History of the postman
The first postmen wore green and carried a stick, for which they were known as the “green stick carriers”. Postmen would either carry one large letter or several smaller ones. The introduction of the mail coach in the 15th century allowed greater speed in communication, but the weight of the mail was too great for horses and was causing an increasing number. It is largely believed that this decision led to more efficient distribution of mail and with it, to a major increase in postmen. By 19th century, however, it became necessary for postmen to be paid by fixed wages and not on commission as they had been before. The payment led to full-time employment – with women employed as postwomen from 1841 onwards. The origins of postmen can be traced to the 15th century when Richard Pentleger (1434–1511) was granted a licence to carry messages from London to the villages and hamlets in nearby Buckinghamshire.
After receiving his first letter from Lord Willoughby, a prominent figure in Buckinghamshire, Pentleger began his career as a courier for the local gentry. In 1452 he purchased the licence for Buckinghamshire’s post office that had operated on behalf of Henry VI. He was granted a licence to continue the service and was appointed by letters patent as the first postmaster.
Images of postmen through the years
The first image of a postman comes from the British Post Office Museum in London. He was dressed in a long coat, with a hat on his head. In the 1820s, postmen were also expected to carry umbrellas in case of rain. In the 1830s, postmen wore blue overalls, a hat and a coat. The first uniforms without distinguishing colours were introduced in 1844. Uniforms continued to change until the First World War when they settled on their final form. Postmen wore uniforms consisting of green trousers and a tunic, with white gloves and a leather helmet. With the introduction of the new uniform, postmen were allowed to carry canes and a sword. The first pilot scheme to require postmen to carry a bicycle was introduced in London in the 1920s.
Postmen wore dark blue uniforms with white collars until 1965, when they were changed to light blue until 1975. Postmen were first issued with brooms at the end of World War II. Postmen in East Germany wore red uniforms.
What a typical day looks like for a postman
A typical day for a postman would start with his ride to his post box, which he would then fill with letters and parcels. The day might go from 8 am to 10 pm or later. The postman’s work could involve walking up to seven miles, carrying as many as 17 letters or parcels at a time, in hot weather. In the winter in snowy regions, the postman could be seen on skates. In his job, the postman must be able to read and write, have a good memory and be pleasant with customers.
In the morning, starting at 8 am to 10 am, the postman would honk the horn on his truck and whistle to announce that he was coming to a certain street. Then he would do his regular route. He would start with his first house in his neighborhood and drop off mail into mailboxes. The postman would give mail delivery if it was too heavy for a letter box, or he could ring the doorbell if someone wasn’t home, or if it was urgent.
Next, the postman would deliver letters and collect them. If a letter was for someone who lives alone, he would ring the doorbell. If there was a woman in the house, he would leave it on her bedside table. He would carefully put everything back in its place afterwards.
The different types of mail that are delivered
a. Ordinary mail – This is the most common form of mail that is delivered by the postman. It consists of letters, postcards, invitations and packages.
b. Registered mail – This type of mail is delivered to ensure that the recipient receives it and is able to get it back if stolen or lost.
c. Certified mail – A sender sends this type of mail to prove that a document has been sent.
d. Insured mail – Some types of this form are “package cover” and “special value”. It covers the risk in case of loss or theft for certain types of objects like valuable objects, jewelry and electronics.
e. Registered marked mail- This form of mail is used to send money orders and other financial instruments.
f. Insured mail – This type of insured mail is used by people who are not residents of Canada and the United States. It is registered to the sender in order to cover the risk of loss or theft while in transit.
g. First class, Second class, Third class – These categories refer to how much priority the letter gets in terms of delivery
How technology has changed the way we communicate
a. Manual post boxes – The first post boxes were hand-operated, but this was changed by the introduction of a machine that automatically sends mail to its destination. The first machine was introduced in 1882 and by the end of the century, all British post boxes were automated. It was not until 2nd June 1963 that the first automatic letter box was introduced in Singapore as an experiment to see whether they would be effective compared to using mail men. This idea was later adopted and Singapore became one of the first countries to have these post boxes.
b. Postal networks – The advent of postal networks is considered as the birth of a global network that allows easy communication across distance. The first postal network was established by Britain in 1657, which allowed mail to be sent across its territories for a charge. By 1840, the United States was able to create its own network, and by the end of the century, all countries had created their networks. The first postal network to deliver airmail was introduced and this was done in 1928 by Germany.