A postage stamp is a small piece of paper issued by a post office, postal administration, or other authorized vendors to customers who pay postage, who affix the stamp to the face or address-side of any item of mail—an envelope or other postal cover —that they wish to send. The item is processed by the postal system, where a postmark or cancellation mark—in modern usage indicating date and point of origin of mailing—is applied to the stamp and its left and right sides to prevent its reuse; the item is delivered to its addressee. Always featuring the name of the issuing nation, a denomination of its value, an illustration of persons, institutions, or natural realities that symbolize the nation's traditions and values, every stamp is printed on a piece of rectangular, but sometimes triangular or otherwise shaped special custom-made paper whose back is either glazed with an adhesive gum or self-adhesive; because governments issue stamps of different denominations in unequal numbers and discontinue some lines and introduce others, because of their illustrations and association with the social and political realities of the time of their issue, they are prized for their beauty and historical significance by stamp collectors whose study of their history and of mailing systems is called philately.
Because collectors buy stamps from an issuing agency with no intention to use them for postage, the revenues from such purchases and payments of postage can make them a source of net profit to that agency. Throughout modern history, numerous methods were used to indicate that postage had been paid on a mailed item, so several different men have received credit for inventing the postage stamp. William DockwraIn 1680, William Dockwra, an English merchant in London, his partner Robert Murray established the London Penny Post, a mail system that delivered letters and small parcels inside the city of London for the sum of one penny. Confirmation of paid postage was indicated by the use of a hand stamp to frank the mailed item. Though this'stamp' was applied to the letter or parcel itself, rather than to a separate piece of paper, it is considered by many historians to be the world's first postage stamp. Lovrenc KoširIn 1835, the Slovene civil servant Lovrenc Košir from Ljubljana in Austria-Hungary, suggested the use of "artificially affixed postal tax stamps" using "gepresste papieroblate", but although civil bureaucrats considered the suggestion in detail, it was not adopted.
Rowland HillIn 1836, a Member of Parliament, Robert Wallace, gave Sir Rowland Hill numerous books and documents about the postal service, which Hill described as a "half hundred weight of material". After a detailed study, on 4 January 1837 Hill submitted a pamphlet entitled Post Office Reform: Its Importance and Practicability, marked "private and confidential," and not released to the general public, to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Thomas Spring Rice; the Chancellor summoned Hill to a meeting at which he suggested improvements and changes to be presented in a supplement, which Hill duly produced and submitted on 28 January 1837. Summoned to give evidence before the Commission for Post Office Enquiry on 13 February 1837, Hill read from the letter he wrote to the Chancellor that included a statement saying that the notation of paid postage could be created "...by using a bit of paper just large enough to bear the stamp, covered at the back with a glutinous wash...". This would become the first unambiguous description of a modern adhesive postage stamp.
Shortly afterward, Hill's revision of the booklet, dated 22 February 1837, containing some 28,000 words, incorporating the supplement given to the Chancellor and statements he made to the Commission, was published and made available to the general public. Hansard records that on 15 December 1837, Benjamin Hawes asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer "whether it was the intention of the Government to give effect to the recommendation of the Commissioners of the Post-office, contained in their ninth report relating to the reduction of the rates of postage, the issuing of penny stamps?"Hill’s ideas for postage stamps and charging paid-postage based on weight soon took hold, were adopted in many countries throughout the world. With the new policy of charging by weight, using envelopes for mailing documents became the norm. Hill’s brother Edwin invented a prototype envelope-making machine that folded paper into envelopes enough to match the pace of the growing demand for postage stamps. Rowland Hill and the reforms he introduced to the United Kingdom postal system appear on several of its commemorative stamps.
