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Railway Mail Car, 1925

Interior of railway mail car

Interior of railway mail car

New York State Archives, NYSA_A3045-78_X_24512
Document Description
Interior of a railway mail car, 1925.
How many people are working in the mail car? 
What jobs are they doing?  
How did postal clerks working in mail cars promote the delivery of the U.S. mail?
Historical Challenges
Throughout history, what were the different forms of transportation that were used to deliver mail?
Research how the U.S. Postal Service has been affected by the creation of e-mail.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: If you worked as a mail sorter for an eight-hour day, how many pieces of mail would you handle?
English Language Arts: While you are sorting the mail, an envelope opens and out falls the letter. It reads…
Art: Design a stamp that represents something in our current society today.
Bolick, Nancy O'Keefe. Mail Call!: The History of the U.S. Postal Service. New York: F. Watts, 1994. ISBN: 0531201708
Tunnell, Michael O. Mailing May. New York: Greenwillow Books, 1997. ISBN: 0688128785, 0688128793, 0064437248.

Historical Context
Moving the U.S. mail by railroad increased after the Civil War in the mid-1800s.  Mail that had remained in mailbags as it was transported by rail was now actually emptied and sorted by workers as it traveled to its destination.  By the early 1900s, post offices began to be built as close to train stations as possible to increase the efficiency of transport and delivery.  

Postal clerks, who rode the trains, were tested and required to sort 600 pieces of mail in an hour.  The postal clerks worked together and were willing to help each other out.  They even developed their own language related to their work.  For example, the word “nixie” referred to a letter that couldn’t be sorted or a letter with an incorrect address.  The word “bum” referred to an empty mailbag or a mailbag that was damaged.  When these mailbags were tossed out before leaving the station, the clerk could be heard yelling, “Throw the bums out!”


Essential Question
How does culture and economy influence communication?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain the influence of culture and economy on this form of communication?