Phoenixville Post Office
Incoming mail was sorted on trains as they traveled from town to town, and dropped off at the proper station. The local postmaster then picked up the mail and placed it in the private boxes in the post office. Beginning in 1896, rural free delivery was phased in across the country, offering mail delivery directly to local resident's homes. Rural postmasters responsibilities during the period (1905-1910) included selling two-cent letter stamps and penny postcards, registering mail and handling packages of four pounds or less. Until 1913, larger packages had to be sent via private express companies.
Built as a store around 1825 in Phoenixville, Connecticut, this structure was expanded to its present size about 1830 and changed little after that (the original "swirl" and "dab" paint treatment is still visible on the walls). Until 1884, the building served as both general store and drugstore-apothecary and a post office was moved into one end. The building, which remained primarily a post office until 1910, was run by Monroe Latham, a city selectman and local politician, and his wife, who served as post mistress.
Post Offices also served as bulletin boards for everything from political tracts to notices of public celebrations. And of course this was where neighbors would gather and gossip as they picked up their mail. The Phoenixville Post Office shut down completely in 1910 when rural free delivery began.
The mail system helped to establish a national market for consumer goods in the late 1800s. After
mid-century, newspaper and magazine distribution increased dramatically as the price for
mailing was greatly reduced. Advertisements featured in local and national publications
encouraged people to ask their local merchant for products by name. Factory-made goods produced
for a national market and distributed by rail rapidly replaced locally-made goods. Popular Sears,
Roebuck and Company mail-order catalogs, lured residents in isolated areas to purchase home and
farm products to be delivered by mail or private express company.
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