Handle with Care: when children were delivered by parcel post

The first parcel service began on January 1, 1913. It’s not surprising that over the years, the United States Postal Service has seen people mail many things – but none more surprising than trying to “mail” people. 

from the New York Times
from the New York Times

The first noted instance was in Ohio in January, 1913, when a 10-3/4 pound baby boy was carried by Rural Free Delivery carrier to its grandmother about a mile away for a fee of 15-cents in stamps and insured him for $50. 

Later that same month, another child in Pennsylvania was carried and delivered by a rural carrier to relatives for a cost of 45-cents. 

The most famous story, with a book written about it, was the story of May Pierstorff. A five year old girl weighing just under the 50 pound limit, was mailed from her home in Idaho to her grandparents for a visit in 1914. It was a 73-mile ride in the mail train car with a Railway Post Office clerk, who was a relative, and cost them 53-cents worth of stamps. 

photo courtesy of Smithsonian Institution

All these “child mailings” caused the Postmaster General to issue directions that all human beings were barred from mailings. That, however, did not stop the mailing of children with more reports coming in of children being transported to relatives for just the cost of the stamps. The furthest trip was reported to be a six year old girl who was “shipped” from Florida to Virginia for the cost of 15-cents in parcel post stamps on a railway mail train. 

Finally in 1915, the USPS shipped it’s last human “Special Delivery” package when a story appeared in a local newspaper and came under investigation by postal officials.   

FYI, these photos are not of actual babies being mailed but rather a photographer and mail carrier having fun with the idea.  

Photos and story adapted from the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum “Pushing the Envelope” blog.

Save the world, buy VINTAGE! Tina@GirlPickers

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  1. I loved your history lesson, Tina. My grandpa was a rural mail carrier in South Dakota in the days after they quit delivering kids. I’ll bet those stories were still being talked about around the PO water cooler even then.

  2. I had no idea that children were ever sent by mail – imagine that! We’ve received ants, red worms, ladybugs, Painted Lady caterpillars, praying mantis eggs, and chicks in the mail – but thank goodness, never children! Those amazing mail carriers and the things they deliver…

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