Neither Snow Nor Rain……The US Postal Service
“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds’. Herodotus
I grew up with this quote. It summons up visions of brave postal workers trudging through inclement weather conditions. For more than a century, it’s been synonymous with the tireless work the postal service does to make sure you get your junk mail, magazines, and birthday cards on time.
This quote was inscribed in the NY Postal Building in Manhattan in 1912. Architect William Mitchell Kendall was a classics scholar in both architecture and words. It comes from Herodotus, Book Eight of the Persian Wars. Herodotus was impressed with the fast travel of the Persian couriers.
When the Constitution established the postmaster-general position, the Founding Fathers were worried about how to get the new nation’s increasing volume of mail delivered. A system had been developed in the colonies, in which merchants, slaves and Native Americans would pass letters and parcels from person to person until they reached their destinations. That soon gave way to mail carriers who traveled via horse and stagecoach and later locomotives and airplanes.
In January 1913, one Ohio couple took advantage of US Postal Service’s new parcel service to make a very special delivery: their infant son. The Beagues paid 15 cents for his stamps and an unknown amount to insure him for $50, then handed him over to the mailman, who dropped the boy off at his grandmother’s house about a mile away. People who mailed their children weren’t handing them over to a stranger. In rural areas, many families knew their mailman quite well.
It has always been a system of trust. Today, though email and Amazon have replaced a lot of their job, it is still our most trusted organization.
The 2020 election will definitely not look like any other election in American history. A record number of states will allow for expanded early voting options including vote by mail. Although mail balloting, sometimes known as absentee voting, has been around since the Civil War, it has come under new scrutiny this year as Trump has claimed that this type of voting is open to fraud. This is not true.
What we should be worried about, is whether Trump’s Post Office can handle the influx of ballots with all the recent budget cuts. There are tight deadlines on when ballots must be received. Most require the ballot to be postmarked on or before Election Day and they must be received by the Board of Elections within 7 days of the election. The mail is already backlogged. Imagine what it will look like with a hundred million mail in ballots.
Make sure you vote as early as possible. If you can, go to the post office instead of putting it in a blue box (which is as sanitary as anything else you touch), drive to the mail-in location, or drop it off the day of at your polling place. Don’t wait until the last minute. This year we need to work with the Postal Service, like the Founding Fathers did in the colonies to make sure letters got to their recipients. “We are Americans. We get the job done.” (I have to stop rewatching Hamilton).