The mail or post is a system for physically transporting postcards,
letters, and parcels. A postal service can be private or public,
though many governments place restrictions on private systems. Since
the mid-19th century, national postal systems have generally been
established as government monopolies with a fee on the article
prepaid. Proof of payment is often in the form of adhesive postage
stamps, but postage meters are also used for bulk mailing. Modern
private postal systems are typically distinguished from national
postal agencies by the names "courier" or "delivery service".
Postal authorities often have functions other than transporting
letters. In some countries, a postal, telegraph and telephone (PTT)
service oversees the postal system, in addition to telephone and
telegraph systems. Some countries' postal systems allow for savings
accounts and handle applications for passports.
Universal Postal Union
Universal Postal Union (UPU), established in 1874, includes 192
member countries and sets the rules for international mail exchanges.
2.5 Mongol Empire
2.6 Other systems
2.7 Postal reforms
2.8 Modern transport and technology
3 Modern mail
3.3 Privacy and censorship
3.4 Rise of electronic correspondence
4 Types of mail
4.1.2 Registered and recorded mail
4.1.3 Repositionable notes
4.2 Postal cards and postcards
4.3 Other mail services
5 See also
8 External links
The word mail comes from the
Medieval English word male, referring to
a travelling bag or pack. It was spelled that way until the 17th
century, and is distinct from the word male. The French have a similar
word, malle for a trunk or large box, and mála is the Irish term for
a bag. In the 17th century, the word mail began to appear as a
reference for a bag that contained letters: "bag full of letter"
(1654). Over the next hundred years the word mail began to be applied
strictly to the letters themselves, and the sack as the mailbag. In
the 19th century the British usually referred to mail as being letters
that were being sent abroad (i.e. on a ship), and post as letters that
were for localized delivery; in the UK the
Royal Mail delivers the
post, while in the U.S. the U.S. Postal Service delivers the mail. The
term email (short for "electronic mail") first appeared in the
1970s. The term snail-mail is a retronym to
distinguish it from the quicker email. Various dates have been given
for its first use.
Post is derived from Medieval French poste, which ultimately stems
from the past participle of the Latin verb ponere ("to lay down or
Many early post systems consisted of fixed courier routes. Here, a
post house on a postal route in the 19th century Finland
The practice of communication by written documents carried by an
intermediary from one person or place to another almost certainly
dates back nearly to the invention of writing. However, development of
formal postal systems occurred much later. The first documented use of
an organized courier service for the diffusion of written documents is
in Egypt, where Pharaohs used couriers for the diffusion of their
decrees in the territory of the State (2400 BC). The earliest
surviving piece of mail is also Egyptian, dating to 255 BC.
Main articles: Royal Road, Chapar-Khaneh, and Angarium
The first credible claim for the development of a real postal system
comes from Ancient Persia, but the point of invention remains in
question. The best documented claim (Xenophon) attributes the
invention to the Persian King
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great (550 BC), who mandated
that every province in his kingdom would organize reception and
delivery of post to each of its citizens. He also negotiated with
neighbouring countries to do the same and had roads built from the
city of Post in Western Iran all the way up to the city of
the East. Other writers credit his successor
Darius I of Persia
Darius I of Persia (521
BC). Other sources claim much earlier dates for an Assyrian postal
system, with credit given to
Hammurabi (1700 BC) and Sargon II (722
Mail may not have been the primary mission of this postal
service, however. The role of the system as an intelligence gathering
apparatus is well documented, and the service was (later) called
angariae, a term that in time came to indicate a tax system. The Old
Testament (Esther, VIII) makes mention of this system: Ahasuerus, king
of Medes, used couriers for communicating his decisions.
The Persian system worked on stations (called Chapar-Khaneh), where
the message carrier (called Chapar) would ride to the next post,
whereupon he would swap his horse with a fresh one, for maximum
performance and delivery speed.