James ChalmersIn the 1881 book The Penny Postage Scheme of 1837, Scotsman Patrick Chalmers claimed that his father, James Chalmers, published an essay in August 1834 describing and advocating a postage stamp, but submitted no evidence of the essay's existence. Until he died in 1891, Patrick Chalmers campaigned to have his father recognized as the inventor of the postage stamp; the first independent evidence for Chalmers' claim is an essay, dated 8 February 1838 and received by the Post Office on 17 February 1838, in which he proposed adhesive postage stamps to the General Post Office. In this 800-word document concerning methods of indicating that postage had been paid on mail he states: "Therefore, of Mr Hill’s plan of a uniform rate of postage... I conceive that the most simple and economical mode... would be by Slips... in the hope that Mr Hill’s plan may soon be carried into operation I would sugg
An archive is an accumulation of historical records or the physical place they are located. Archives contain primary source documents that have accumulated over the course of an individual or organization's lifetime, are kept to show the function of that person or organization. Professional archivists and historians understand archives to be records that have been and generated as a product of regular legal, administrative, or social activities, they have been metaphorically defined as "the secretions of an organism", are distinguished from documents that have been consciously written or created to communicate a particular message to posterity. In general, archives consist of records that have been selected for permanent or long-term preservation on grounds of their enduring cultural, historical, or evidentiary value. Archival records are unpublished and always unique, unlike books or magazines for which many identical copies exist; this means that archives are quite distinct from libraries with regard to their functions and organization, although archival collections can be found within library buildings.
A person who works in archives is called an archivist. The study and practice of organizing and providing access to information and materials in archives is called archival science; the physical place of storage can be referred to an archives, or a repository. When referring to historical records or the places they are kept, the plural form archives is chiefly used; the computing use of the term'archive' should not be confused with the record-keeping meaning of the term. First attested in English in early 17th century, the word archive is derived from the French archives, in turn from Latin archīum or archīvum, the romanized form of the Greek ἀρχεῖον, "public records, town-hall, residence, or office of chief magistrates", itself from ἀρχή, amongst others "magistracy, government", which comes from the verb ἄρχω, "to begin, govern"; the word developed from the Greek ἀρχεῖον, which refers to the home or dwelling of the Archon, in which important official state documents were filed and interpreted under the authority of the Archon.
The adjective formed from archive is archival. The practice of keeping official documents is old. Archaeologists have discovered archives of hundreds of clay tablets going back to the third and second millennia BC in sites like Ebla, Amarna, Hattusas and Pylos; these discoveries have been fundamental to know ancient alphabets, languages and politics. Archives were well developed by the ancient Chinese, the ancient Greeks, ancient Romans. However, they have been lost, since documents written on materials like papyrus and paper deteriorated at a faster pace, unlike their stone tablet counterparts. Archives of churches and cities from the Middle Ages survive and have kept their official status uninterruptedly until now, they are the basic tool for historical research on these ages. England after 1066 developed archival research methods; the Swiss developed archival systems after 1450. Modern archival thinking has many roots from the French Revolution; the French National Archives, who possess the largest archival collection in the world, with records going as far back as 625 A.
D. were created in 1790 during the French Revolution from various government and private archives seized by the revolutionaries. Historians, lawyers, demographers and others conduct research at archives; the research process at each archive is unique, depends upon the institution that houses the archive. While there are many kinds of archives, the most recent census of archivists in the United States identifies five major types: academic, government, non-profit, other. There are four main areas of inquiry involved with archives: material technologies, organizing principles, geographic locations, tangled embodiments of humans and non-humans; these areas help to further categorize. Archives in colleges and other educational facilities are housed within a library, duties may be carried out by an archivist. Academic archives exist to serve the academic community. An academic archive may contain materials such as the institution's administrative records and professional papers of former professors and presidents, memorabilia related to school organizations and activities, items the academic library wishes to remain in a closed-stack setting, such as rare books or thesis copies.
Access to the collections in these archives is by prior appointment only. Users of academic archives can be undergraduates, graduate students and staff, scholarly researchers, the general public. Many academic archives work with alumni relations departments or other campus institutions to help raise funds for their library or school. Qualifications for employment may vary. Entry-level positions require an undergraduate diploma, but archivists hold graduate degrees in history or library science. Subject-area specialization becomes more common in higher ranking positions. Archives located in for-profit institutions are those owned by a private business. Examples of prominent business archives in the United States include Coca-Cola (which owns the
An envelope is a common packaging item made of thin, flat material. It is designed to contain a flat object, such as card. Traditional envelopes are made from sheets of paper cut to one of three shapes: a rhombus, a short-arm cross or a kite; these shapes allow for the creation of the envelope structure by folding the sheet sides around a central rectangular area. In this manner, a rectangle-faced enclosure is formed with an arrangement of four flaps on the reverse side; when the folding sequence is such that the last flap to be closed is on a short side it is referred to in commercial envelope manufacture as a pocket - a format employed in the packaging of small quantities of seeds. Although in principle the flaps can be held in place by securing the topmost flap at a single point they are pasted or gummed together at the overlaps, they are most used for enclosing and sending mail through a prepaid-postage postal system. Window envelopes have a hole cut in the front side, they are arranged so that the receiving address printed on the letter is visible, saving the sender from having to duplicate the address on the envelope itself.
