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June 13: Mail the Baby at Once!

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Black and white photo of a mail carrier holding a baby in a mailbag

Mrs. E.M. Pierce was a big-hearted woman living outside of Stanley, North Dakota in 1914. She learned of a baby boy who had been abandoned in Grand Forks and made arrangements to adopt him. The question was how to get him to Stanley. But Mrs. Pierce had a solution for that.

She sent instructions to the police matron in charge of the boy. Mrs. Pierce told the matron to put the boy in a basket with two or three bottles of milk and mail him on the early morning train. Mrs. Pierce assured the matron that the rural route mail carrier would meet the train and deliver the child to his new home. She urged the matron to “Be sure to send the baby by the first mail.” Yes, you read that right. The boy would be mailed to Mrs. Pierce.

The United States Postal Service introduced parcel post service in 1913. Before that, anything mailed had to weigh less than four pounds. With parcel post, a package could weigh up to 50 pounds. Enterprising parents quickly figured out that it was less expensive to mail a child than it was to purchase a train ticket.

The first known case of a mailed baby was in 1913 when two parents shipped their ten-pound infant son to visit his grandmother, paying fifteen cents in postage. The following year, a five-year-old girl was mailed to visit her grandmother. She made the trip for 53 cents in postage, riding in the mail car and being delivered by the mail clerk. The practice was so common that the Postmaster General received a letter asking for the “specifications to use in wrapping” so the baby would comply with the regulations.

Mailing a child had an additional advantage for people who lived in rural areas. The mail carrier would meet the train, retrieve the mail, and deliver it. For people living in outlying areas, this was an efficient way to get children to their final destinations. In spite of the financial savings and the convenience, it became apparent that mailing a child did not fall into the category of good ideas.

On this date in 1920, the United States Postal Service officially put an end to the practice.

Dakota Datebook by Carole Butcher


Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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