Herodotus described the system in this
way: "It is said that as many days as there are in the whole journey,
so many are the men and horses that stand along the road, each horse
and man at the interval of a day's journey; and these are stayed
neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing
their appointed course with all speed". The verse prominently
features on New York's James Farley Post Office, although it has been
slightly rephrased to Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of
night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their
The use of the
Scinde Dawk adhesive stamps to signify the prepayment
of postage began on 1 July 1852 in the Scinde/
Sindh district, as
part of a comprehensive reform of the district's postal system.
Main article: Postal history of India
The economic growth and political stability under the Mauryan empire
(322–185 BC) saw the development of impressive civil infrastructure
in ancient India. The Mauryans developed early Indian mail service as
well as public wells, rest houses, and other facilities for the common
public. Common chariots called Dagana were sometimes used as mail
chariots in ancient India. Couriers were used militarily by kings
and local rulers to deliver information through runners and other
carriers. The postmaster, the head of the intelligence service, was
responsible for ensuring the maintenance of the courier system.
Couriers were also used to deliver personal letters.
Early stamps of
India were watermarked with an elephant's head.
In South India, the
Wodeyar dynasty (1399—1947) of the Kingdom of
Mysore used mail service for espionage purposes thereby acquiring
knowledge related to matters that took place at great distances.
By the end of the 18th century, the postal system in
India had reached
impressive levels of efficiency. According to British national Thomas
Jodhpur sent daily offerings of fresh
flowers from his capital to Nathadvara (a distance of 320 km),
and they arrived in time for the first religious Darshan at
sunrise. Later this system underwent complete modernization when
British Raj established its full control over India. The Post
Office Act XVII of 1837 provided that the Governor-General of
Council had the exclusive right of conveying letters by post for hire
within the territories of the East
India Company. The mails were
available to certain officials without charge, which became a
controversial privilege as the years passed. On this basis the Indian
Post Office was established on October 1, 1837.
Main article: cursus publicus
The first well-documented postal service was that of Rome. Organized
at the time of
Augustus Caesar (62 BC–AD 14), the service was called
cursus publicus and was provided with light carriages (rhedæ) pulled
by fast horses. By the time of Diocletian, a parallel service was
established with two-wheeled carts (birolæ) pulled by oxen. This
service was reserved for government correspondence. Yet another
service for citizens was later added.[dubious –
Main article: Postal history of China
China 4-cent on 100-dollar silver overprint of 1949
Some Chinese sources claim mail or postal systems dating back to the
Xia or Shang dynasties, which would be the oldest mailing service in
the world. The earliest credible system of couriers was initiated by
Han Dynasty (206 BC–AD 220), who had relay stations every 30 li
along major routes.
Tang dynasty recorded 1,639 posthouses, including maritime
offices, employing around 20,000 people. The system was administered
by the Ministry of War and private correspondence was forbidden from
the network. The Ming network had 1,936 posthouses every 60 li along
major routes, with fresh horses available every 10 li between them.
The postal network was a major part of the corruption in the later
part of the dynasty.[further explanation needed] The
Qing, prior to the foreign occupation and reorganization of the
Imperial Mail, operated 1,785 posthouses throughout their
Main article: Örtöö
Genghis Khan installed an empire-wide messenger and postal station
Örtöö within the Mongol Empire. During the Yuan
Dynasty under Kublai Khan, this system also covered the territory of
China. Postal stations were used not only for the transmission and
delivery of official mail but were also available for traveling
officials, military men, and foreign dignitaries. These stations aided
and facilitated the transport of foreign and domestic tribute
specifically and the conduct of trade in general.
By the end of Kublai Khan's rule, there were more than 1400 postal
China alone, which in turn had at their disposal about
50,000 horses, 1,400 oxen, 6,700 mules, 400 carts, 6,000 boats, more
than 200 dogs, and 1,150 sheep.
The stations were 25 to 65 km (16 to 40 mi) apart and had
reliable attendants working for the mail service. Foreign observers,
such as Marco Polo, have attested to the efficiency of this early
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The Lombard Street General Post Office in London, 1809.
Plate commemorating the launching site of the first airmail carrier
(1870) in Metz, France.