The window is covered with a transparent or translucent film to protect the letter inside, as was first designed by Americus F. Callahan in 1901 and patented the following year. In some cases, shortages of materials or the need to economize resulted in envelopes that had no film covering the window. One innovative process, invented in Europe about 1905, involved using hot oil to saturate the area of the envelope where the address would appear; the treated area became sufficiently translucent for the address to be readable. As of 2009 there is no international standard for window envelopes, but some countries, including Germany and the United Kingdom, have national standards. An aerogram is related to a lettersheet, both being designed to have writing on the inside to minimize the weight. Any handmade envelope is a lettersheet because prior to the folding stage it offers the opportunity for writing a message on that area of the sheet that after folding becomes the inside of the face of the envelope.
The "envelope" used to launch the Penny Post component of the British postal reforms of 1840 by Sir Rowland Hill and the invention of the postage stamp, was a lozenge-shaped lettersheet known as a Mulready. If desired, a separate letter could be enclosed with postage remaining at one penny provided the combined weight did not exceed half an ounce; this was a legacy of the previous system of calculating postage, which depended on the number of sheets of paper used. During the U. S. Civil War those in the Confederate States Army used envelopes made from wallpaper, due to financial hardship. A "return envelope" is a pre-addressed, smaller envelope included as the contents of a larger envelope and can be used for courtesy reply mail, metered reply mail, or freepost; some envelopes are designed to be reused as the return envelope, saving the expense of including a return envelope in the contents of the original envelope. The direct mail industry makes extensive use of return envelopes as a response mechanism.
Up until 1840, all envelopes were handmade, each being individually cut to the appropriate shape out of an individual rectangular sheet. In that year George Wilson in the United Kingdom patented the method of tessellating a number of envelope patterns across and down a large sheet, thereby reducing the overall amount of waste produced per envelope when they were cut out. In 1845 Edwin Hill and Warren de la Rue obtained a patent for a steam-driven machine that not only cut out the envelope shapes but creased and folded them as well; the convenience of the sheets ready cut to shape popularized the use of machine-made envelopes, the economic significance of the factories that had produced handmade envelopes diminished. As envelopes are made of paper, they are intrinsically amenable to embellishment with additional graphics and text over and above the necessary postal markings; this is a feature that the direct mail industry has long taken advantage of—and more the Mail Art movement. Custom printed envelopes has become an popular marketing method for small business.
Most of the over 400 billion envelopes of all sizes made worldwide are machine-made. International standard ISO 269 defined several standard envelope sizes, which are designed for use with ISO 216 standard paper sizes: The German standard DIN 678 defines a similar list of envelope formats. There are dozens of sizes of envelopes available; the designations such as "A2" do not correspond to ISO paper sizes. The No. 10 envelope is the standard business envelope size in the United States. Envelopes accepted by the U. S. Postal Service for mailing at the price of a letter must be: Rectangular At least 3 1⁄2 inches high × 5 inches long × 0.007 inch thick. No more than 6 1⁄8 inches high × 11 1⁄2 inches long × 1⁄4 inch thick. Letters that have a length-to-height aspect ratio of less than 1.3 or more than 2.5 are classified as "non-machinable" by the USPS and may cost more to mail. Check out Central Mailing Services infographic here for the general sizes of envelopes in the United Kingdom; the first known envelope was nothing like the paper envelope of today.
