. The Continental Congress appointed Benjamin Franklin as the first official Postmaster General. He established the route from Maine to Florida and then called as it is today Route 1.
When George Washington died on December 14, 1799 it took seven days to reach everyone in our country. By then his funeral had already taken place on December 18th in Mount Vernon Virginia and Mrs. Washington had burned all the letters of correspondence between the two of them.
In colonial days correspondence was dependent on friends, family and Native Americans to deliver your written words. That was in America, now some correspondence had to be delivered by ship to another country. Probably why families lived together during their lifetime, otherwise how the heck would you know what was going on?
When William Bradford anchored the Mayflower in Massachusetts and his wife died from drowning he “immediately” sent a proposal of marriage to widow Alice Carpenter Southworth in England. There was a whole lot of time to pass waiting to find out if your to be wife accepted and arrived.
Imagine the time frame it took for our country to learn who was the next president? Or the night Lincoln was shot? Think about how families continued on with their day to day lives only to gasp in disbelief days or even weeks later?
Today we have instant messaging, email and of course Facebook and Twitter to know instantly what happened all over the world. I read on twitter that Amy Winehouse died before the news even announced her passing.
The publishing world is taunted as one big mess with e-books taking over the mainstream. But let us take into account, although the written word is instant, having a physical device to read it on is still a service needed by truck or air. We are not Jennie or Bewitch to nod and twitch the product to appear. So not everything is instant access. As Literary Agent Jennifer Weltz of Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency stated in her keynote speech at the Historical Novel Society Conference. “More people are reading because now they can read a book on their blackberry, iPhone, and e-reading devices.”
Imagine how people rallied over the creation of the Postal Service in 1775. Now they had a dependable service to deliver the written word.
In my WIP novel Masque of the Revolution, Anella Bradford is a Culper Ring Spy who has been reactivated after the war. It took the messenger near a week to deliver the news to her. By then her asset could have been killed and she wouldn’t have a clue why. Let’s take a comical note on this. Anella is attending the funeral of someone she knows and the messenger shows up to inform her she was supposed to protect them? She responds “Yeah about that.”
The Postal Service having it’s celebratory days and near non-existence days of today, take a moment to thank our founding fathers of our great country for coming up with idea to begin with. When you are standing in line complaining how much of your day you have to devote to getting happy gifts to your loved ones in two days or less, remember the early days when you had to organize this affair MONTHS in advance.
Happy Writings and Reading
Teresa L. Watts