Today in 1789, Samuel Osgood became the first Postmaster General under the U.S. Constitution. The next year, 1790, the U.S. Postal Service moved 300,000 letters and 500,000 newspapers, according to Richard John’s definitive history of the American postal system. Says John: “In America, the postal system and the postal system alone had the capacity to broadcast regularly and throughout the length and breadth of the United States the time-specific information about the wider world that was commonly called news.”
The number of pieces of mail handled by the U.S. Postal Service peaked in 2006 at slightly more than 213 billion, declining to 177 billion in 2009, leading the U.S. Postal Service to predict that “the trend of letter mail and business transactions being replaced with electronic alternatives will also cause continued downward pressure on mail volume into coming years.”
The current Postmaster General, John Potter, oversees the world’s third-largest IT infrastructure and one of the world’s largest e-mail systems: nearly 16 million e-mails a day —or 4.4 billion e-mail messages annually — are delivered to nearly 207,000 e-mail accounts.