Another important postal service was created in the Islamic world by
the caliph Mu'awiyya; the service was called barid, for the name of
the towers built to protect the roads by which couriers traveled.
Well before the
Middle Ages and during them, homing pigeons were used
for pigeon post, taking advantage of a singular quality of this bird,
which when taken far from its nest is able to find its way home due to
a particularly developed sense of orientation. Messages were then tied
around the legs of the pigeon, which was freed and could reach its
Mail has been transported by quite a few other methods throughout
history, including dogsled, ski, balloon, rocket, mule, pneumatic
tubes, and even submarine.
Charlemagne extended to the whole territory of his empire the system
Franks in northern
Gaul and connected this service with that
of missi dominici.
Many religious orders had a private mail service. Notably, the
Cistercians had one which connected more than 6,000 abbeys,
monasteries, and churches. The best organization, however, was created
by the Knights Templar. The newly instituted universities also had
their private services, starting from
Widespread illiteracy was accommodated through the service of scribes.
Illiterates who needed to communicate dictated their messages to a
scribe, another profession now quite generally disappeared.
Holy Roman Emperor
Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I established a postal system
in the Empire, appointing Franz von Taxis to run it. The Thurn und
Taxis family, then known as Tassis, had operated postal services
between Italian city states from 1290 onward. Following the abolition
of the Empire in 1806, the
Thurn-und-Taxis Post system continued as a
private organisation into the postage stamp era before being absorbed
into the postal system of the new German Empire after 1871.
In 1716 Correos y Telégrafos was established in Spain as public mail
service, available to all citizens. Delivery postmen were first
employed in 1756 and post boxes were installed firstly in 1762.
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Uniform Fourpenny Post
Uniform Fourpenny Post and Uniform Penny Post
In the United Kingdom, prior to 1840 the postal system was expensive,
confusing and seen as corrupt.[by whom?] Letters were paid for by the
recipient rather than the sender, and were charged according to the
distance the letter had travelled and the number of sheets of paper it
contained. Sir Rowland Hill reformed the postal system based on the
concepts of penny postage and pre payment. In his proposal Hill
also called for official pre-printed envelopes and adhesive postage
stamps as alternative ways of getting the sender to pay for the
postage, at a time when prepayment was optional, which led to the
invention of the postage stamp, the Penny Black.
Modern transport and technology
A U.S. railway post office.
The first airmail flight in Germany, 1912.
The postal system was important in the development of modern
transportation. Railways carried railway post offices. During the 20th
century, air mail became the transport of choice for inter-continental
mail. Postmen started to utilize mail trucks. The handling of mail
became increasingly automated.
Internet came to change the conditions for physical mail. Email
(and in recent years social networking sites) became a fierce
competitor to physical mail systems, but online auctions and Internet
shopping opened new business opportunities as people often get items
bought online through the mail.
Automated postal machine.
Modern mail is organized by national and privatized services, which
are reciprocally interconnected by international regulations,
organizations and international agreements. Paper letters and parcels
can be sent to almost any country in the world relatively easily and
Internet has made the process of sending letter-like
messages nearly instantaneous, and in many cases and situations
correspondents use electronic mail where previously they would have
used letters. The volume of paper mail sent through the U.S. Postal
Service has declined by more than 15% since its peak at 213 billion
pieces per annum in 2006.
Postal truck in Brazil
Canada Post van in Toronto
USPS mail truck in the United States.
Zabrze (Poland) - post office.
Students receive mail in an American university
Delivery by bicycle in Germany
Some countries have organized their mail services as public limited
liability corporations without a legal monopoly.
The worldwide postal system comprising the individual national postal
systems of the world's self-governing states is co-ordinated by the
Universal Postal Union, which among other things sets international
postage rates, defines standards for postage stamps and operates the
system of International Reply Coupons.
