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Postal Service - trying to make this work

Trying to create a postal service with no door-to-door deliveries for a story. I have this:-

Every railway station has a branch of the Post Office where parcels, packages, letters etc are delivered by the mail trains and await picking up by people. At the same time, the branches serve as a place where parcels, packages and letters can be posted onto the mail trains.
There is no delivery service
There are private courier firms, some work on a local basis, others a national basis. Some will pick up your letter and deliver it to the recipient where-ever they are. Some will simply put it into the postal service, and at the other end another private courier will pick it up and deliver it to the destination.

However, I can't work out how in a world of c 1920s technology people in a town would KNOW there was something that they had to collect from the post office, since most people do not have a telephone, and there's no point having a delivery service for letters telling you to go and collect a letter!

Beset Rearguards
Grey Wolf
 
However, I can't work out how in a world of c 1920s technology people in a town would KNOW there was something that they had to collect from the post office, since most people do not have a telephone, and there's no point having a delivery service for letters telling you to go and collect a letter!

Why not?
You are thinking in terms of today's workforce. In 1920, there would be plenty of boys, either underemployed or working after school, who ask for nothing better than to make some dimes with their bicycles. If you want them to go and fetch a letter for you, they'll be up for that. If you want them to go and see if there is a letter, and fetch it if it's there, or just come back and tell you no mail, they'll be up for that. And they won't cost you an arm and a leg.

I'll tell you what. I've recently been to an African country where the postal service works exactly as you say, today. I don't know if they have messengers doing the service I described above. But I do know that in a supermarket where I went they had an inordinate number of shop assistants, including one to put my purchases into a bag. Oh, and there were shoeshines.
If you look at the 1920s in the West, you'll also see shoeshines, gas station assistants, bellboys, elevator operators, newspaper deliverers and sellers, etc. All jobs that you don't see now, but they were there back then.

Large populations, pretty thin worker rights, no automation, lots of youngsters that don't go to high school let alone to college...
 
I suppose you could hire runners, knocker-uppers, probably teenage lads who go round the town, knocking on doors and telling people that there is something for them at the Post Office?
 
American mail used to work like this until the Post Office banned anyone but themselves using postal boxes.

Would it be possible to explain that a bit more please?

Being British I am too used to how we do things here, but I want to create an "other"
 
I suppose you could hire runners, knocker-uppers, probably teenage lads who go round the town, knocking on doors and telling people that there is something for them at the Post Office?

In the days of the mass use of the telegram there used to be an army of young males who used to deliver them to people. Though if you are doing that anyway you wonder why someone doesn't just deliver the letter...

It could work in a small place where the post was kept in the village hub, people would just have the habit of checking if they had any post when they were out.
 
In the days of the mass use of the telegram there used to be an army of young males who used to deliver them to people. Though if you are doing that anyway you wonder why someone doesn't just deliver the letter...

It could work in a small place where the post was kept in the village hub, people would just have the habit of checking if they had any post when they were out.

Possibly the recipient will have to pay a collection fee in this world, some pennies or something

So nobody is going to deliver it for free, but paying a few pennies to local bit-work teenagers to go and tell people would make sense as the number of people they tell would be divided well enough mathematically that it would make economic sense.
 
So...a world where people go and check their mail a couple of times a week as a normal errand? I’m not sure how that would work in 1920, but in 2020 people would probably go twice a week to their local post office and pick up whatever they had, with the understanding that mail would be less a daily thing and more of a weekly thing.

Post offices probably would have evening hours a couple of times a week for the 8-5 crowd and be open Saturdays during the busy holiday season.
 
Of course, it occurred to me in my non-sleep that the Post Office would also be the Telegraph Office and that these already have boys who deliver the telegrams, so they could also deliver word of mail waiting to be picked up perhaps?

But also as Colonel Zoiberg says, people would get into a rhythm - if you're a business, you probably send someone down first thing to pick up any post. If you are an individual, you check in when you are in town doing the weekly shop or something
 
Would it be possible to explain that a bit more please?

