Today, people don’t give a second thought to sticking a stamp and sending a correspondence, present, or parcel to anywhere on the planet.
Mail keeps people connected, whether carried by Pony Express riders of the Wild West, sent via steam ship overseas, or digitally delivered instantly through e-mail. The mail has inspired stamp collectors and history buffs across the globe, so it should come as no surprise that mail from around the world is ripe with fascinating facts.
Here are four facts about mail from around the world you’ll want to send to a friend.
You Could Mail A Baby in the United States Until 1915
There was a time when packing yourself into a box and mailing the box to exotic places was a real phenomenon. Or a punishment for children, depending on which parents you ask.
As it turns out, the fantasy is more of a reality than you might imagine. It was legal to mail a person in the United States until 1915. The Post Office Department of the time was prompted to forbid sending children by mail after they learned that a five-year-old girl was sent by post in 1914.
Charlotte May Pierstroff was mailed by her parents from Grangeville, Idaho to her grandparents in Lewiston, Idaho for fifty-three cents, which was the going rate for sending chickens by mail at the time. Postage was attached to Charlotte’s coat, and she rode in a train’s mail compartment the entire way.
The Royal Mail Had a Dedicated Rail System Until 2003
London has a hidden postal railway that used to serve as an underground express for the Royal Mail. The Mail Rail is a 100-year-old rail system that ran from 1927 to 2003, carrying around 4 million letters a day.
Buried 70 feet below the street, and officially called the Post Office Underground Railway, the Mail Rail was considered by some to be the Royal Mail’s best kept secret.
Although the system was decommissioned, the tunnels were opened to tourists and visitors. You can ride the Mail Rail and take a 15-minute journey through the original tunnels to:
- See what remains of the Mount Pleasant Sorting Office
- Experience what it was like during the 1930s heyday
- View hidden parts of the railway
The Hope Diamond Was Mailed to the Smithsonian in a Plain Box
The Hope Diamond is priceless in the sense that its real value can’t be determined until it goes to auction. So, why would anyone send it through the mail in a simple paper-wrapped box?
That’s exactly what New York City jeweler Harry Winston did when he donated the Hope Diamond to the Smithsonian Museum in 1958.
Winston insured the 45.52 carat diamond for a cool one million dollars and shipped it through the United States Postal Service’s registered first-class postage in a small plain-looking box. It arrived safely at its destination.
The Hope Diamond still resides at the Smithsonian Museum where visitors can take a close look.
A Specialized Agency in Switzerland Coordinates International Mail Policies
The Universal Postal Union, headquartered in Bern, Switzerland, is a specialized agency that coordinates international mail policies and standards. International mail may not sound exciting, but visitors to Bern will want to seek out the UPU headquarters for its historical significance alone.
The Universal Postal Union was first established in 1874 under the Treaty of Bern. As a result, the UPU is the second oldest international organization worldwide, second only to the International Telecommunication Union established a decade earlier.
Not only did the Universal Postal Union establish that each member country (of which there are 192) should keep money obtained from international postage, but it also established equal treatment for foreign and domestic mail as well as a uniform flat rate.
The intricacies and mysteries of international mail could fill volumes. That’s what makes learning about the history and exploring mail landmarks around the world so exciting — there’s just so much of it. If you’re a history buff, a stamp collector or someone who wishes he or she could hop into a box and travel the globe, chances are the mail can take you there in some way!