In most countries a system of codes has been created (referred to as
ZIP codes in the United States, postcodes in the
United Kingdom and
Australia, and postal codes in most other countries), in order to
facilitate the automation of operations. This also includes placing
additional marks on the address portion of the letter or mailed
object, called "bar coding." Bar coding of mail for delivery is
usually expressed either by a series of vertical bars, usually called
POSTNET coding, or a block of dots as a two-dimensional barcode. The
"block of dots" method allows for the encoding of proof of payment of
postage, exact routing for delivery, and other features.
The ordinary mail service was improved in the 20th century with the
use of planes for a quicker delivery. The world's first scheduled
airmail post service took place in the
United Kingdom between the
London suburbs of
Hendon and Windsor, Berkshire, on 9 September
1911. Some methods of airmail proved ineffective, however,
including the United States Postal Service's experiment with rocket
Receipt services were made available in order to grant the sender a
confirmation of effective delivery.
Worldwide, the most common method of prepaying postage is by buying an
adhesive postage stamp to be applied to the envelope before mailing; a
much less common method is to use a postage-prepaid envelope. Franking
is a method of creating postage-prepaid envelopes under licence using
a special machine. They are used by companies with large mail
programs, such as banks and direct mail companies.
In 1998, the U.S. Postal Service authorised the first tests of a
secure system of sending digital franks via the
Internet to be printed
out on a PC printer, obviating the necessity to license a dedicated
franking machine and allowing companies with smaller mail programs to
make use of the option; this was later expanded to test the use of
personalised postage. The service provided by the U.S. Postal Service
in 2003 allows the franks to be printed out on special adhesive-backed
The Penny Black, the world's first postage stamp
In 2004 the
Royal Mail in the
United Kingdom introduced its SmartStamp
Internet-based system, allowing printing on ordinary adhesive labels
or envelopes. Similar systems are being considered by postal
administrations around the world.
When the pre-paid envelope or package is accepted into the mail by an
agent of the postal service, the agent usually indicates by means of a
cancellation that it is no longer valid for pre-payment of postage.
The exceptions are when the agent forgets or neglects to cancel the
mailpiece, for stamps that are pre-cancelled and thus do not require
cancellation and for, in most cases, metered mail. (The "personalised
stamps" authorized by the
USPS and manufactured by Zazzle and other
companies are in fact a form of meter label and thus do not need to be
Privacy and censorship
"The Steamboat" - mobile steaming equipment used by Czech
unsticking of envelopes during correspondence surveillance
Documents should generally not be read by anyone other than the
addressee; for example, in the United States of America it is a
violation of federal law for anyone other than the addressee and the
government to open mail. There are exceptions however: executives
often assign secretaries or assistants the task of handling their
mail; and postcards do not require opening and can be read by anyone.
For mail contained within an envelope, there are legal provisions in
some jurisdictions allowing the recording of identities of sender and
The privacy of correspondence is guaranteed by the constitutions of
Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, and is alluded to in the European
Convention on Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights. The control of the contents inside private citizens' mail
is censorship and concerns social, political, and legal aspects of
civil rights. International mail and packages are subject to customs
control, with the mail and packages are often surveyed and their
contents sometimes are edited out (or even in).
There have been cases over the millennia of governments opening and
copying or photographing the contents of private mail. Subject
to the laws in the relevant jurisdiction, correspondence may be openly
or covertly opened, or the contents determined via some other method,
by the police or other authorities in some cases relating to a
suspected criminal conspiracy, although black chambers (largely in the
past, though there is apparently some continuance of their use today)
opened and open letters extralegally.
The mail service may be allowed to open the mail if neither addressee
nor sender can be located, in order to attempt to locate either. Mail
service may also open the mail to inspect if it contains materials
that are hazardous to transport or violates local laws.
While in most cases mail censorship is exceptional, military mail to
and from soldiers on active deployment is often subject to
surveillance. In active fighting, censorship may be especially strict
to hide tactical secrets, prevent low morale from bad news, etc.
Rise of electronic correspondence
Modern alternatives, such as the telegraph, telephone, telex,
facsimile, and email, have reduced the attractiveness of paper mail
for many applications. These modern alternatives have some advantages:
in addition to their speed, they may be more secure, e.g., because the
general public can not learn the address of the sender or recipient
from the envelope, and occasionally traditional items of mail may fail
to arrive, e.g. due to vandalism to mailboxes, unfriendly pets, and
adverse weather conditions.