It can be dated back to around 3500 to 3200 BC in the ancient Middle East. Hollow, clay spheres were used in private transactions; the two people who discovered these first envelopes were Jacque
Publius Ovidius Naso, known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus. He was a contemporary of the older Virgil and Horace, with whom he is ranked as one of the three canonical poets of Latin literature; the Imperial scholar Quintilian considered him the last of the Latin love elegists. He enjoyed enormous popularity, but, in one of the mysteries of literary history, was sent by Augustus into exile in a remote province on the Black Sea, where he remained until his death. Ovid himself attributes his exile to carmen et error, "a poem and a mistake", but his discretion in discussing the causes has resulted in much speculation among scholars; the first major Roman poet to begin his career during the reign of Augustus, Ovid is today best known for the Metamorphoses, a 15-book continuous mythological narrative written in the meter of epic, for works in elegiac couplets such as Ars Amatoria and Fasti. His poetry was much imitated during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, influenced Western art and literature.
The Metamorphoses remains one of the most important sources of classical mythology. Ovid talks more about his own life than most other Roman poets. Information about his biography is drawn from his poetry Tristia 4.10, which gives a long autobiographical account of his life. Other sources include Seneca the Quintilian. Ovid was born in Sulmo, in an Apennine valley east of Rome, to an important equestrian family, on 20 March, 43 BC; that was a significant year in Roman politics. He was educated in rhetoric in Rome under the teachers Arellius Fuscus and Porcius Latro with his brother who excelled at oratory, his father wanted him to study rhetoric toward the practice of law. According to Seneca the Elder, Ovid tended to not the argumentative pole of rhetoric. After the death of his brother at 20 years of age, Ovid renounced law and began travelling to Athens, Asia Minor, Sicily, he held minor public posts, as one of the tresviri capitales, as a member of the Centumviral court and as one of the decemviri litibus iudicandis, but resigned to pursue poetry around 29–25 BC, a decision his father disapproved of.
Ovid's first recitation has been dated to around 25 BC. He was part of the circle centered on the patron Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus, seems to have been a friend of poets in the circle of Maecenas. In Trist. 4.10.41–54, Ovid mentions friendships with Macer, Horace and Bassus. He married three times and divorced twice by the time he was thirty years old, he had one daughter, who bore him grandchildren. His last wife was connected in some way to the influential gens Fabia and would help him during his exile in Tomis; the first 25 years of Ovid's literary career were spent writing poetry in elegiac meter with erotic themes. The chronology of these early works is not secure, his earliest extant work is thought to be the Heroides, letters of mythological heroines to their absent lovers, which may have been published in 19 BC, although the date is uncertain as it depends on a notice in Am. 2.18.19–26 that seems to describe the collection as an early published work. The authenticity of some of these poems has been challenged, but this first edition contained the first 14 poems of the collection.
The first five-book collection of the Amores, a series of erotic poems addressed to a lover, Corinna, is thought to have been published in 16–15 BC. 8–3 BC. Between the publications of the two editions of the Amores can be dated the premiere of his tragedy Medea, admired in antiquity but is no longer extant. Ovid's next poem, the Medicamina Faciei, a fragmentary work on women's beauty treatments, preceded the Ars Amatoria, the Art of Love, a parody of didactic poetry and a three-book manual about seduction and intrigue, dated to AD 2. Ovid may identify this work in his exile poetry as the carmen, or song, one cause of his banishment; the Ars Amatoria was followed by the Remedia Amoris in the same year. This corpus of elegiac, erotic poetry earned Ovid a place among the chief Roman elegists Gallus and Propertius, of whom he saw himself as the fourth member. By AD 8, he had completed his most ambitious work, the Metamorphoses, a hexameter epic poem in 15 books; the work encyclopedically catalogues transformations in Greek and Roman mythology, from the emergence of the cosmos to the apotheosis of Julius Caesar.
