11 lesser-known USPS facts that will surprise you

July 27, 2023
Minh Mai

Did you know the United States Postal Service (USPS) has a rich history stretching back to the Revolutionary War? 

The USPS was started by Postmaster General Benjamin Franklin in 1775 but didn’t start delivering mail to people's homes until the Civil War era. That's right — before the Civil War, individuals had to pick up their mail at the post office or from a private mail carrier. 

Now the USPS delivers to 160 million homes and businesses every day, employing over 600,000 people nationwide. Want to learn more? Here are 11 lesser-known U.S. Postal Service facts that may surprise you!

1. The USPS has a force called the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS)

The United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) is a federal law enforcement agency within the USPS. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service protects the postal service and its customers from fraud, theft, and other related crimes. Founded in 1775, they are the oldest law enforcement agency in the United States.

The USPIS’s mission is to protect postal customers, employees, infrastructure, and revenue. This includes investigating mail-related crimes, such as identity theft, mail fraud, and terrorism. USPIS agents are also responsible for providing security services at postal facilities, and they help prevent the flow of illegal narcotics by intercepting and destroying any packages that contain drugs. 

2. ZIP codes, introduced in 1963, were created by the USPS

The USPS introduced ZIP codes in 1963 to streamline mail delivery and sorting. ZIP stands for Zone Improvement Plan, and the codes consist of five numbers that identify a particular area or geographic region. 

ZIP codes help the USPS sort and deliver mail more efficiently. But now, they’re often used to identify a particular area's demographic or population characteristics as well. This can be useful for marketing, as businesses can target their mailings to specific ZIP codes to reach potential customers.


How do ZIP codes work?

ZIP codes are a key part of the USPS’s mail sorting and delivery system. They are five-digit numbers that represent specific geographical areas in the U.S. and consist of three parts. 

The first digit represents a particular country region, with certain numbers assigned to states or groups of states. The second and third digits represent a particular group of regional delivery addresses, such as a city or county. The fourth and fifth digits narrow the geographic area down to specific post offices, delivery routes, or a combination of the two.

3. The “United States Postal Service Anthem” exists

The “United States Postal Service Anthem” is a unique song composed by Jack Stamp. It’s an official musical salute to the USPS, its employees, and its role in American life. 

Through the anthem's lyrics, Stamp celebrates the commitment, dedication, and service demonstrated by the USPS for over two centuries. The anthem recognizes the USPS's impact on American history and celebrates the USPS's values of honesty, integrity, and reliability. This anthem is a powerful reminder of how much the USPS has done to support American citizens and their needs over the years. 

4. No matter how difficult, the USPS must deliver to every U.S. address

The USPS must deliver to every U.S. address, no matter how remote, as required by the Universal Service Obligation laws that govern their operations. As a result, the USPS delivers to over 153 million addresses nationwide, including those in the most remote and difficult-to-reach places. 

How do USPS employees deliver to remote locations?

Despite the challenges of delivering to remote or hard-to-reach locations, USPS employees are dedicated to providing mail service to all U.S. addresses. To accomplish this, USPS employees use a variety of strategies, including alternative delivery methods such as curbside mailbox services. 

These services allow postal workers to safely leave packages at the edge of a driveway or in front of a gate. They also may use local post offices near remote areas or coordinate with local organizations such as churches, schools, and government offices for delivery.

In addition, virtual mailbox services like Stable can make it easier for people living in remote locations to receive their mail. With Stable, users can access their mail from any device with an internet connection and manage packages or documents without going to a post office

This makes it easier for people living in remote or rural locations to stay connected and receive their mail. 

5. USPS employees deliver over 400 million pieces of mail daily

Every day, postal employees deliver over 400 million pieces of mail — letters, flats, packages, and bulk mail — around the country. This includes over 162 million pieces of First-Class Mail alone. In addition, USPS delivers to over 180 countries and territories worldwide as part of its Global Express Guaranteed service. In fact, the USPS processes 44% of the world’s mail volume.

To meet this demand, the USPS has developed an incredibly efficient and organized system. They have also invested heavily in automation tools to speed up sorting, tracking, and mail delivery and operate over 34,000 retail locations throughout the US.

6. The USPS played a vital role in the American West expansion

The USPS played a critical role in the expansion and development of the American West during the 19th century. New settlements needed access to supplies, trade goods, and communication, and the USPS met these needs through a network of post offices and mail routes. 

The expansion of the Postal Service enabled settlers to communicate with family and friends back east and receive supplies and news. Mail routes also helped promote trade between the eastern states and the territories out west. 

