Never take mail delivery for granted
By KAREN KASPER
Society and the Cliffs
Shaft Mine Museum
ISHPEMING — The citizens of Ishpeming take mail delivery for granted, but that was not always the case. Prior to 1891, there was no mail delivery and mail had to be picked up at the post office, which was then located in the Sellwood block on the corner of Main and Canda streets.
“There is a great deal being said upon the free delivery of mail in this city, and many different opinions are held concerning it. Ishpeming is entitled to such service if the citizens or a sufficient number of them combine in asking for it. Those who favor the free delivery of mail argue that it would find a far less number of people congregating in the post office upon the arrival of mail. At present they fill the office so that it is almost impossible at times, to force a passage through the line, the place being too small to accommodate them at such times, and this is not pleasant for those who wish to do business there.” (Iron Ore, January 31, 1891)
It wasn’t until summer that anything was done.
“From City Engineer Bradt the Mining Journal learns that the system to be used in numbering the houses in Ishpeming will be the same as that provided for in the ordinance passed in 1887. It is known as the Philadelphia system, and, as the reporter understands it, will give one hundred or as near to that as may be, numbers to each block, the even numbers being on one side and odd numbers on the other side of each street. Main street will be taken as the base, or meridian, line for all streets running east and west, and Division street or Cleveland avenue will be the base line for all streets running north and south. Streets of either side of and crossing these base lines will be named east and west or north and south as the case may be. Thus, for instance, Pearl street on the east side of Main street will be called East Pearl street and so on.
This system will, of course, apply only to the city proper, for it is manifestly impossible to use the same method at the various mine locations, where the streets are not regular and the houses are scattered here and there. Most of the houses at the mine locations are already numbered; these numbers will doubtless be permitted to remain as they are, and the houses not numbered will be given numbers in accordance with the plan that was adopted in numbering the others.” (Mining Journal, August 1, 1891)
Besides numbering the houses, mail carriers needed to be hired and trained.
“In view of the large number of applicants for positions as mail carriers the postmaster has had considerable trouble in devising a proper test to determine qualifications. His decision wavered between a regular civil service examination or an exhibition of physical strength. On the advice of a friend the latter will probably be adopted and the applicants will be given an opportunity to show their prowess and agility in a square-heel-and-toe contest at Union park in a few days. The project may fall through, but it met with hearty approval by the postmaster as suggesting a speedy solution of the situation.” (Iron Ore, August 15, 1891)
Physical strength was a good measure of suitability for the job, as mail carriers would have to carry bags of mail, including packages, throughout the city.
Two deliveries of mail per day were also needed, although mail was received at the post office six times per day, as the trains came through.
There were 28 locked boxes located around town and at some of the mines.
“The distribution of carriers will be such that parts of three routes will contain the business portions of town, thus facilitating the handling of more important mail matter. The location of boxes is such that the best accommodation is given, although a few more boxes could have been advantageously placed. The department has ordered the service to begin October 1st and the preparations being made will result in the satisfactory inauguration of the system at that date. The number of carriers is six as recommended by the inspector and is more than is generally given to a population of this size, although one or two more were desired at this place.” (Iron Ore, September 12, 1891)
“The numbering of the streets has been completed after considerable hard work and not a little annoyance. Proper numbers have been assigned to all the locations and the entire work as far as the city is concerned is finished. The newly appointed mail carriers have been out on their beats this week getting the lay of the land and calculating the amount of walking that will have to be done each day, rain or shine.” (Iron Ore, September 26, 1891)
“The carriers of the post office free delivery system reported for duty on Thursday morning and were taken out on their respective routes and given instructions as to their duties, the numbering of houses, etc. The furniture for the office has arrived, mailboxes placed in positions and a large number of houses have been provided with private boxes for mail. The office desks and distributing cases will be placed in position in time to begin the delivery Monday morning.” (Iron Ore, October 3, 1891)
“Postmaster Tucker has been doing his duty right along in the endeavor to induce everybody to have their mail addressed to street and number. There are seventy-three Andersons, and the Smiths and Johnsons are equally numerous. If they all get their mail properly they will have cause to be thankful. The call boxes were removed from the office this week and the free delivery will begin about the first of next week.” (Iron Ore, October 3, 1891)
“In the free delivery of mail the few houses comprising the settlement on the west side of Like Bancroft will not be visited by carriers. The reasons for this are numerous, the rules of the department not requiring delivery to isolated parts not supplied with sidewalks. The postmaster undertook to deliver mail in this locality on his own responsibility but found that it interfered with collection of mail for the afternoon trains and the project was given up. In the applications for boxes at the post office, parties residing west of lake Bancroft will be give the first choice.” (Iron Ore, October 24, 1891)
“Free delivery has been in operation in Ishpeming since October 1st and has been eminently successful. The six carriers have done their work faithfully and well and the delivery of mail has been made to the satisfaction of the public in spite of the peculiarly difficult nature of parts of the territory.” (Iron Ore, November 14, 1891)
“The free delivery of mail has proved one of the most satisfactory changes ever made. The city was entitled to it for some time before receiving it, and now find it the very best plan for handling mail. The business of the office has increased considerably. The gross receipts of the postal department for the quarter last preceding the free delivery were $3,420, including $618 for box rent. An accurate estimate by Postmaster Tucker for the quarter under free delivery places the increase of receipts between $300 and $500, the receipts for box rent decreasing over five hundred dollars. The six carriers have done the work satisfactorily. All are friends of free delivery.” (Iron Ore, January 2, 1892)