Parcel Post Began in 1913

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Sunday, April 27, 1913:  Went to Sunday School this morning. Tweet came along home with me. Today was a very rainy day.


Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

I know the old saying that April showers bring May flowers, but rainy days can be so dreary. Spending the day with a friend can turn a bleak day into a bright one.

Tweet was the nickname of Helen Wesner. She was a friend of Grandma’s. Anyone called Tweet had to have been a bundle of fun ideas and energy; and I can picture them chatting and making lots of plans for upcoming sunnier days.


One thing I love about this blog is how readers’ comments help me see things that I totally missed. For example, Grandma wrote three days prior to this entry that, “This morning I got a dress by parcel post.”

When I wrote that post I focused on the dress—the graduation gift. But, Boodeeadda wondered how much it cost to mail a package back them.

I did a little research and I’m still not sure how much it cost to send a package, but I discovered that parcel post was brand new in the US in 1913.

According to the Parcel Post: Delivery of Dreams webpage on the Smithsonian Institution Libraries site:

Parcel post service began on January 1, 1913 and was an instant success. During the first five days of service, 1,594 post offices reported handling over 4 million parcel post packages. The effect on the national economy was electric. Marketing through parcel post gave rise to great mail-order businesses. . . .

Rural Americans were able to purchase foodstuffs, medicines, dry goods and other commodities not readily available to them previously. Even more conveniently, the goods were mailed directly to their homes. In addition, farmers were able to ship eggs and other produce directly to the consumer, saving both time and money.. . .

Private express companies and rural retail merchants fought tenaciously against parcel post but rural residents comprised 54 percent of the country’s population and they were equally vociferous. . . .

29 Responses

  1. That’s fascinating to read about the beginnings of parcel post. What a difference it made to people’s lives.

  2. something we take so for granted was pretty important back then

  3. Another really interesting post. Great question from Boomdeeadda and some thoughtful research. Love the saying “April showers bring May flowers.”

  4. Like you, I never thought about the dress being sent by parcel post. That being brand new probably made receiving the dress even more special to Grandma!
    And you’re right: someone nicknamed Tweet just had to be fun!

  5. This is a great history lesson! Something we take for granted today was a brand new service to your grandmother. A person named tweet had to be special.

  6. And thank goodness for Parcel Post and Priority Mail! Living in the country, I do a lot of shopping over the internet.

  7. Hey Sheryl, that’s kinda fun that it was a brand new service that year. Thanks so much for the shoot out :D I’ve never collected stamps but I always enjoy the artwork on them and faded colours.

  8. I focused on the dress too! Very interesting.

  9. This is very interesting. I enjoyed reading the history of parcel post.

    • I have a lot of fun researching the various topics that I write about–and it’s always wonderful to hear when someone particularly enjoys a post.

  10. I remember as a kid postage and all the different ways to mail was a big deal. The post office was huge and beautiful, an institution. And the air mail envelopes beautiful.

  11. I had thought parcel post was older than that. I’m sure your Grandma must have been very excited to receive a gift delivered by this new service.

  12. With the new found information about parcel post beginning in 1913, just imagine how excited Helena must have been to receive the parcel! :)

  13. […] Parcel Post Began in 1913 […]

  14. […] Parcel post in the US began in 1913—and apparently it was such a cool thing that people had fundraisers with White Elephant sales—but with a twist. Instead of bringing the wrapped items to the party, they mailed them via parcel post. […]

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