Ben Franklin became the first postmaster general in 1775. Under Franklin, delivery time for mail was cut in half. He’s credited with great improvement.
Franklin established several notable improvements to postal service while he was serving as Joint Postmaster General for the Crown. He began by making a tour of all the major postal offices in the colonies to inspect their operations and to identify ways of improving service. Under Franklin, routes were surveyed, milestones were placed on the main roads, and better, more direct routes were set up between the colonies. Franklin also established faster postal service between Philadelphia and New York by having the weekly mail wagon travel at night as well as during the day.
As Postmaster of Philadelphia, Franklin was able to increase the circulation of his Pennsylvania Gazette, as the position allowed him to easily deliver his newspaper via the city’s postal service. (The previous postmaster of Philadelphia was also a publisher and a competitor of Franklin.)
While serving the Crown, Franklin also instituted the first rate chart to be used by postmasters. The postal rates were based on distance and weight and standardized throughout the system. Franklin served as Joint Postmaster General for the Crown until he was dismissed in 1774 due to his vocal support of independence for the colonies. However, Franklin left a legacy of postal roads stretching from Maine to Florida, regular mail service between the colonies and England, and a system for regulating and auditing post offices.
The following year, 1775, Franklin was appointed by the Continental Congress as its first Postmaster General, a position he served in until late in 1776 when Franklin was called upon to serve his country in other ways.
- Read the paragraph above and ask students to tell you key words. Some key words might include: Franklin, Milestones, Direct Routes, Crown (who was this? a: King George III), Postal, Postmaster, Postal Roads, Continental Congress. Ask students to write three terms in the box (red arrow).
- Ask students to draw a picture of a postal route before Ben Franklin organized the routes and added milestones and after (purple arrow).
- EHA Page for Benjamin Franklin
- Pencils and pens
- Ask students to write their name at the top of their EHA Page.
- Read to your class or choose older students to read the first paragraph.
- Why was it important to tour the facilities?
- What do you think he learned by touring the post offices instead of writing letters or depending on other’s reports?
- Surveying routes sounds like something that should have been obvious when starting the postal service, but it had not been done. Many times the great innovations are those that are the most obvious, but no one has thought of or implemented them yet. Ask your students to name a few improvements that could be made around them.
- Ask your students to tell you the state of their pen pal.
- Ask students to draw lines from their state to the state or town of the recipient of their letter.
- Read Section THREE to your students.
- Read Silence Dogood’s letter below. Use an “old lady” voice. Stop to explain parts as needed. Shorten this for our little ones if need-be.
- Ask students to take out their envelopes and letters.
- Have a fun discussion on what the students could write. It should be funny, perhaps an explanation of where they live or their “harsh” conditions at home; i.e. dish washing, laundry…
- Explain the importance of addressing letters properly.
- Letters should be addressed in pen.
- Affix envelopes. Collect the letters and mail later.
June 11, 1722 • Silence Dogood #6
Quem Dies videt veniens Superbum, Hunc Dies vidit fugiens jacentem. Seneca.
To the Author of the New-England Courant. [No. VI.
Among the many reigning Vices of the Town which may at any Time come under my Consideration and Reprehension, there is none which I am more inclin’d to expose than that of Pride. It is acknowledg’d by all to be a Vice the most hateful to God and Man. Even those who nourish it in themselves, hate to see it in others. The proud Man aspires after Nothing less than an unlimited Superiority over his Fellow-Creatures. He has made himself a King in Soliloquy; fancies himself conquering the World; and the Inhabitants thereof consulting on proper Methods to acknowledge his Merit. I speak it to my Shame, I my self was a Queen from the Fourteenth to the Eighteenth Year of my Age, and govern’d the World all the Time of my being govern’d by my Master. But this speculative Pride may be the Subject of another Letter: I shall at present confine my Thoughts to what we call Pride of Apparel. This Sort of Pride has been growing upon us ever since we parted with our Homespun Cloaths for Fourteen Penny Stuffs, &c. And the Pride of Apparel has begot and nourish’d in us a Pride of Heart, which portends the Ruin of Church and State. Pride goeth before Destruction, and a haughty Spirit before a Fall: And I remember my late Reverend Husband would often say upon this Text, That a Fall was the natural Consequence, as well as Punishment of Pride. Daily Experience is sufficient to evince the Truth of this Observation. Persons of small Fortune under the Dominion of this Vice, seldom consider their Inability to maintain themselves in it, but strive to imitate their Superiors in Estate, or Equals in Folly, until one Misfortune comes upon the Neck of another, and every Step they take is a Step backwards. By striving to appear rich they become really poor, and deprive themselves of that Pity and Charity which is due to the humble poor Man, who is made so more immediately by Providence.
This Pride of Apparel will appear the more foolish, if we consider, that those airy Mortals, who have no other Way of making themselves considerable but by gorgeous Apparel, draw after them Crowds of Imitators, who hate each other while they endeavour after a Similitude of Manners. They destroy by Example, and envy one another’s Destruction.
I cannot dismiss this Subject without some Observations on a particular Fashion now reigning among my own Sex, the most immodest and inconvenient of any the Art of Woman has invented, namely, that of Hoop-Petticoats. By these they are incommoded in their General and Particular Calling, and therefore they cannot answer the Ends of either necessary or ornamental Apparel. These monstrous topsy-turvy Mortar-Pieces, are neither fit for the Church, the Hall, or the Kitchen; and if a Number of them were well mounted on Noddles-Island, they would look more like Engines of War for bombarding the Town, than Ornaments of the Fair Sex. An honest Neighbour of mine, happening to be in Town some time since on a publick Day, inform’d me, that he saw four Gentlewomen with their Hoops half mounted in a Balcony, as they withdrew to the Wall, to the great Terror of the Militia, who (he thinks) might attribute their irregular Volleys to the formidable Appearance of the Ladies Petticoats.
I assure you, Sir, I have but little Hopes of perswading my Sex, by this Letter, utterly to relinquish the extravagant Foolery, and Indication of Immodesty, in this monstrous Garb of their’s; but I would at least desire them to lessen the Circumference of their Hoops, and leave it with them to consider, Whether they, who pay no Rates or Taxes, ought to take up more Room in the King’s High-Way, than the Men, who yearly contribute to the Support of the Government. I am, Sir, Your Humble Servant,
Videos if there is time.