Manual mail-sorting at the turn of the 20th century

I can only hope they whistled the same jaunty tunes as their Ghanian counterparts while sorting the mail in Chaplainesque ballet.

These Library of Congress clips from 1903 look like a time-motion study straight out of the Cheaper by the Dozen playbook, waiting for someone with a green eyeshade to come along and refactor the workflow. That clip with the guy dumping more letters on the worksurface as the sorters try to uncover it -- it's postal Sisyphus.

It makes me wonder if Pterry was watching videos like these when he was plotting out Going Postal.

That last video was in focus enough that I became curious about those semicircular racks, which were probably made out of either iron or dinosaur bones. Alas, all I could find was a patent application for a later (1910) design that apparently improved on the design of the one we saw in the videos. Near as I can tell from the language in the application, the chief improvement seems to be that these can be broken down.p

How They Sorted Mail in 1903
[Rain Noe/Core 77]


(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)