Mail carriers due to perceived hazards or
inconveniences, may refuse, officially or otherwise, to deliver mail
to a particular address (for instance, if there is no clear path to
the door or mailbox). On the other hand, traditional mail avoids the
possibility of computer malfunctions and malware, and the recipient
does not need to print it out if they wish to have a paper copy,
though scanning is required to make a digital copy.
Physical mail is still widely used in business and personal
communications for such reasons as legal requirements for signatures,
requirements of etiquette, and the requirement to enclose small
Since the advent of email, which is almost always much faster, the
postal system has come to be referred to in
Internet slang by the
retronym "snail mail". Occasionally, the term "white mail" or "the
PaperNet" has also been used as a neutral term for postal mail.
Mainly during the 20th century, experimentation with hybrid mail has
combined electronic and paper delivery. Electronic mechanisms include
telegram, telex, facsimile (fax), email, and short message service
(SMS). There have been methods which have combined mail and some of
these newer methods, such as INTELPOST, which combined facsimile
transmission with overnight delivery. These vehicles commonly
use a mechanical or electro-mechanical standardised writing (typing),
that on the one hand makes for more efficient communication, while on
the other hand makes impossible characteristics and practices that
traditionally were in conventional mail, such as calligraphy.
This epoch[when?] is undoubtedly mainly dominated by mechanical
writing, with a general use of no more of half a dozen standard
typographic fonts from standard keyboards. However, the increased use
of typewritten or computer-printed letters for personal communication
and the advent of email have sparked renewed interest in calligraphy,
as a letter has become more of a "special event". Long before e-mail
and computer-printed letters, however, decorated envelopes, rubber
stamps and artistamps formed part of the medium of mail art.[citation
In the 2000s (decade) with the advent of eBay and other online auction
sites and online stores, postal services in industrialized nations
have seen a major shift to item shipping. This has been seen as a
boost to the system's usage in the wake of lower paper mail volume due
to the accessibility of e-mail.
Online post offices have emerged to give recipients a means of
receiving traditional correspondence mail in a scanned electronic
Le Philateliste by
François Barraud (1929).
Postage stamps are also object of a particular form of collecting.
Stamp collecting has been a very popular hobby. In some cases, when
demand greatly exceeds supply, their commercial value on this specific
market may become enormously greater than face value, even after use.
For some postal services the sale of stamps to collectors who will
never use them is a significant source of revenue; for example, stamps
from Tokelau, South Georgia & South Sandwich Islands, Tristan da
Cunha, Niuafo´ou and many others.
Stamp collecting is commonly known
as philately, although strictly the latter term refers to the study of
Another form of collecting regards postcards, a document written on a
single robust sheet of paper, usually decorated with photographic
pictures or artistic drawings on one of the sides, and short messages
on a small part of the other side, that also contained the space for
the address. In strict philatelic usage, the postcard is to be
distinguished from the postal card, which has a pre-printed postage on
the card. The fact that this communication is visible by other than
the receiver often causes the messages to be written in jargon.
Letters are often studied as an example of literature, and also in
biography in the case of a famous person. A portion of the New
Testament of the
Bible is composed of the Apostle Paul's epistles to
Christian congregations in various parts of the Roman Empire. See
below for a list of famous letters.
A style of writing, called epistolary, tells a fictional story in the
form of the correspondence between two or more characters.
A makeshift mail method after stranding on a deserted island is a
message in a bottle.
In the United States, private companies, such as FedEx and UPS,
compete with the federal government's United States Postal Service,
particularly in package delivery. Different mailboxes are also
provided for local and express service. (The
USPS has a legal monopoly
on First Class and Standard
Numerous countries, including Sweden (1 January 1993), New
Zealand (1998 and 2003), Germany (2005 and 2007),
Argentina and Chile
opened up the postal services market to new entrants. In the case of
New Zealand Post
New Zealand Post Limited, this included (from 2003) its right to be
the sole New Zealand postal administration member of the Universal
Postal Union, thus the ending of its monopoly on stamps bearing the
name New Zealand.