The USPS was instrumental in connecting the American West with the rest of the United States. Without it, the frontier would have remained isolated and disconnected from the outside world.

7. The first postage stamp, introduced in 1847, featured Benjamin Franklin

The first postage stamp — featuring a portrait of Benjamin Franklin — was issued in 1847. This marked the start of the Postal Service's transition from hand delivery to a postage stamp system, revolutionizing how mail was sent.

Since then, postage stamps have become a part of popular culture, used to commemorate important events and people in history. Some notable figures on postage stamps over the years include:

  • Abraham Lincoln (1866)
  • Neil Armstrong (1969)
  • Rosa Parks (2005)
  • Martin Luther King Jr. (1998)
  • John F. Kennedy (1964)
  • George Washington (1780)
  • Albert Einstein (1966)
  • Jimmy Carter (1981)
  • Babe Ruth (1953)
  • Harriet Tubman (1998)

How does the USPS choose who gets their own postage stamps?

The USPS honors individuals who have made significant contributions to society by featuring them on postage stamps. They consider the individual’s impact, their popularity among U.S. citizens, and how long it has been since a stamp with their likeness was issued.

The process for selecting a person to feature on a stamp is rigorous. It includes researching their life, collecting letters of support from the general public, and completing an application with the USPS Postmaster General's office. After a person is chosen, their likeness is converted to artwork, approved, and printed on stamps.

8. The USPS is one of the biggest employers in the U.S.

The USPS employs more than 600,000 people, including over 97,000 military veterans, making it one of the largest civilian employers in the United States and one of the most popular employers for veterans. 

 But that’s not all. Around 8.4 million other jobs rely on the USPS, and the Postal Service also supports $1.3 trillion in sales revenue and over 8.6% of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

9. The first USPS office was in a tavern in Boston

The original USPS office was founded in Boston in 1775, housed in a tavern owned by the first Postmaster General, Benjamin Franklin. At the time, Franklin was the postmaster of Philadelphia, and he believed that reliable mail delivery was important for maintaining America's independence. 

He saw the potential to create a network of post offices, and thus, the USPS was born. The original tavern office supported two main routes connecting Boston to Philadelphia and New York City. 

The Postal Service quickly expanded to other parts of the country, and by 1789, there were post offices in each of the original 13 colonies. The Post Office Department was authorized by the Second Continental Congress in 1775, after the U.S. Constitution empowered it.

10. USPS mailboxes are federal property

USPS mailboxes are more than just a receptacle for letters. The federal government considers them to be federal property, so tampering with or damaging a mailbox is a federal offense and can carry a fine of up to $250,000 and three years in prison.

The USPS takes mailbox security seriously, and it is a punishable crime to interfere with mail delivery or attempt to steal mail from a mailbox. Placing non-postal materials in USPS mailboxes, such as flyers or political advertisements, is also illegal. 

11. The USPS started the first regular airmail service in 1918

The USPS started the first regular airmail service in 1918, paving the way for faster mail delivery. Before this, a letter could take weeks — sometimes even months — to reach its destination. With the introduction of airmail services, mail delivery times drastically improved.

Airmail services allowed the USPS to expand its reach beyond the continental United States and deliver mail to distant places in a fraction of the time. The USPS was the first to pioneer this new form of mail delivery, revolutionizing how people communicated with one another. It allowed for quicker communication and made it easy to connect with people worldwide. 

Are there any alternatives to USPS?

In recent years, virtual mailboxes have become a popular alternative to the USPS for businesses and individuals. Virtual mailboxes are secure online accounts that allow you to receive, store, and manage physical mail from anywhere in the world. 

Unlike the USPS, virtual mailboxes offer convenience, flexibility, and control over when and where you receive mail.

When you use a virtual mailbox like Stable for business purposes, you can:

  • Receive shipments and mail from any carrier.
  • Scan and securely store physical mail in a digital format.
  • Forward mail to any location you choose.
  • Manage your mailbox on the go with an app.
  • Deposit checks remotely.

Looking for a USPS alternative? Consider Stable

The USPS offers an invaluable service, but alternatives like virtual mailboxes from Stable can provide more convenience and flexibility for businesses and individuals. Stable virtual mailboxes allow you to access your mailbox remotely and manage it on the go while still enjoying the stability of a physical address. 

With features such as automatic mail scanning and forwarding and remote check deposits, Stable is a great alternative to the USPS for businesses looking for a more modern solution that fits their needs. 

If you're interested in exploring an alternative to USPS, create your Stable address today and experience the convenience of a virtual mailbox. 

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