The secret history of the St. Louis Post Office and its amazing pneumatic tube


18 Responses to “The secret history of the St. Louis Post Office and its amazing pneumatic tube”

  1. jandrese says:

    I assume by “amazing” you mean “amazingly bad”, given the content of the rest of the article.  It sounds like the whole thing was poorly designed, annoying to use, expensive, and shut down fairly quickly.  

    It seems to me that design compromises up front (probably to save cost) ended up leaving them with a system that didn’t have capacity to handle the expected volume nor flexibility to  adapt to user demands. 

  2. The true inspiration for @twitter:disqus 

  3. RedShirt77 says:

    Yeah, earliest version of the internet.

  4. etherist says:

    The post office: it’s just a series of tubes …

  5. hadlockk says:

    No Pneumatic Tube story is complete without a link to the Alameda-Weehawken burrito tunnel story in the comments section: 

  6. Missy Pants says:

    When I worked at Eaton’s in the Toronto Eaton Centre (the last version that turned into a Sears in 2002) and we had to do our nightly cash deposits via pneumatic tube. They wouldn’t let any sales associates know where the cash office was; no one knew where the tubes went, but every morning they’d come back with our float for the day.

    I’m sure they still use the tubes. Why change what ain’t broke.

  7. Jellodyne says:

    Think about what could be done with proper queue buffering and modern routing algorithms.

  8. eldueno says:

    There was a time when tubes were considered to be a future means of transportation of persons. That time not only failed to arrive, but the idea was lost as well.

  9. crushinator says:

    Don’t forget the Manhattan-to-Brooklyn postal pneumatic tube system:
    August 2, 1898
    The New York Times

  10. Susan Carley Oliver says:

    We have a state-of-the-art P-tube system at the hospital where I work in the labs. We are a huge campus, and the lab building is across the street from the main hospital where most of the ORs are located. Every day many specimens are shot up, over, and down into our surgical pathology grossing station, where our faculty have to flash freeze it, micro-slice it, stain it, and assess it within 20 minutes – because the patient is still on the table.

  11. Mark, the first pneumatic tubes in the US were in Philadelphia, starting in 1895. NYC was later, as crushinator points out. I’ve written an article for Cabinet about the Poste Pneumatique ( ), and given some Ignite talks on their history.

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