First Mailboxes in the United States

On August 2nd, back in 1858, the first mailboxes were installed in Boston and New York City streets.

The first U.S. letterbox sanctioned by the United States Postal Service was patented on March 9, 1858, by Philadelphia iron products manufacturer Albert Potts. Potts devised containers that were incorporated into street lamp posts. He called his invention the “new and Improved combination of Letter-Box and Lamp-Post for Municipalities.”

Combined Letterbox and Lamp Post.

The Potts mailbox was the first of the postal system’s street collection mailboxes, but was, even in 1858, too small for the job.

A. Potts letter box design attached to lamp post.

Over the next few decades dozens of inventors and designers patented a variety of “new and improved” collection mailboxes, from overwrought, baroque-inspired ornate structures to boxes fitted with complex machinery for customer’s or carrier’s “ease of use.”

The design of the boxes we see on the streets today was last modified in 1971.

Modern Mailboxes in NYC.
Modern Mailbox evoking the cartoon character Spongebob Squarepants in NYC.

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