Types of mail
Pillar boxes on the island of Madeira, Portugal. (1st class mail in
blue and 2nd class in red)
Letter-sized mail constitutes the bulk of the contents sent through
most postal services. These are usually documents printed on A4
(210×297 mm), Letter-sized (8.5×11 inches), or smaller
paper and placed in envelopes.
Handwritten correspondence, while once a major means of communications
between distant people, is now used less frequently
due to the advent of more immediate means of communication, such as
the telephone or e-mail. Traditional letters, however, are often
considered to harken back to a "simpler time" and are still used when
someone wishes to be deliberate and thoughtful about his or her
communication. An example would be a letter of sympathy to a bereaved
Bills and invoices are often sent through the mail, like regular
billing correspondence from utility companies and other service
providers. These letters often contain a self-addressed envelope that
allows the receiver to remit payment back to the company easily. While
still very common, many people now opt to use online bill payment
services, which eliminate the need to receive bills through the mail.
Paperwork for the confirmation of large financial transactions is
often sent through the mail. Many tax documents are as well.
New credit cards and their corresponding personal identification
numbers are sent to their owners through the mail. The card and number
are usually mailed separately several days or weeks apart for security
Bulk mail is mail that is prepared for bulk mailing, often by
presorting, and processing at reduced rates. It is often used in
direct marketing and other advertising mail, although it has other
uses as well. The senders of these messages sometimes purchase lists
of addresses (which are sometimes targeted towards certain
demographics) and then send letters advertising their product or
service to all recipients. Other times, commercial solicitations are
sent by local companies advertising local products, like a restaurant
delivery service advertising to their delivery area or a retail store
sending their weekly advertising circular to a general area. Bulk mail
is also often sent to companies' existing subscriber bases,
advertising new products or services.
First-class mail in the U.S. includes postcards, letters, large
envelopes (flats), and small packages, providing each piece weighs 13
ounces or less. Delivery is given priority over second-class
(newspapers and magazines), third class (bulk advertisements), and
fourth-class mail (books and media packages). First-class mail prices
are based on both the shape and weight of the item being mailed.
Pieces over 13 ounces can be sent as Priority Mail. As of 2011 42%
of first-class mail arrived the next day, 27% in two days, and 31% in
USPS expected that changes to the service in 2012 would
cause about 51% to arrive in two days and most of the rest in
In the UK, First Class letters are simply a priority option over
Second Class, at a slightly higher cost.
Royal Mail aims (but does not
guarantee) to deliver all First Class letters the day after postage.
Registered and recorded mail
Further information: Registered mail
Multi-franked registered mail from Crete using Greek stamps during the
Union with Greece to
Egypt in 1914 showing numbered registration label
Registered mail allows the location and in particular the correct
delivery of a letter to be tracked. It is usually considerably more
expensive than regular mail, and is typically used for valuable items.
Registered mail is constantly tracked through the system.
Recorded mail is handled just like ordinary mail with the exception
that it has to be signed for on receipt. This is useful for legal
documents where proof of delivery is required.
United Kingdom recorded delivery mail (branded as signed for by
the Royal Mail) is covered by The Recorded Delivery Services Act 1962.
Under this legislation any document which its relevant law requires
service by registered post can also be lawfully served by recorded
delivery. This act states that any recorded delivery item is deemed to
have been delivered at the instant it is posted if; (a) the item is
delivered and signed for at the delivery address or handed over and
signed for the at local sorting office (see (c)); (b) delivery is
refused by any person occupying the address or (c) if the item is not
collected from the sorting office within seven days following a non
delivery because there is no reply to the postman and he leaves a
collection card. The sorting office will return the item to the sender
after the seventh day. The sender should retain the item unopened as
proof that the item has been delivered (at least in law if not in
fact). Although much case law has attempted to undermine the
provisions of the Act, it has done little but reinforce the point.
