Fun Facts About the United States Postal Service
Find out about the USPS’s long history full of strange happenings.
You may not remember Cliff Clavin, the friendly, full-of-knowledge mailman from the TV show Cheers. But you’d know his voice—he’s had a role in every Pixar film: he played Hamm in Toy Story, The Abominable Snowman in Monsters Inc., and Mack in Cars. If there is one thing his character from Cheers was known for, it was his deep knowledge of random facts. In honor of America’s best-known mailman, here are some fun facts about the US Postal Service.
- You used to pay to get mail. That changed in 1847 after the post office realized it was inefficient to keep returning the mail people refused to pay for. It was probably bills, mostly.
- The only floating post office in the world is in Detroit, Michigan. Since 1948, the J.W. Westcott II has been the only floating post office in the world as it delivers mail to ships navigating the Great Lakes.
- Presidents used to fire most post office staff and hire their supporters. This went on until Richard M. Nixon ignored the practice when he took office in 1969.
- The postal service is funded entirely by the sale of postage and services. No tax money is used to support the USPS despite it being a government agency under the authority of Congress.
- You can mail a potato. There are companies that will do it for you, but you can throw enough postage on and just send a potato through the mail. Or a coconut. You can mail almost anything that isn’t on the USPS’s list of restricted items.
- You used to be able to mail a baby. The USPS would ship anything under 11 pounds. And at eight months of age, James Beagle was shipped by his parents to his grandparents for 15 cents.
- The Hope Diamond, valued at $350 million, was shipped by jeweler Harry Winston to the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, using the post office. Don’t worry, he insured it for $1 million.
- Letter carriers are often the first responders to car crashes and emergencies. One letter carrier actually put out a garage fire with a garden hose.
- The boxy little truck your mail person drives is a Grumman LLV, or Long Life Vehicle.
Even though Cliff Clavin didn’t always have his facts straight, he did have a lot of them. The United States Postal Service might not get every single letter delivered right every time, but they deliver 484.8 million pieces of mail every day.