In this electronic age where everyone relies on electronic technology to talk with family, why not try an old-fashioned approach and send a card? And to make a greater impact, let’s make the card you send heart touching!
A Brief History of the Mail System in the USA
Benjamin Franklin was the first postmaster general in the United States. He began in 1775 after appointment by the Second Continental Congress. Mr. Franklin figured out better mail routes which reduced how long it took to deliver letters. The first rate chart was also developed by Mr. Franklin.
While the History Channel says mail was first delivered by riders on horseback, one could argue mail was first delivered by family and friends traveling through a city or a town. As the country expanded westward, stagecoaches began to replace the riders on horseback.
Then as the country developed steam technology, steamboats began to carry mail on the waterways. After the Civil War, the railroad slowly began to handle up to 93% of the non-local mail.
The use of automobiles began in 1899 and slowly the use of horses to carry the mail was phased out. After 1934, less than 2% of urban mail deliveries were done using horses.
Rural areas of the USA finally received regular mail services, to their houses, beginning in the early 1900s.
The United States Postal Service today handles more than 200 billon pieces of mail in a year. As of January 2022, the current price to mail a one-ounce first class letter is $0.58.
The Origins of Mail
While Mr. Franklin was in charge of the mail delivered in 1775, the mail system itself is much older. Some argue it started in Mesopotamia – but the clay tablets seemed more of an invoicing or bill of sale usage. Others may argue the mail system started in Egypt when the rulers sent out edicts and tax collectors with their messages to the people. And some may argue the mail we know today is due to Jean-Jacques Renouard de Villayer when he began a postal service in 1653. Monsieur de Villayer set up mailboxes in Paris, France and delivered letters placed in those mailboxes. This wasn’t just for people looking to send a bill or an edict, this was for the more common man.
As people spread further and further from where they were born and education was an expectation, not a privilege for the ruling class, sending mail back to family and friends became a way of life. How many of you are old enough to remember running to the mailbox after the mailman came through to see if there was a letter from Grandma or a cousin or a sibling away at school?
The Written Decline
The telephone is almost 200 years old and as each household got a telephone and prices dropped, why write a letter when you can call Grandma? Never mind these days you can video chat with Grandma!
But there’s still something about a written card, a written letter. These often turned into cherished keepsakes, especially after the loss of Grandma. A phone call only lasts in your memory, but a letter or card can be reread numerous times.
A letter also acts as a captured moment in time, much like a photograph. Captured in the letter is a reflection of what was occurring for Grandma in that moment…what was concerning you at that age…events that were going on in the world…or at least going on in the family!
And these days, a handwritten letter is almost a secret language as schools stop teaching cursive. (If I write my nephew, I have to print because he can’t read cursive and his teacher has no expectation of him needing to learn cursive. Or even, really, how to print well because he will be using voice-to-text in the future.)
Sending a Card
Yes, sending a handwritten card takes time, but imagine the surprise on Grandma’s face when she opens a piece of mail you took the time to send? Not just a text message? Sending a card conveys you took time out of your busy day because you do care.
Sending a card through the mail (or snail mail) is easier than you think!
1) Buy a card or make your own card.
2) Write a personal note in the card. The personal note can be as simple as “I was thinking of you and saw this card and thought you’d get a laugh out of it. Can you believe I mailed you a note instead of texting?!” Or as complex as what all is happening in your life that you haven’t posted to social media and that they haven’t heard about. Your upcoming trip…the stress you’re under…how your business is going…how the kiddos are driving you crazy…
3) Sign your name.
4) Stick the card in the envelope.
5) Address the envelope and apply the proper postage.
6) Put the sealed envelope in the mailbox.
7) Wait a few days for their reaction.
Yes, you will need to wait a few days. Not everything in life is instantaneous. And the further away they live, the more days you will need to wait for their reaction.
The steps above work for birthday cards, thank you cards (remember to thank people when they give you stuff!), for get well cards, happy anniversary, and so much more.
Building a Deeper Connection
Now that you’ve mailed you card and sent a smile through the mail…maybe the person you’ve mail will send a card or letter back to you. Letter writing is a delayed conversation. You have to be patient and wait for the answer, a continuation. But the wait is worth it.
So send a card today!