Being British I am too used to how we do things here, but I want to create an "other"
I don't know the history of it, but apparently in the US it's illegal for anyone other than the Postal Service to deliver to a mailbox, and illegal for anyone other than the recipient to take it out. Bearing in mind, of course, that American domestic mailboxes are generallylocated at the street edge for the convenience of the Postal Service, not at the front door for the convenience of the resident. Private couriers can make deliveries, just not to the mailbox - hence small parcels being left in all sorts of odd places rather than being put through the letterbox as they would be in the UK.

It might be worth considering how railway parcels delivery used to work, as this isn't too far away from the model you're proposing. To the point where one of Beeching's issues with the parcels service was that the state-owned British Railways was directly competing with the state-owned Royal Mail for the same work.

It might be problematic for mail, especially when dealing with urgent deliveries, but messenger boys would seem like a partial solution. A sender wishing to ensure a delivery gets there quickly might pay extra for delivery to the door; a recipient who doesn't want to take chances might pay to have someone check for their mail daily.
 
So...a world where people go and check their mail a couple of times a week as a normal errand? I’m not sure how that would work in 1920, but in 2020 people would probably go twice a week to their local post office and pick up whatever they had, with the understanding that mail would be less a daily thing and more of a weekly thing.

It's not a million miles away from that in NZ at the moment. Mail gets delivered 3 times a week (spirit willing and the crick don't rise), and it can take longer for a letter to travel 40km than to get to Japan. I doubt people in 1920 would stand for that sort of performance, mind you, but as others have been mentioned there's no shortage of youths wanting to make a few pennies in that period.
 
You leave it up to the recipient to pick up his mail at the Post Office. You don't worry about telling him it is there. It is all about expectations. If people know that the only way they will know if they have mail is to check at the Post Office they will make it a point to do so on a regular basis. Their may be local entrepreneurs who offer a service to deliver mail on a regular basis (daily, hourly, every other day, etc) for a fee. Most people will make it part of a regular routine. We had home delivery of milk and bread (sometimes two seperate services up into the 1960s. Mail service could be added to a route based business like that easily.

The problem with other people delivering mail would be security The Post Office would need some kind of authority to release mail to someone other than the addressee. So there would have to be a process where Mr Smith would authorize a service (or individual) to pick up his mail
 
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When my older brother was still just a kid, had twice a day USPS deliveries, that be like 1952 or so- but I don't directly remember it, but others talking about it.
Just like there used to be two newspapers a day.
And Milk Delivery.
 
When my older brother was still just a kid, had twice a day USPS deliveries, that be like 1952 or so- but I don't directly remember it, but others talking about it.
Just like there used to be two newspapers a day.
And Milk Delivery.

Sure, but I don't want this world to have a national postal service

In a sense the idea of a national postal service is a paradigm shift, a mental jump, and I don't want this world to have made that

If normal procedures can operate in a way that makes this fine, that's what I am looking for, but was having difficulty rationalising how those would work.
 
I would research how Railway Express Agency functioned. My Father told me of when his Aunt shipped a parcel to them, it was delivered at the local station, a small one on the mainline, and they went to pick it up. That does not explain how they were informed but recall that most towns were on party line phones, the Station Clerk could call the Operator, the Operator could call you. Or as my Father recalls, every Saturday, after working half the day, his Father took them into town, he cashed his check, paid bills at the offices of the Assessor, Power, Water, Sears, etc., then his Mom shopped, etc. So stopping in to the station was easily something one could do as they expected something ordered. And you might research how Sears fulfilled its catalog sales. In my hometown there was a disused historic Sears warehouse downtown, I believe they had trucks and made deliveries. Before a USPS, and with it, a lot of things were moved via rail to its network of stations. Hopefully that helps.
 
I would research how Railway Express Agency functioned. My Father told me of when his Aunt shipped a parcel to them, it was delivered at the local station, a small one on the mainline, and they went to pick it up. That does not explain how they were informed but recall that most towns were on party line phones, the Station Clerk could call the Operator, the Operator could call you. Or as my Father recalls, every Saturday, after working half the day, his Father took them into town, he cashed his check, paid bills at the offices of the Assessor, Power, Water, Sears, etc., then his Mom shopped, etc. So stopping in to the station was easily something one could do as they expected something ordered. And you might research how Sears fulfilled its catalog sales. In my hometown there was a disused historic Sears warehouse downtown, I believe they had trucks and made deliveries. Before a USPS, and with it, a lot of things were moved via rail to its network of stations. Hopefully that helps.

