On this 50th anniversary for the USPS, mail a letter to a friend

'Best Advice Show' breaks down history involved

Servicemen fill in for striking postal workers at a General Post Office on March 24, 1970. Regular Army troops stand beside mail trucks after arriving at the General Post Office for duty. (Bettmann, Getty Images)

Fifty years ago, the former Post Office Department changed over and became the United States Postal Service. And in case you’re thinking “yawn,” just wait -- there’s actually a cool little history lesson here.

We’ll start with this: Did you realize the U.S. Postal Service, as we know it now, has only been around since 1970?

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Here’s some back story, which Zak Rosen, host and creator of “The Best Advice Show,” delved into on Wednesday’s episode: Around this time, roughly 50 years ago, U.S. postal workers were exhausted: overworked, underpaid and hungry. But they had no negotiating power. Energized by the Civil Rights Movement, postal workers in New York went on strike, and the movement eventually swelled across the country. More than 200,000 postal workers refused to deliver the mail unless things changed, and the situation turned into the largest wildcat strike in U.S. history.

All of this pressure led to the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, which is when the Post Office Department turned into the USPS, guaranteeing collective bargaining rights for its workers. The act only became official July 1, 1971.

As the Postal Service explains it: “The Post Office Department became an independent establishment of the executive branch of the U.S. government on that date. A postal career service was established and political appointments to Postal Service jobs were prohibited -- a framework that still stands today.”

Fun fact: July 1 is the anniversary of many other “firsts” for the Postal Service, as well, including:

  • July 1, 1847: The Post Office Department issued its first postage stamps. Previously, letters were taken to a Post Office, where employees would note the postage due (or paid) in the upper right corner.
  • July 1, 1963: The ZIP Code launched.

And there you have it.

Julie Shapiro -- Wednesday’s podcast guest; also a person who loves to write and receive letters -- wanted to encourage people to send more mail.

“It’s remarkable to me that you can spend even under a dollar and send anything you want anywhere in this country,” Shapiro said. “... People grumble about stamps going up, but that is a miracle.”

Of course, it depends what you’re sending and to where it’s going, but her point remains.

Considering where the U.S. Postal Service stands financially, perhaps we do have to consider, what if the mail goes away someday?

“We may as well send a lot more,” Shapiro said.

Listen to the episode, above, to hear more about the history involved, or hear from Shapiro, who broke down what’s so special about receiving mail, anyway, and had a tip for parents about how to encourage kids to get into the snail mail process, as well.

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