30 vintage photos of postal workers show how the profession has changed over the years

Underwood Archives/Getty ImagesPostal workers on scooters in the 1910s.

In 1775, Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first Postmaster General.

Since then, postal workers have been delivering mail on bikes, scooters, motorcycles, cars, wheelbarrows, sleds, and other modes of transportation. Their uniforms have also evolved from full suits with top hats to casual polo shirts and shorts.

The US Postal Service is more crucial than ever during the coronavirus pandemic, when many will be voting by mail in the 2020 presidential election.

Here are 30 vintage photos of postal workers on the job.

Pneumatic mail tubes (PMT) were introduced in Philadelphia in 1893.

SSPL/Getty Images1893.

Pneumatic mail tubes were usually 8 inches in diameter and were used to carry mail in bulk between sorting offices. Canisters could hold up to 600 letters, according to the National Postal Museum.

Postal workers used horse drawn carriages in the early 1900s.

Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis via Getty Images1900.

A mailman in Elmira, New York, wore overalls as his postal uniform.

In the winter, the horses pulled sleighs.

Minnesota Historical Society/CORBIS/Corbis/Getty Images1900.

Winter snow was no match for their sleighs.

Horses then started pulling larger mail vans called screen wagons.

Topical Press Agency/Getty Images1909.

The screens kept the mail from falling off.

Motor vehicles slowly started replacing wagons.

Vintage Images/Getty ImagesCirca 1910.

Electric, steam, and gasoline-powered cars were all popular until Henry Ford’s Model T car monopolized the market.

Parcel Post trucks began service in 1913 and were an instant hit.

Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis/Getty Images1913.

According to the USPS, the Parcel Post delivered 300 million parcels in the first six months.

Mail delivery scooters also had a moment.

Underwood Archives/Getty ImagesMid-1910s.

Four special delivery postmen for the US Postal Service tried out new scooters in the mid-1910s.

Post office engineer Roy J. Joroleman invented tunnel-shaped mailboxes in 1915.

GHI/Universal History Archive/Getty Images1916.

Post office wagons advertised the new and improved mailboxes.

In the 1920s, motorcycles became a popular way to collect and deliver mail.

Historic Photo Archive/Getty ImagesCirca 1915.

A rural postal mail carrier in Newell, South Dakota, wore a hat and overalls while riding his Wagner 4-11 motorcycle.

Postal worker uniforms used to be formal suits and collared shirts.

General Photographic Agency/Getty Images1925.

It was also the decade of short flapper hairstyles for women.

Postal clerks in New York City wore vests and ties in the 1930s.

New York Times Co./Getty Images1936.

Postal clerks sorted envelopes containing bonus bonds for World War I veterans at the General Post Office in New York City.

In Chicago, postal workers wore caps and overalls.

Kirn Vintage Stock/Corbis via Getty Images1930s.

Postal workers sorted packages in the main mail facility in Chicago, Illinois.

More women became postal workers during World War II.

Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images1943.

Two members of the Women’s Army Corps worked on identifying incorrectly addressed mail for soldiers in Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky.

In postal services abroad, some women didn’t have uniforms.

Reg Speller/Fox Photos/Getty Images1940.

In Luton, England, women wore armbands reading “Post Office Postman” since there were no uniforms available for them during World War II.

Mailmen wore fur hats to stay warm in the 1940s.

Alfred Eisenstaedt/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images1942.

Rural mailman Mark Whalon made his rounds in sub-zero weather.

Horse-drawn sleds were still in use in rural areas in the 1950s.

Orlando/Three Lions via Getty ImagesCirca 1950.

Postman Arthur LeBlanc from Berlin, New Hampshire, delivered mail from his horse-drawn sled circa 1950.

Postal workers also became characters in film and television.

Mondadori Portfolio/Getty Images1951.

Actress Loretta Young got a letter from actor Irving Bacon in the film “Cause for Alarm!

Even in heat waves, postal workers made sure mail was picked up and delivered.

John Dominis/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images1954.

A mailman collecting mail during a heatwave in 1954 sweats through his uniform.

It seems people have always pushed off doing their taxes until the very last second.

Keystone/Getty Images1965.

A postman stationed outside a post office in Washington collected tax returns from drivers rushing to beat the midnight deadline in 1965.

A 1931 mail truck was brought back into use in 1976 for nostalgia’s sake.

Glen Martin/The Denver Post via Getty Images1976.

Dwayne Cavanar (pictured) delivered mail from a similar truck between 1946 and 1951.

Postal workers didn’t have to be in uniform all the time, though.

Bettmann/Getty Images1978.

A postal worker placed envelopes into slots in 1978.

John Ratzenberger played mailman Cliff Clavin on “Cheers” in the ’80s and early ’90s.

NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images1984.

The episode “Cliff’s Rocky Moment” aired in 1984.

Mail wheelbarrows were used in the ’80s through the present day.

William Ryerson/The Boston Globe via Getty Images1981.

United States Postal Service worker John Hallinan walked through pouring rain in Exeter, New Hampshire, in 1981.

Postal workers in Florida wore short-sleeved shirts and blue pants to match their blue bicycles in the 1980s.

Visions of America/UIG/Getty Images1988.

A postal worker in St. Petersburg, Florida, matched his bicycle.

Beneath the collared shirts, postal workers wore T-shirts.

Cynthia Johnson/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images1988.

A postal employee sorts parcels in a warehouse in 1988.

In the ’90s, postal workers wore blue cardigans and baseball caps.

David L Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images1996.

Postal worker Forest Catron greeted Sissy the dog in 1996.

Some mailmen in California got creative with their headgear during the ’90s.

Clarence Williams/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images1996.

Mailman Bob Tattsuke and Lee Levey chatted in Mar Vista, California, in 1996.

Female postal workers wore the cardigans, too.

Tom Allen/The Washington Post via Getty Images1998.

Ella Mae Burtis worked in uniform at a post office in Lothian, Maryland.

The blue striped shirts that postal workers wore in the late ’90s bore the logo of the USPS.

Boris Yaro/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images1998.

Postal workers learned to drive on Driver’s Confidence Training Courses in 1998.

Whether they sort the mail in warehouses or deliver it to homes, postal workers offer an important public service.

Darren McCollester/Newsmakers via Getty Images2000.

The USPS is experiencing financial woes due to the COVID-19 pandemic as Congress votes on a $US25 billion emergency funding grant to keep it functioning for the election in November.

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