Interesting, thank you!

I guess the forerunners to the REA would be like some of the courier services I envisioned being private businesses that would deliver door to door, or at least deposit office to door

Sears is actually really interesting! It would go that step further from taking a parcel and delivering it, to being the entity that receives an order, fulfills it and THEN does this.

As to the former, I never even wondered where the name American Express had come from!w
 
Interesting, thank you!

I guess the forerunners to the REA would be like some of the courier services I envisioned being private businesses that would deliver door to door, or at least deposit office to door

Sears is actually really interesting! It would go that step further from taking a parcel and delivering it, to being the entity that receives an order, fulfills it and THEN does this.

As to the former, I never even wondered where the name American Express had come from!w
REA was created to pool railroad resources and create a national reach, before that each railroad did its own express business and frankly I do not know how well they interacted.

As far as I know you could order from the catalog, maybe at a store, but early on Sears was I believe mail order only, and they fulfilled, it was Amazon before Amazon. And sold an even bigger array of stuff, from live chicks to kit homes! And last year's catalog was useful as toilet paper. An amazing operation.

And look at Pullman, they could track, offer, sell, assign and charge for every compartment in their system, using paper, template cards showing status, updated to their agents across the system. With clerks one did not need Sabre, it managed a huge service in some ways better than we do now.
 
REA was created to pool railroad resources and create a national reach, before that each railroad did its own express business and frankly I do not know how well they interacted.

As far as I know you could order from the catalog, maybe at a store, but early on Sears was I believe mail order only, and they fulfilled, it was Amazon before Amazon. And sold an even bigger array of stuff, from live chicks to kit homes! And last year's catalog was useful as toilet paper. An amazing operation.

And look at Pullman, they could track, offer, sell, assign and charge for every compartment in their system, using paper, template cards showing status, updated to their agents across the system. With clerks one did not need Sabre, it managed a huge service in some ways better than we do now.

I'm not really sure what your last paragraph means but it sounds really interesting!!!
 
I'm not really sure what your last paragraph means but it sounds really interesting!!!
Sears was founded by a railway clerk who sold watches leveraging the connectivity telegraph gave such clerks. Eventually they printed a catalog and you could order everyt5hing a farm might need, from household stuff to clothes to you think of it, they sold it. Orders by mail or via telegraph, shipped by rail to your locale. The houses came in boxcars to a siding, in kit fashion. Live animals such as baby chickens shipped to your farm. Amazon is not new, Sears was there a century before, giving access to every item wanted, delivered in some cases right to your door. And before computers, the web or FedEx. UPS began in the 1920s to deliver parcels from stores to customers and between stores in Seattle I believe. REA did what UPS does today. At bottom you can find a lot is reinvented.
 
I'm not really sure what your last paragraph means but it sounds really interesting!!!
Sabre is an automated system for booking flights, hotels, rail tickets, etc., that started in the 1950s. They owned Travelocity from 1996 to 2015. And the Pullman Company produced, owned, and operated most of the sleeper cars on American railroads from the early 20th century to the decline of passenger rail service. Since there were many different railroad companies, Pullman was well situated to make bookings for, say, a trip from NYC to LA on the Pennsylvania, Illinois Central and Santa Fe railroads.

As for Sears, it’s beyond my knowledge exactly how they operated, but I’ve seen several catalogues at archive.org and ancestry.com — I didn’t know about the railroad watches, but the catalogs all offer pocketwatches with widely different prices, and one of the more expensive ones is an especially accurate one for “railroad men”. It’s a marvel that they were able to deliver anything from a watch to a wagon or a year’s supply of dry goods to anywhere in America... decades and decades before Amazon drove them out of business by doing the very same thing. (You can’t get a horse wagon on Amazon, and I don’t think you can get guns, ammunition, or opium, either.)

About the actual question, I wonder if door-to-door delivery would even be offered as a premium service. There’s no way it could be priced competitively, even for wealthy people who had some reason to need fast mail delivery. They’d just hire the fastest, most reliable messenger boys. Unless, that is, there was a legal requirement for public employees to do all the delivering... but that would be politically difficult if it meant a huge increase in prices for business mail.
 
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