With the summer season well underway, July 1 may appear to be just the first day of the month, but for the Postal Service it is a celebration of "firsts" that have taken place throughout the organization's history.
On July 1, 1971, the Post Office Department was transformed into the United States Postal Service when it became an independent establishment of the executive branch of the U.S. government. A postal career service was established and political appointments to Postal Service jobs were prohibited, a framework that still stands today.
It is the anniversary of many other "firsts" for the Postal Service as well:
• July 1, 1847: The Post Office Department issued its first postage stamps. Previously, letters were taken to a post office, where employees would note the postage due (or paid) in the upper right corner.
• July 1, 1853: The first printed stamped envelopes were issued.
• July 1, 1861: The Pony Express began operating under contract with the Post Office Department as a U.S. Mail route. It had operated since April 1860 as a private express company.
• July 1, 1863: Free city delivery was established at major post offices.
• July 1, 1902: Rural free delivery became a permanent service. The word "free" was dropped in 1906, since it was understood.
• July 1, 1924: Regularly scheduled transcontinental airmail service with night flying began.
• July 1, 1963: The ZIP code launched.
• July 1, 1971: The United States Postal Service, the successor of the Post Office Department, officially began operations.
For more Postal Service history, check out "Publication 100, The United States Postal Service -- An American History," at usps.com.
The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.