1912 3¢ Railway Post
Issue Date: April 5, 1913
City: Washington, DC
Printed By: Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Printing Method: Engraved
In 1912, the U.S. Postal Department introduced parcel post service for sending items weighing 16 ounces or more through the mail. The mail is divided into four classes, with parcel post making up the fourth class. Almost any type of merchandise can be mailed parcel post, including day – old chicks, baby alligators, and honeybees. Only items that could be dangerous to handle cannot be sent through Parcel Post. Rural Americans used the new mail class to access goods and merchandise they could not have gotten before, giving rise to mail order giants like Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Montgomery Ward and Co.
Twelve stamps with various denominations were issued in 1912-13 to prepay the fourth-class rate. Although different vignette designs were featured, all twelve stamps used the same border and color, which caused a great deal of confusion for postal workers.
The 3¢ Parcel Post Stamp
Railway postal clerks sorted the mail in rail cars as the trains traveled to the next station. Mailbags were hung on a hook at stations that were too small for the train to stop. The clerk grabbed the bag as the train passed at about 70 miles per hour. The four Parcel Post stamps with the lowest denomination feature Postal Service employees at their jobs. This stamp was redesigned because it originally focused on a mail truck rather than the clerk. The new design delayed the stamp’s issue until April 5, 1913. About 29 million of these stamps were printed.
Less than a year later, the Postmaster General authorized ordinary postage stamps for use on Parcel Post. Parcel post stamps were then made valid for all classes of mail and were used as regular postage until the supply was depleted.