History of United States postage rates

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Jump to: navigation, search
Seal of the former U.S. Post Office Department (1792-1971), predecessor to the USPS

Initial United States postage rates were set by Congress as part of the Postal Service Act signed into law by President George Washington on February 20, 1792. The postal rate varied according to "distance zone", the distance a letter was to be carried from the post office where it entered the mail to its final destination. Rates were adopted in 1847 for mail to or from the Pacific Coast and in 1848 for mail sent from one place in the west to another place in the west. There were double and triple rates as a letter’s size increased. There were ship fees which were also added (i.e. mail to Hawaii). The ship fee, including the ship rate on letters for delivery at the port of entry, were on a per letter basis, rather than weight. The United States issued its first postage stamps in 1847. Before that time, the rates, dates and origin of the letter were written by hand or sometimes in combination with a handstamp device.[1]

Since enactment of the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, postage rates have been set by the Postal Regulatory Commission.

Historical rates[edit]

History of United States domestic first class & postcard rates, 1863–present
Date IntroducedRate for first ounce (USD) (Letter)Rate for first ounce (Package)Additional ouncesPostcard rateComments
March 3, 1863.06 (.03 per half ounce).06.06 (.03 per half ounce).02 per half ounce in drop boxes[2]
March 3, 1883.04 (.02 per half ounce).04.04 (.02 per half ounce)
July 1, 1885.02.02.02
November 2, 1917.03.03.03War Years
July 1, 1919.02.02.02Dropped back by Congress
July 1, 1928.
July 6, 1932.
January 1, 1952.
August 1, 1958.
January 7, 1963.
January 7, 1968.
May 16, 1971.
March 2, 1974.
September 14, 1975. surface mail rate
December 31, 1975. domestic first class & postcards by airmail
May 29, 1978. Stamp Used
March 22, 1981. Stamp Used
November 1, 1981. Stamp Used
February 17, 1985. Stamp Used
April 3, 1988. Stamp Used
February 3, 1991. Stamp Used (also 4 cent F makeup rate stamp)
January 1, 1995. Stamp Used (also 3 cent G makeup rate stamp)
January 10, 1999. Stamp Used (also 1 cent H makeup rate stamp)
January 7, 2001. Stamps Used
July 1, 2001. Stamps Used
June 30, 2002. and Antique Toy Stamps Used
January 8, 2006. Liberty Flag Stamp Used
May 14, 2007.411.13.17.26Shape-based postage pricing introduced; Forever stamps introduced; different prices for letters and packages for the first time
May 12, 2008.421.17.17.27Price change announced February 11, 2008
May 11, 2009.441.22.17.28Price change announced February 10, 2009
April 17, 2011.441.71 (3 oz).20 (letters)
.17 (packages)
January 22, 2012.451.95 (3 oz).20 (letters)
.17 (packages)
January 27, 2013.462.07 (3 oz).20 (letters)
.17 (packages)
.33Price change announced October 11, 2012
January 26, 2014.492.32 (3 oz).21 (letters)
.17 (packages)
.34Price change announced September 25, 2013[4]

Historical trend[edit]

Nominal and inflation adjusted first-class postage rates in the US

Taking the above data and plotting it yields the graph shown to the right. The dark plot is the nominal issued price of the stamp and the light plot is the price adjusted for inflation and is shown in 2008 US cents.

This plot shows that, despite the rise in the nominal cost of a first-class stamp, the adjusted cost of the stamp has stayed relatively stable. The large jumps in the early 1900s are because a change by a single penny was large compared to the cost of the stamp. For example, the price increase from $0.02 to $0.03 on July 6, 1932 was a 50% increase in cost. Additionally, while the cost of the stamp itself remained fixed, the adjusted price in 2008 dollars was not fixed over time which added to larger jumps in adjusted prices.

Historical notes[edit]

Domestic Parcel Post service was adopted in 1913, 25 years after the Post Office had agreed to deliver international parcel post packages pursuant to the Universal Postal Union treaty and various bilateral agreements with other nations.[5] Initially, there were no or few postal regulations governing packages mailed by parcel post. To construct a bank in Vernal, Utah, in 1916, a Salt Lake City Company ascertained that the cheapest way to send 40 tons of bricks to the building was by parcel post.[6]

Bulk postal rates were restructured in 1996:

In 2007, First Class Mail was restructured to include variable pricing based on size, not just on weight. Shape-based postage pricing is a form of dimensional weight. Also at that time, International Parcel Post air service was rebranded as Priority Mail International, and Parcel Post surface service was discontinued for international destinations.[7]

Regular Air Mail service began in 1918 and over the years rates varied considerably depending on distance and technology. Domestic Air Mail, as a class of service, officially ended May 1, 1977. By that time all domestic First Class Mail was being dispatched by the most expeditious means, surface or air, whether or not the Air Mail postage had been paid.

Additional charges for Special delivery existed from 1885 to 2001. Today, Express Mail Overnight is the closest service.

During the summer of 2010 the USPS requested the Postal Regulatory Commission to raise the price of a first class stamp by 2 cents, from 44 cents to 46 cents, to take effect January 2, 2011. On September 30, The PRC denied the request, but the USPS filed an appeal with the Federal Court of Appeals in Washington DC.[8][9]

On September 25, 2013, the USPS announced a 3 cent increase in the First Class postal rate, effective January 26, 2014, increasing the price of a stamp to 49 cents. Bulk mail, periodicals and package service rates were also increased by six percent. A 5-Billion Dollar loss during the 2013 fiscal year necessitated the increase.[10]

See also[edit]

Unions of the U.S. Postal Service:


External links[edit]


  1. ^ Smoot, Frederick. "Early United States Domestic Postal Rates". TNGenWeb. Retrieved June 29, 2014. 
  2. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, 9th ed., Postal Service
  3. ^ U.s. Postal Service Stamp http://www.accuracyproject.org/postagechanges.html
  4. ^ New Prices and Services for 2014, USPS
  5. ^ Parcel Post: Delivery of Dreams http://www.sil.si.edu/ondisplay/parcelpost/cf/view.cfm
  6. ^ "Precious Packages—America's Parcel Post Service". National Postal Museum. Retrieved 13 July 2014. 
  7. ^ 2007 Comprehensive Statement on Postal Service Operations http://www.usps.com/strategicplanning/cs07/chpt2_007.htm
  8. ^ Metzler, Natasha (September 30, 2010). "Rate board denies Postal Service price hike plea". Associated Press. Retrieved November 15, 2010. 
  9. ^ O'Keefe, Ed (October 22, 2010). "Postage rates may still go up". Washington Post. Retrieved November 15, 2010. 
  10. ^ Reilly, Allison (25 December 2013). "Postal Rates Going Up In January". DailyGlobe. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 


Further reading[edit]

Beecher, Henry W. and Anthony S. Wawrukiewicz. U.S. Domestic Postal Rates, 1872-2011. Bellefonte, Pa.: American Philatelic Society, 2011. ISBN 9780933580787