It was once socially acceptable and surprisingly affordable to send children by parcel post

Between 1913 and 1920, many Americans sent their children around the country by mail. Provided your child weighed less than 50 lbs, you could simply affix stamps to their clothing and send them off with the postmaster. They'd be whisked across the country in the railway system's mail compartments and delivered to relatives safe and sound.

Unsurprisingly, this practice rather alarmed the authorities, who, beginning in 1913, began to issue directives against the practice, starting with postmaster general Burleson's edict of 1914, which was roundly ignored.

The trips themselves were remarkable: six year old Edith Neff was sent by her mother from Pensacola, FL to her father in Charleston, VA for a mere 15 cents. A Maryland carrier transported a baby twelve miles. Children were insured for sums like $50, and were sent to grandparents and parents.

. In the January 17, 1913 issue of the Richmond VA TimesDispatch newspaper the above article appeared detailing an inquiry from the postmaster in Ft. McPherson, Ga asking then Postmaster General Hitchcock for clarification on how to mail a baby or sending children through the mails. A summary of the reply is "As babies, in the opinion of the Postmaster General, do not fall within the category of bees and bugs, the only live things that may be transported by mail, the Postmaster General is apprehensive that he may not be of assistance to his correspondent since no references to human beings is found."

Shortly after the above Idaho trip and the above inquiry, the new Postmaster General Burleson issued directions to the nation’s postmasters that all human beings were barred from being sent via parcel post or any other means within the jurisdiction of the Postal Department. As with many laws, policies or directives, this one was broken a mere month later. Rural carrier B.H. Knepper in Maryland carried a 14-pound baby from its grandmother’s home near Clear Spring to the mother’s house in Indian Springs, twelve miles away.

The Cover Story [Newton Kulp/Central Florida Stamp Club]

Notable Replies

  1. Putting a Snopes link without comment tends to make me think something's being refuted. But in this case... the Snopes piece seems to pretty much confirm what was said in the article. Yes, it did happen (though Snopes implies a lot of the time it was a publicity stunt) and the well known pictures of babies in mail pouches are fake.

  2. Stil.....better than RyanAir.

  3. When is someone going to report on all the child faxing that occurred during the early 80's?

  4. Already a plot point in a popular anime, in which a small child is sent to an illegible address and ends up in the dead letter office. Of course, she later turns out to have superpowers and no panties, because Japan.

  5. You can't live in the pyramids. Everyone knows they're full of grain.

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