Is That Our Daughter in the Mail?

800px-Uniformed_Letter_Carrier_with_Child_in_MailbagSpeak to anyone who has worked for the United States Postal (Mail) Service and they’ll tell you that a lot of strange things have been sent in the mail. Perhaps the strangest were children.

In 1913, the U.S. post office (mail service) announced that it would begin a service called “parcel post” to send items that were too big to fit into an envelope. A “parcel” is a package wrapped in paper or other outer covering ready to be transported or mailed. According to post office policy at the time, the only living things that could be sent were bees and bugs (insects). However, it’s human nature (natural for people) to push the envelope (extend the limits of what is possible or allowed), so people started sending all types of things. In 1914, the first child was sent using parcel post.

This child and all of the others sent during this period were not packed (placed and sealed) in boxes. Instead, most of them had mailing labels (pieces of paper with the address of the person mailing and receiving the item written on it) and stamps sewed (attached using thread) or pinned (attached using a long, thin piece of metal) to the children’s clothing. At that time, the weight limit for mailed packages was 50 pounds (22.7 kilograms), so as long as the children weighed less than that, their parents thought it was worth a try (might be possible).

Why did parents mail their children?

Postage (the amount paid to mail) was much cheaper than buying a train ticket. Some of the mailed children either lived in rural (in the countryside) areas or were sent to relatives (family members) who lived in rural areas. The only people who visited these isolated  (far from other people and cities) places on a daily basis (every day) was the mail carrier (person delivering the mail), so the child could quickly and reliably be “delivered.” In those days, mail carriers were also considered trusted and upstanding (honest and respected) members of the community and could be relied upon to look after (care for) the children being sent. (I’m not maligning (insulting; speak badly of) mail carriers today. It’s just that most people don’t have those same expectation today.)

Many traveled only short distances. The longest trip was taken by a six-year-old girl sent by her mother in Florida to her father’s home in Virginia, about a 800-mile (1290-kilometer) journey (trip). Little Edna was just under 50 pounds and cost 15 cents in postage, about $3.85 in today’s dollars.

Mailing children was not a common practice (didn’t happen a lot), but there were some well-publicized (made so many people knew about it) cases. In 1920, the post office finally officially made it against policy (the rules) to send people in the mail.

What is the strangest thing you’ve ever received or have heard of being sent through the mail?

~ Lucy

From Wikipedia, Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution

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11 Responses to Is That Our Daughter in the Mail?

  1. Dan says:

    Hello everyone….hi Lucy!

    Wow..I am shocked, surprised, flabbergasted by learning about this.
    I had never heard of such a thing before, and I would not have a believed it.

    Actually, the strangest thing is this piece right here above..
    It’s hard to believe, but I trust Lucy as a source of information.

    Poor people! they must have been very poor to do or maybe life was so hard back then that doing such a thing was not even considered too bad..or maybe it was some nut case.

    Thank you Lucy.?

  2. Dan says:

    Hey, hi, me again.

    I do not to be mean..but have you guys zoomed in to that dude’s face?
    Would you leave your own kid to that creepy guy? I would not.

    Thanks bye.

  3. Hilario says:

    NOT JOURNEY FOR PLEASURE.- Just having a look to the man in the picture, a nice taking by the way, the service postal employee seems to need something more than good will, given that the toddler he is holding up had for sure to had more than one some difficult poop pee moments, feeding and crying…so on, whenever the little craved for something, and without the invention of diapers. I suppose that these special “child shipments” had to have relied much more on a set of rules of the U.S. post office, like providing additional logistic support, but quite by sure, the role of these men at a times where prevailed by one side the traditional pioneers values with puritan moral and high christian empathy, and by the other there were all kind of outlaw people, like the seed of devil spread around and among all sort of criminals wandering around everywhere, like two souls in one territory.

    The picture inspires sadness and gets you in a context of times of extreme need, a period of general lacking of cash and starvation as a background. It gets worse when imagining the mother counting the uncertain transit days without any notice about or even no news forever. The behind of the picture it is the most and absolutely horrible thing about and we know it because these kind of micro stories which from all of us could share about a few, have happened not so far away. So, warning for nostalgic navigators they must know that even last year,…and yesterday, any old times were much worse, even right now and today, things are not running so bad than they were doing it yesterday, but frankly far less good than that what those things will be doing it tomorrow…

  4. Tania says:

    An interesting story.
    Thank you.

    Best wishes,


  5. Tania says:

    I have found at my public library “Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents . What Your Teachers
    Never Told You About the Men of the White House” by Cormac O’Brien.

  6. Tania says:

    Very nice the Ben-Hur’s story. I have not seen the movie.

    We use the same words with the same meaning: elaborate, stalactite and stalagmite.

    Thank you.

  7. Tania says:

    I have some problems and I do not know if I can post for a month.

    All the best for you all,


  8. Aecio Flavio Perim says:

    Thanks, Lucy, for the interesting and weird story. I diddn’t know that children could be sent by mail. I thought that living things could be sent but only animals, not children. I would never send a child of mine to another place by mail. I would do it by myself, by car or other mean of transportation. Anyway, that’s the world we live in. Living and learning.
    From Brazil, the land of milk and honey, no sin (I’m sure not on me),

  9. emiliano says:

    Such interesting and incredible story but as Hilario said I think this kind of things happens when
    there is not other way of solution for so many kind of problems.
    It was usual years ago that parents sent their children from Europe to America hoping they will
    be better and they could have a future over there.
    They knew that they were not going to see their children, sons or daughters, any more along all
    their life but they did only thinking it would be better for them because poverty was so strong
    here in Europe, and particulary in Spain.

    My grandmother sent four daughters and a son to Argentina on last centery knowing perfectly well
    she was not going to see them ever along her life.
    It was so, never she could see her children any more and by this reason I have a lot of family in
    Argentina and other countries of South America.

    What could be now so odd, here in Europe or in my own country Spain, it is not so odd in other
    countries that now have a terrible war but even without a war but with necessity of food it was
    usual and common.

    Thank you so much Lucy.
    It is necessary to see our world with different points o view or history perspectives.

    The photo is great, incredible and great, I would like to have the opportunity of taken it as the
    faces of the poor child and the man are so real and old, it seems other world but it is ours.


  10. Pete says:

    My guess is then fat kids back then would stay put and never traveled 🙂
    Man ,
    Their Folks had to fork over a fortune to Canada post in order to ship out their kids , even standard mail.:)

    Hey Lucy ,
    How have u been ?
    It has been a while

    Cool piece of writing you got there
    Very solid

    I must say , I m not surprised
    U know , what Canada post was doing back then airplane componies are doing now.

    They , in a way , carry the torch to airplane people. U know , airplan componies took over , I mean
    U know, in recent decades, u see kid fly by themselves across oceans and continents.
    They are handed over to stewards -I persume – then their friends , relatives , or folks pick them up at their airport destination: probably at the baggage carousel :))

    Not much of a difference

    The shipments still are the kids the means is digferent though.


    A learning guide member

  11. Pete says:

    Hilary’s acceptance speech not a good one
    What she lacks is charisma , unlike her husband.
    Man , back in his days , he was something


    A learning guide member

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