This story would qualify for a Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
Apparently back in the early 1900s, it was perfectly legal to send children through the mail using USPS. As long as the child weighed less than 50 pounds and was less than eighty-four inches in combined length and girth, the child qualified as a parcel package, and starting in 1913, such packages could be delivered to city and farm. Postage stamps were affixed to the children’s outer clothing.
The only restrictions on what could be mailed were no poisons, inflammable materials, pistols, live or dead animals, intoxicants or any articles “with a bad odor.”
I guess these kids didn’t qualify as animals, and they were probably given a bath before they were shipped so that they didn’t smell.
While many of the deliveries were quite short, perhaps a mile or less, there were some documented cases of longer trips, from the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum:
- In February 1914 May Pierstorff, just shy of her sixth birthday, was mailed from Grangeville, Idaho, to Lewistown, Idaho, to visit her grandparents. At 48½ pounds, she barely beat the 50 pound limit. Total distance: 73 miles. Total postage: 53 cents.
- In March 2014, Edna Neff, also 6 years old, set the record for the longest mailing: from Pensacola, Fla., to Christiansburg, Va., a distance of 727 miles. Her postage was only 15 cents.
A main advantage of using the postal service was cost. It was much cheaper to use parcel post (just a few cents) than to buy a seat on a passenger train. Besides, children sent via post rode a train anyhow, situated in the mail car where they were tended to, even fed, by clerks.
The practice was finally banned on June 13, 1920, after the postal service received a good deal of criticism for the absurdity associated with making such deliveries.
But I’m wondering if there is a business opportunity here. Maybe Uber could start a special delivery service with its driverless cars, shuttling kids from home to schools, activities, play dates, etc., and back again.
I already have the perfect logo as well, a stork delivering a baby.
And I see one big advantage over the old USPS system – there would no longer be a need to plaster the kids with postage stamps.