Shipping children by postal mail: illegal since 1913

From the Smithsonian's Flickr stream of historic, public domain photos, a shot commemorating the end of being able to ship your children by postal mail:

This city letter carrier posed for a humorous photograph with a young boy in his mailbag. After parcel post service was introduced in 1913, at least two children were sent by the service. With stamps attached to their clothing, the children rode with railway and city carriers to their destination. The Postmaster General quickly issued a regulation forbidding the sending of children in the mail after hearing of those examples.
Link (Thanks, Marilyn!)


  1. Now, they have to take the subway on their own or get there via teh internets. Ah, unintended consequences. There oughtta be a law (no relation).

  2. In the beginning of US Air Mail you could fly with the pilot in the second seat (2-seat biplane) for your postage weight in airmail stamps.

    Today there are Rural Star Routes where you can ride along with the post carrier in the truck or car to your destination (if it’s on the route). This takes a long time, but it’s faster than walking.

    Oh! Let’s do the airmail postage calculation:

    Say you weigh 150 pounds, and the first class stamp is now 42 cents: 150 * 16 * .42 = $1,008

    Isn’t that about what you’d pay to just walk up to the airline counter and buy a 1-way ticket leaving right away these days?

  3. Say you weigh 150 pounds, and the first class stamp is now 42 cents: 150 * 16 * .42 = $1,008. Isn’t that about what you’d pay to just walk up to the airline counter and buy a 1-way ticket leaving right away these days?

    I’d sooner do that than put up with TSA security theater.

  4. Of course, that immediately slowed down immigration from Europe, as the common practice at the time was for a couple to come across by steamer then have their children mailed to them once they’d gotten settled.

  5. RG@2: Post buses are still fairly common in the less populated parts of the UK, even in the lower Dales, 30 miles north of Leeds. They will run a delivery route in the morning and a collection route in the afternoon, and can be stopped anywhere on their journey. The post still gets delivered even where regular buses don’t go. I think they charge a fare though, so you can’t put a stamp on your lapel.

  6. Actually, the correct headline should be “Shipping children by postal mail: illegal since 1920“. – At least according to countless websites that are spreading this (unsourced) trivia factoid:

    1920, June 13 – The United States Postal Service rules that children may not be sent via parcel post

    (I haven’t found out whether the no-children rule only applies to living children. I mean, if bulk or weight was an issue you could always split your shipment into several smaller packages for later reassembly…)

    In those 7 years inbetween, children were counted the same as live chickens for the purpose of postage. To this day, the USPS doesn’t mind shipping live poultry or bees, so long as you buy special handling service.

    And then of course there was the man who mailed himself from New York to Texas via air freight in 2003.

  7. I heard a story about a contractor back in the early 1900s calculated it was cheaper to mail bricks, individually, through the USPS — so they did this with several thousand bricks before that was outlawed as well.

  8. Whoo hoo, the bricks-by-mail story was about someone doing construction out in the deep Alaskan boonies, where supplies and mail were shipped upriver by barge. And yes, in that particular instance, the postal charges on individual bricks actually were cheaper than the freighting charges for pallets of bricks.

    (A lot of mail delivery to the Alaskan interior is done at a loss, subsidized by income from the lower 48 high-density deliveries.)

  9. In STEAL THIS BOOK (I think), Abbie Hoffmann suggested taping business reply cards to bricks and dropping them in the mailbox as a way to stick it to the man.

  10. These days I just cram whatever (sheets of tin work well) into business reply envelopes. Oddly enough, I don’t get many of those from the same company twice.

  11. The children’s book “Mailing May” is a great story along these lines. It takes place near my parents home town in Idaho, in 1914. I guess they didn’t get the memo right away.

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