The stories follow each other in the telling of human beings transformed to new bodies: trees, animals, constellations etc. At the same time, he worked on the Fasti, a six-book poem in elegiac couplets on the theme of the calendar of Roman festivals and astronomy; the composition of this poem was interrupted by Ovid's exile, it is thought that Ovid abandoned work on the piece in Tomis. It is in this period, if they are indeed by Ovid, that the double letters in the Heroides were composed. In AD 8, Ovid was banished to Tomis, on the Black Sea, by the exclusive intervention of the Emperor Augustus, without any participation of the Senate or of any Roman judge; this event shaped all his following poetry. Ovid wrote that the reason for his exile was carmen et error – "a poem and a mistake", claiming that his crime was
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past, is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race. If the individual is concerned with events preceding written history, the individual is a historian of prehistory; some historians are recognized by training and experience. "Historian" became a professional occupation in the late nineteenth century as research universities were emerging in Germany and elsewhere. During the Irving v Penguin Books and Lipstadt trial, it became evident that the court needed to identify what was an "objective historian" in the same vein as the reasonable person, reminiscent of the standard traditionally used in English law of "the man on the Clapham omnibus"; this was necessary so that there would be a legal bench mark to compare and contrast the scholarship of an objective historian against the illegitimate methods employed by David Irving, as before the Irving v Penguin Books and Lipstadt trial, there was no legal precedent for what constituted an objective historian.
Justice Gray leant on the research of one of the expert witnesses, Richard J. Evans, who compared illegitimate distortion of the historical record practice by holocaust deniers with established historical methodologies. By summarizing Gray's judgement, in an article published in the Yale Law Journal, Wendie E. Schneider distils these seven points for what he meant by an objective historian: The historian must treat sources with appropriate reservations. Schneider uses the concept of the "objective historian" to suggest that this could be an aid in assessing what makes an historian suitable as an expert witnesses under the Daubert standard in the United States. Schneider proposed this, because, in her opinion, Irving could have passed the standard Daubert tests unless a court was given "a great deal of assistance from historians". Schneider proposes that by testing an historian against the criteria of the "objective historian" even if an historian holds specific political views, providing the historian uses the "objective historian" standards, he or she is a "conscientious historian".
It was Irving's failure as an "objective historian" not his right wing views that caused him to lose his libel case, as a "conscientious historian" would not have "deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence" to support his political views. The process of historical analysis involves investigation and analysis of competing ideas and purported facts to create coherent narratives that explain "what happened" and "why or how it happened". Modern historical analysis draws upon other social sciences, including economics, politics, anthropology and linguistics. While ancient writers do not share modern historical practices, their work remains valuable for its insights within the cultural context of the times. An important part of the contribution of many modern historians is the verification or dismissal of earlier historical accounts through reviewing newly discovered sources and recent scholarship or through parallel disciplines like archaeology. Understanding the past appears to be a universal human need, the telling of history has emerged independently in civilizations around the world.
What constitutes history is a philosophical question. The earliest chronologies date back to Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt, though no historical writers in these early civilizations were known by name. Systematic historical thought emerged in ancient Greece, a development that became an important influence on the writing of history elsewhere around the Mediterranean region; the earliest known critical historical works were The Histories, composed by Herodotus of Halicarnassus who became known as the "father of history". Herodotus attempted to distinguish between more and less reliable accounts, conducted research by travelling extensively, giving written accounts of various Mediterranean cultures. Although Herodotus' overall emphasis lay on the actions and characters of men, he attributed an important role to divinity in the determination of historical events. Thucydides eliminated divine causality in his account of the war between Athens and Sparta, establishing a rationalistic element that set a precedent for subsequent Western historical writings.
He was the first to distinguish between cause and immediate origins of an event, while his successor Xenophon introduced autobiographical elements and character studies in his Anabasis. The Romans adopted the Greek tradition. While early Roman works were still written in Greek, the Origines, composed by the Roman statesman Cato the Elder, was written in Latin, in a conscious effort to counteract Greek cultural influence. Strabo was an important exponent of the Greco-Roman tradition of combining geography with history, presenting a descriptive history of peoples and places known to his era. Livy (59 BCE
Sumer is the earliest known civilization in the historical region of southern Mesopotamia, modern-day southern Iraq, during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze ages, one of the first civilizations in the world along with Ancient Egypt and the Indus Valley. Living along the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates, Sumerian farmers were able to grow an abundance of grain and other crops, the surplus of which enabled them to settle in one place. Prehistoric proto-writing dates back before 3000 BC; the earliest texts, from c. 3300 BC, come from the cities of Jemdet Nasr. Modern historians have suggested that Sumer was first permanently settled between c. 5500 and 4000 BC by a West Asian people who spoke the Sumerian language, an agglutinative language isolate. These prehistoric people are now called "proto-Euphrateans" or "Ubaidians", are theorized to have evolved from the Samarra culture of northern Mesopotamia; the Ubaidians, though never mentioned by the Sumerians themselves, are assumed by modern-day scholars to have been the first civilizing force in Sumer.
