The American postal system, under the leadership of Benjamin Franklin, was created on this date, July 26, 1775.
The Second Continental Congress met in the immediate aftermath of the Battles of Lexington and Concord in April while preparing to declare independence from the British the following year.
It also began the optimistic yet provocative-to-the-crown work of building the infrastructure of a future independent nation.
The Congress on this day in 1775 resolved: “That a postmaster general be appointed for the United Colonies … and so many deputies as to him may seem proper and necessary. That a line of posts be appointed under the direction of the postmaster general, from Falmouth in New England to Savannah in Georgia, with as many cross posts as he shall think fit.”
Franklin had served as postmaster for Philadelphia starting in 1737 and became a colonial postmaster in 1753.
British authorities in 1774 fired him as punishment for his stance and activities on behalf of American independence.
He was appointed the first postmaster by the Continental Congress, a position he held until Nov. 7, 1776.
Among other achievements during his career, Franklin helped make it possible to send and receive correspondence between New York and Philadelphia in less than 24 hours, according to History.com — a remarkable achievement in its era.
“Under Franklin and his immediate successors, the postal system mainly carried communications between Congress and the armies,” the U.S. Postal Service reported in its official “An American History” of the mail system, published in 2020.
“Postmasters and post riders were exempt from military duties, so service would not be interrupted,” it also said.
The postal system also promoted the free exchange of ideas colonial leaders saw as essential to the cause of independence.
“As the first American communications network, our postal system not only facilitated commerce and strengthened the bonds of family and friendship — it united a nation,” said the U.S. Postal Service report.
“The Founding Fathers believed that to succeed, a democratic form of government depended upon the free exchange of news, ideas and opinions.”
“The first major postal law, passed by [the U.S.] Congress in 1792, encouraged the exchange of newspapers by allowing them to travel through the U.S. Mail at extremely low rates of postage — in some cases for free — to ensure the success of the democracy.”
Americans can experience the post office in the era of Ben Franklin today at the B. Free Franklin Post Office and Museum in Philadelphia.
It’s the only colonial-era post office operated today by the U.S Postal Service.
Letters and postcards sent from this location are stamped with Postmaster Benjamin Franklin’s cancellation, “B. Free Franklin,” written in script.
The Franklin cancel stamp is a souvenir for many Americans today.
The United States had just 75 post offices in Franklin’s era. Today, there are more than 31,000, according to the USPS.