Culture and Society

Who was the first U.S. Postmaster General?
Answered by HowStuffWorks
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  1. For most of the colonial period in America, the British Crown controlled mail delivery in the colonies. The British government eventually bought the rights to manage the North American postal service and appointed local deputy postmasters general throughout the colonies. One of these deputy postmasters general was Benjamin Franklin. He worked as Philadelphia's postmaster beginning in 1737. It seems that the previous postmaster -- who also printed the town's rival newspaper -- had banned shipment of Franklin's Gazette through the mail. He found that was one way to ease competition for readership.

    Franklin had lobbied the British to appoint him as postmaster general in America and he got the job as joint postmaster general for the British Crown in 1753, serving alongside William Hunter of Virginia [source: U.S. Postal Service]. Among Franklin's accomplishments was the addition of nighttime transport of mail to speed service; he also abolished the practice of allowing local postmasters to determine which newspapers would have the privilege of mail delivery. Instead, Franklin mandated that all newspapers would be delivered for a minor fee. Despite these accomplishments, the British dismissed him from his position after about a decade because of his sympathetic views toward the colonists.

    By 1774, the colonists were getting fed up with British rule and took over mail delivery. In 1775, as the Second Continental Congress was preparing for full independence from Britain, it established the Post Office Department and appointed Benjamin Franklin its first Postmaster General. He received an annual salary of $1,000 and had authority over all post offices in the United States. There were charges for single letters by the 1790s, based on the distance the paper had to travel. The first stamps were not issued until 1847, more than 50 years after Franklin's death. Franklin had only served in his position for one year before being dispatched to France to represent the new United States.

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