Monday, March 18, 2019

"Reptiles, mince pices, and artificial teeth," plus a familiar lament

Here are some interesting excerpts from a 140-year-old newspaper article about the state of the fledgling postal system in the United Kingdom. Specifically, this is from the August 22, 1879, issue of The Standard of London, England.

  • The serious illness of Sir Rowland Hill, the founder of the penny postage system, imparts and unusual degree of interest to the Annual Report of the POSTMASTER GENERAL, which was issued yesterday. The Report bears witness to the ever-increasing commercial activity of the United Kingdom.
  • England must be a very different place now from what it was a century and a half ago, when the post ran only three times a week between Edinburgh and London, and the mail-bag from the Metropolis on one occasion contained only a single letter. It is barely forty years since the penny post came into operation, and in the last year of the higher rate the number of letters delivered in the United Kingdom was eighty-three millions, including nearly seven millions of franks.
  • A single firm in London is known to received three thousand letters daily.
  • Men are pursued from morning to night by letters and telegrams, and the work of the day may be upset by a message received in the evening. The strain is never taken off, the arrangements never seem final. Formerly there was a clear interval between post and post, a period of calm which could not be interrupted. Now it is only during a few hours in the night that there is immunity from some startling telegram. ... Life subject to these influences is apt to be hurried and overstrained. A sea voyage is perhaps the surest way of escape.
  • Let a man allow himself to be entangled in this net and he exposes himself to the risk of being talked at from all points of the compass.
  • There are other strange things in respect to the postal service, odd matters in transitu, such as "wild animals," reptiles, mince pies, and artificial teeth. Letters without any address amount in one year to more than twenty thousand, and letters with very odd addresses continue to abound.
  • There were more than five milllions of undelivered letters last year, while the undelivered post-cards, book packets, and newspapers exceeded four millions. Half a million letters could neither be delivered nor returned to the senders.
  • In the United Kingdom the Post Office has developed into a vast institution, employing 46,000 persons, of whom one-fourth are engaged exclusively on Telegraph work.
  • In the United Kingdom there are now nearly 26,000 receptacles for letters, London alone having nearly 2000.
  • The British postal system is one of which the Kingdom may be proud. ... A single penny — or even a half-penny — sets the machine in motion, and the postman is the servant of everybody.

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