1996 32¢ Rural Free Delivery
Issue Date: August 7, 1996
City: Charleston, WV
Printed By: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Lithographed and engraved
Perforations: 11.2 x 11
Though rapidly industrializing, America was still an agrarian society before the turn of the century, with half its population living in rural areas. Before Rural Free Delivery, country people had to travel to a post office to send or receive mail. For the millions of families living on farms, miles from the nearest town and post office, mail was a sometime thing, a special event.
A group of influential Georgians, used to modern communications, hired their own private carrier who worked a scheduled route for more than 40 years. This Norwood, Georgia carrier became the model and inspiration for the RFD plan introduced to Congress in 1893. While rural mail services were being tested in communities in 28 states in 1895, groups of 100 families were allowed to petition for future service. By 1901, rural routes served 1.8 million people; by 1920, most rural communities received postal service. Today, an astounding 18 million rural families are served by 35,000 full-time carriers who cover about 730 million miles.
The mobile post offices of the early rural carriers opened the world to millions of Americans. Though simpler on its 100th anniversary, RFD still plays a vital role in keeping rural people informed and connected through the delivery of letters, magazines, and newspapers.