Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Screen Wagons

According to an entry on the National Postal Museum website, "As mail volume continued to grow in the late nineteenth century, the Post Office Department began using mail wagons to carry pouches and sacks full of mail between railway stations, post offices, and occasionally between towns. The Department contracted with companies that provided their own wagons for carrying the mail. Mail security became an issue with these wagons, most of which used canvas covers over the side that could easily be ripped by potential thieves."

It goes on to say, "To provide greater security, the Department began using wire-caged mail wagons in the late 1880s. While the mail was being moved, a lock secured the back doors of each mail wagon. Because of this design, the wagons were quickly nicknamed 'screen wagons'. Postmasters found the screen wagons easier to maintain and cheaper to operate. Another benefit to postmasters was the wagon’s tight turning radius. The front wheels could turn completely under the body, allowing the vehicles to easily pivot into tight loading docks."

To learn more, click here.

To watch a short  film of screen wagons being loaded with mail at a post office in 1903, click here.
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posted by Don Schilling at 12:01 AM