United States Postal Service
United States Postal Service introduced a test allowing
"repositionable notes" (for example, 3M's Post-it notes) to be
attached to the outside of envelopes and bulk mailings, afterwards
extending the test for an unspecified period.
Postal cards and postcards
Postal cards and postcards are small message cards which are sent by
mail unenveloped; the distinction often, though not invariably and
reliably, drawn between them is that "postal cards" are issued by the
postal authority or entity with the "postal indicia" (or "stamp")
preprinted on them, while postcards are privately issued and require
affixing an adhesive stamp (though there have been some cases of a
postal authority's issuing non-stamped postcards). Postcards are often
printed to promote tourism, with pictures of resorts, tourist
attractions or humorous messages on the front and allowing for a short
message from the sender to be written on the back. The postage
required for postcards is generally less than postage required for
standard letters; however, certain technicalities such as their being
oversized or having cut-outs, may result in payment of the
first-class rate being required.
Postcards are also used by magazines for new subscriptions. Inside
many magazines are postage-paid subscription cards that a reader can
fill out and mail back to the publishing company to be billed for a
subscription to the magazine. In this fashion, magazines also use
postcards for other purposes, including reader surveys, contests or
Postcards are sometimes sent by charities to their members with a
message to be signed and sent to a politician (e.g. to promote fair
trade or third world debt cancellation).
This antique "letter-box" style U.S. mailbox is both on display and in
use at the
Smithsonian Institution Building.
Other mail services
Larger envelopes are also sent through the mail. These are often
composed of a stronger material than standard envelopes and are often
used by businesses to transport documents that may not be folded or
damaged, such as legal documents and contracts. Due to their size,
larger envelopes are sometimes charged additional postage.
Packages are often sent through some postal services, usually
requiring additional postage than an average letter or postcard. Many
postal services have limitations as to what a package may or may not
contain, usually placing limits or bans on perishable, hazardous or
flammable materials. Some hazardous materials in limited quantities
may be shipped with appropriate markings and packaging, like an ORM-D
label. Additionally, as a result of terrorism concerns, the U.S.
Postal Service subjects their packages to numerous security tests,
often scanning or x-raying packages for materials that might be found
in biological materials or mail bombs.
Newspapers and magazines are also sent through postal services. Many
magazines are simply placed in the mail normally (but in the U.S.,
they are printed with a special bar code that acts as pre-paid postage
- see POSTNET), but many are now shipped in shrinkwrap to protect the
loose contents of the magazine. During the second half of the 19th
century and the first half of the 20th century, newspapers and
magazines were normally posted using wrappers with a stamp imprint.
Hybrid mail, sometimes referred to as L-mail, is the electronic
lodgement of mail from the mail generator’s computer directly to a
Postal Service provider. The Postal Service provider is then able to
use electronic means to have the mail piece sorted, routed and
physically produced at a site closest to the delivery point. It is a
type of mail growing in popularity with some Post Office operations
and individual businesses venturing into this market. In some
countries, these services are available to print and deliver emails to
those who are unable to receive email, such as the elderly or infirm.
Services provided by
Hybrid mail providers are closely related to that
of mail forwarding service providers.
Universal Postal Union
List of postal entities
Components of a postal system:
^ In Australia, Canada, and the U.S., "mail" is commonly used both for
the postal system and for the letters, postcards, and parcels it
carries; in New Zealand, "post" is more common for the postal system
and "mail" for the material delivered; in the UK, "post" prevails in
both senses. However, the British, American, Australian, and Canadian
national postal services are called, respectively, the "Royal Mail",
the "United States Postal Service", "Australia Post", and "Canada
Post"; in addition, such fixed phrases as "post office" or "junk mail"
are found throughout the English-speaking world.
^ "mail, n.2". Dictionary.com (Unabridged (v 1.1) ed.). 2007. Archived
from the original on 2007-02-19.
^ Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam
Company, 1963, pp 662–3.
^ Universal Postal Union. "History". Accessed 2 October 2013.