They drained the marshes for agriculture, developed trade, established industries, including weaving, metalwork and pottery. Some scholars contest the idea of a Proto-Euphratean language or one substrate language. Reliable historical records begin much later. Juris Zarins believes the Sumerians lived along the coast of Eastern Arabia, today's Persian Gulf region, before it was flooded at the end of the Ice Age. Sumerian civilization took form in the Uruk period, continuing into the Jemdet Nasr and Early Dynastic periods. During the 3rd millennium BC, a close cultural symbiosis developed between the Sumerians, who spoke a language isolate, Akkadians, which gave rise to widespread bilingualism; the influence of Sumerian on Akkadian is evident in all areas, from lexical borrowing on a massive scale, to syntactic and phonological convergence. This has prompted scholars to refer to Sumerian and Akkadian in the 3rd millennium BC as a Sprachbund. Sumer was conquered by the Semitic-speaking kings of the Akkadian Empire around 2270 BC, but Sumerian continued as a sacred language.
Native Sumerian rule re-emerged for about a century in the Third Dynasty of Ur at 2100–2000 BC, but the Akkadian language remained in use. The Sumerian city of Eridu, on the coast of the Persian Gulf, is considered to have been one of the oldest cities, where three separate cultures may have fused: that of peasant Ubaidian farmers, living in mud-brick huts and practicing irrigation; the term Sumerian is the common name given to the ancient non-Semitic-speaking inhabitants of Mesopotamia by the East Semitic-speaking Akkadians. The Sumerians referred to themselves as ùĝ saĝ gíg ga, phonetically /uŋ saŋ ɡi ɡa/ meaning "the black-headed people", to their land as ki-en-gi, meaning "place of the noble lords"; the Akkadian word Shumer may represent the geographical name in dialect, but the phonological development leading to the Akkadian term šumerû is uncertain. Hebrew Shinar, Egyptian Sngr, Hittite Šanhar, all referring to southern Mesopotamia, could be western variants of Shumer. In the late 4th millennium BC, Sumer was divided into many independent city-states, which were divided by canals and boundary stones.
Each was centered on a temple dedicated to the particular patron god or goddess of the city and ruled over by a priestly governor or by a king, intimately tied to the city's religious rites. The five "first" cities, said to have exercised pre-dynastic kingship "before the flood": Eridu Bad-tibira Larsa Sippar Shuruppak Other principal cities: Minor cities: Kuara Zabala Kisurra Marad Dilbat Borsippa Kutha Der Eshnunna Nagar 2 Apart from Mari, which lies full 330 kilometres north-west of Agade, but, credited in the king list as having "exercised kingship" in the Early Dynastic II period, Nagar, an outpost, these cities are all in the Euphrates-Tigris alluvial plain, south of Baghdad in what are now the Bābil, Diyala, Wāsit, Dhi Qar, Basra, Al-Muthannā and Al-Qādisiyyah governorates of Iraq; the Sumerian city-states rose to power during the prehistoric Uruk periods. Sumerian written history reaches back to the 27th century BC and before, but the historical record remains obscure until the Early Dynastic III period, c. the 23rd century BC, when a now deciphered syllabary writing system was developed, which has allowed archaeologists to read contemporary records and inscriptions.
