What Historical Post Office™ Information is Available?

How were Post Offices established?

Citizens of a community who desired a new Post Office generally submitted a request to the Post Office Department stating reasons why they thought a Post Office should be established, the number of patrons who would be served, and the proposed names of the Post Office. Other factors considered were the proximity of existing Postal units and the relative expenses involved, including the estimated expense of mail transportation to the proposed office.

Is the establishment date of a Post Office the date it opened for business?

Generally, a Post Office's establishment date is the date of appointment of its first postmaster. Typically there was up to a two-month delay between the appointment of a postmaster and his or her first day in office.  For example, Alfred Hunnewell, appointed as the first postmaster of the Columbia, California, Post Office on September 15, 1852, took office on November 16, 1852. Less typically - for example, at the Sacramento, California, Post Office - the first postmaster began serving before his appointment was officially recognized in Washington.

Where can I find information on the origin of a Post Office name?

While records on specific Post Office name origins do not exist at the federal level, the United States Board on Geographic Names has a wealth of place name reference material which may assist in determining name origins.

The National Archives' website provides general information on Post Office names and naming policy.

Where can I find information on a past Post Office's location?

Site location reports of Post Offices, which are available from the National Archives, give a general idea of Post Office locations, mostly from the mid 1840s to the mid 1940s. Local libraries and historical societies, county courthouse records, and contemporary newspapers may also be sources of information on past Post Office locations.

How can I get information on a Post Office that is not in Postmaster Finder?

The National Archives will provide information on postmasters and Post Office facilities prior to 1971 upon request. Information after 1971 can be obtained from the United States Postal Service Historian.

Additionally, historians have compiled books on Post Offices for many states, some of which include postmasters' names and appointment dates. Your local library should be able to assist you in obtaining these.


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