Rural delivery in the winter | Prairie Public Broadcasting

Rural delivery in the winter

Jan 12, 2018


The United States Postal Service has a long history stretching back over two centuries, to when Benjamin Franklin became the first Postmaster General. By 1863, door-to-door delivery was established where the income could cover the cost; prior to that, a person had to pick up their mail at the post office.

That remained the case for folks in rural areas. But by 1902, after some experimentation and delays, the Post Office had finally extended rural delivery across the United States.

North Dakota's first rural routes were started in 1898, involving addresses for Wahpeton, Saint Thomas, and Mayville. Bottineau came along in 1900, followed by Kindred in 1901, and Gardner in 1902. Rural delivery allowed residents to receive their mail without running to the nearest post office, and rural carriers also sold stamps and money orders, and could facilitate registered letters.

The extremes of winter brought challenges. On this date in 1905, the Hope Pioneer published a notice that read: "By many it is now realized how much more difficult and trying the work of the rural letter carrier is made by having to stop at a number of places on his route, delaying and benumbing his hands with the cold at every such place, to gather up pennies from the box, left there in place of stamps for outgoing mail. Attention is called by them to this in the following: Winter means cold weather. Your mail carrier is out in the cold from five to seven hours, riding from twenty to thirty miles a day, and is in need of your consideration. With cold fingers it is hard to pick pennies out of your box. Kindly buy a supply of stamps and keep on hand to affix to your letters when mailed. Select, as far as you can, pleasant days for your money orders and registered letters, and also for the buying of your stamps. Bear in mind these suggestions and you will greatly oblige the carrier."

Dakota Datebook by Sarah Walker


The Hope Pioneer, january 12, 1905, p1