Classical Sumer ends with the rise of the Akkadian Empire in the 23rd century BC. Following the Gutian period, there was a brief Sumerian Renaissance in the 21st century BC, cut short in the 20th century BC by invasions by the Amorites; the Amorite "dynasty of Isin"
United States Postal Service
The United States Postal Service is an independent agency of the executive branch of the United States federal government responsible for providing postal service in the United States, including its insular areas and associated states. It is one of the few government agencies explicitly authorized by the United States Constitution; the U. S. Mail traces its roots to 1775 during the Second Continental Congress, when Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first postmaster general; the Post Office Department was created in 1792 from Franklin's operation. It was elevated to a cabinet-level department in 1872, was transformed by the Postal Reorganization Act in 1970 into the USPS as an independent agency; the USPS as of 2017 has 644,124 active employees and operated 211,264 vehicles in 2014. The USPS is the operator of the largest civilian vehicle fleet in the world; the USPS is obligated to serve all Americans, regardless of geography, at uniform price and quality. The USPS has exclusive access to letter boxes marked "U.
S. Mail" and personal letterboxes in the United States, but now has to compete against private package delivery services, such as United Parcel Service and FedEx. Since the early 1980s, many of the direct tax subsidies to the Post Office, with the exception of subsidies for costs associated with the disabled and overseas voters, have been reduced or eliminated in favor of indirect subsidies, in addition to the advantages associated with a government-enforced monopoly on the delivery of first-class mail. Since the 2006 all-time peak mail volume, after which Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act which mandated that $5.5 billion per year be paid to prefund employee retirement health benefits, revenue dropped due to recession-influenced declining mail volume, prompting the postal service to look to other sources of revenue while cutting costs to reduce its budget deficit. In the early years of the North American colonies, many attempts were made to initiate a postal service.
These early attempts were of small scale and involved a colony, Massachusetts Bay Colony for example, setting up a location in Boston where one could post a letter back home to England. Other attempts focused on a dedicated postal service between two of the larger colonies, such as Massachusetts and Virginia, but the available services remained limited in scope and disjointed for many years. For example, informal independently-run postal routes operated in Boston as early as 1639, with a Boston to New York City service starting in 1672. A central postal organization came to the colonies in 1691, when Thomas Neale received a 21-year grant from the British Crown for a North American Postal Service. On February 17, 1691, a grant of letters patent from the joint sovereigns, William III and Mary II, empowered him: to erect and establish within the chief parts of their majesties' colonies and plantations in America, an office or offices for receiving and dispatching letters and pacquets, to receive and deliver the same under such rates and sums of money as the planters shall agree to give, to hold and enjoy the same for the term of twenty-one years.
The patent included the exclusive right to establish and collect a formal postal tax on official documents of all kinds. The tax was repealed a year later. Neale appointed Governor of New Jersey, as his deputy postmaster; the first postal service in America commenced in February 1692. Rates of postage were fixed and authorized, measures were taken to establish a post office in each town in Virginia. Massachusetts and the other colonies soon passed postal laws, a imperfect post office system was established. Neale's patent expired in 1710; the chief office was established in New York City, where letters were conveyed by regular packets across the Atlantic. Before the Revolution, there was only a trickle of business or governmental correspondence between the colonies. Most of the mail went forth to counting houses and government offices in London; the revolution made Philadelphia, the seat of the Continental Congress, the information hub of the new nation. News, new laws, political intelligence, military orders circulated with a new urgency, a postal system was necessary.
Journalists took the lead, securing post office legislation that allowed them to reach their subscribers at low cost, to exchange news from newspapers between the thirteen states. Overthrowing the London-oriented imperial postal service in 1774–1775, printers enlisted merchants and the new political leadership, created a new postal system; the United States Post Office was created on July 26, 1775, by decree of the Second Continental Congress. Benjamin Franklin headed it briefly. Before the Revolution, individuals like Benjamin Franklin and William Goddard were the colonial postmasters who managed the mails and were the general architects of a postal system that started out as an alternative to the Crown Post; the official post office was created in 1792 as the Post Office Department. It was based on the Constitutional authority empowering Congress "To establish post offices and post roads"; the 1792 law provided for a expanded postal network, served editors by charging newspapers an low rate.
The law guaranteed the sanctity of personal correspondence, provided the entire country with low-cost access to information on public affairs, while establishing a right to personal privacy. Rufus Easton was appointed by Thomas Jefferson first postmaster of St. Louis under the recommendation of Postmaster General Gideon Granger. Rufus Easton was the first postmaster and built the first post office west o