US Mail - 1790 to 2017

Week 22 Dataset and Historical Background

Posted by David Velleca on July 30, 2018

Historical Background

From the time there were colonists in the New World, there was a desire to communicate with family back home in England, and eventually throughout the colonies here in North America. Several attempts were made to establish a mail service throughout the colonies, with the first official system established in 1692, providing a means for primarily business communication. The dawn of the Revolutionary War brought a new urgency to delivering mail between the Colonies.

In 1775, the Second Continental Congress appointed Benjamin Franklin the Nation's first postmaster general. This new United States Post Office was integral in communicating news on the war between the young States. Additionally, military orders, intelligence and political correspondence utilized the newly formed system. Following the end of the war, the USPO saw additional business with political and legislative decisions communicated throughout the States by the system. The Postal Service Act was signed by our first President, George Washington, explicitly establishing the United States Post Office Department on February 20, 1792.

This new United States Post Office Department is one of the only government agencies authorized by the Constitution, and the official founding of the agency provided additional funding and regulation for the agency. As the nation expanded, Post Offices were established in infant towns, building a postal network that was integral in supporting the westward expansion.

Our dataset this week looks at the budget, expenses, number of Post Offices, and (when available) number of pieces of mail carried from 1790 through 2017. This long time frame will provide a look at periods of growth in the USPS, and more recently the decline in 'snail mail' as we moved into the digital age. If you'd like to see what you can visualize with this data, post your work to Tableau Public and Twitter with the hashtag #ThrowbackThursday, tagging @TThrowbackThurs. We'd really love to see what you can come up with!

Data Source

This week's dataset comes from the U.S. Postal Service. Please be sure to cite the source on your viz.