^ Herodotus, Herodotus, trans. A.D. Godley, vol. 4, book 8, verse 98,
pp. 96–97 (1924).
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-09-04. Retrieved
2007-07-28. First Issues Collectors Club (retrieved 25
^ Dorn 2006: 145
^ Prasad 2003: 104
^ Mazumdar 1990: 1
^ Aiyangar 2004: 302
^ Peabody 2003: 71
^ Lowe 1951: 134
^ a b Mote 1978: 450
^ "Rowland Hill's Postal Reforms". The British Postal Museum &
Archive. Archived from the original on 24 December 2014. Retrieved 27
report by The Boston Consulting Group on
USPS public website]
^ First Class
Mail Volume, 1926-2010 Archived 2012-01-14 at the
^ Baldwin, N. C. (1960), p. 5, Fifty Years of British Air Mails,
Francis J.Field Ltd.
^ "United States Code: Title 18, 1702. Obstruction of correspondence".
Legal Information Institute of Cornell
University Law School. Archived
from the original on September 4, 2010. Retrieved September 14,
^ a b c Back when spies played by the rules Archived 2007-03-11 at the
Wayback Machine., Deccan Herald, January 17, 2006. Retrieved 29
^ Article 8(1): Everyone has the right to respect for his private and
family life, his home and his correspondence. "". External
link in title= (help); Missing or empty url=
(help) (179 KB)
^ CIA Intelligence Collection About Americans Archived 2008-12-27 at
the Wayback Machine. (400 KB download)
^ "Significant Years in U.S. Postal History". United States Postal
Service. 2015. Archived from the original on 27 February 2015.
Retrieved 13 May 2015.
^ "Treaties". Postal Matters. United States Embassy, Bulgaria. 25 June
1990. Archived from the original on 19 September 2015. Retrieved 13
^ City Mail, Sweden Archived 2005-07-30 at Archive.is
^ "Frycklund, Jonas Private
Mail in Sweden, Cato Journal Vol. 13, No.
1 (1993)" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on
2007-01-29. (511 KB)
^ "First-Class Mail". USPS. Archived from the original on 2011-10-15.
^ "Postal service cuts mean slower mail in 2012". CBS News. Associated
Press. 2011-12-05. Archived from the original on 8 October 2013.
Retrieved 8 July 2013.
^ for example documents served under The Law of Property Act 1925
^ e.g. Railtrack Plc v Gojra, Kinch v Bullard and most recently
Blunden v Frogmore Investments Ltd.
^ "Postal Service Helps Businesses "Stick" to their Message".
2005-04-05. Archived from the original on 2007-09-29. Retrieved
^ "Marketing 'Notes' Extended for Additional Year: U.S. Postal Service
Governors Issue Decision on Repositionable Notes". 2007-07-06.
Archived from the original on 2007-07-11. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
Postcard - Postage Due". Members.aol.com. Archived from the
original on 2006-03-09. Retrieved 2008-10-24.
Aiyangar, Sakkottai Krishnaswami; S. Krishnaswami A. (2004). Ancient
India: Collected Essays on the Literary and Political History of
Southern India. Asian Educational Services.
Almási, Gábor (2010). Humanistic Letter-Writing. Mainz: Institute of
Dorn, Harold; MacClellan, James E. (2006). Science and Technology in
World History: An Introduction. Johns Hopkins
Lowe, Robson (1951). Encyclopedia of British Empire Postage Stamps (v.
Mazumdar, Mohini Lal (1990). The Imperial Post Offices of British
India. Calcutta: Phila Publications.
Mote, Frederick W.; John K. Fairbank (1998). The Cambridge History of
University Press. ISBN 0-521-24333-5.
Peabody, Norman (2003). Hindu Kingship and Polity in Precolonial
University Press. ISBN 0-521-46548-6.
Prasad, Prakash Chandra (2003). Foreign Trade and Commerce in Ancient
India. Abhinav Publications. ISBN 81-7017-053-2.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Mail
Look up mail or post in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Postal service.
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