The postal service enabled America’s westward expansion

Paper trail. By Cameron Blevins. Oxford University Press; 248 pages; $ 34.95 and £ 22.99

BBefore Colorado It was a territory, let alone a state, and had a post office. In 1859, the first facility was opened in Auralia, a mining settlement founded by immigrants from the South in search of gold. Life west of the Mississippi River may be unpredictable. Gold failed to materialize, and drought-ravaged farmers and settlers clashed with Native Americans. Soon, Auraria merged with its rival company town, Denver City. Today, a vast university campus stands there. Cameron Blevins, a historian at the University of Colorado Denver, argues that one of the unchanging features of the turmoil is postal services.

Rather than focusing on the ideas disseminated by the post, on the “Paper Trail,” Blevins considers the institution’s own infrastructure. Using a database edited by postal historian Richard Helbock, he charts the rapid opening and closing of post offices in the late 19th century and tracks the westward expansion of the United States.

The map in the book tells us. In 1864, Native American-controlled land had few branches and still occupied most of the west. Over the next 25 years, the number of points representing post offices has increased exponentially as indigenous peoples have been killed or forced into government reservations (see map). Blevins uses these as a proxy for the solution and believes that western colonization is the result of big government rather than stubborn individualism. Posts held them together when federal and land subsidies led the eastern people to the mountains, deserts, and plateaus of India.

In the mid-19th century, the Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (formerly known as the United States Postal Service) was far from centralized bureaucracy. To keep up with the transition pattern, postal services have been ported to existing businesses. The federal government commissioned private stagecoach to carry mail and gave local businessmen (and sometimes women) short-term contracts to work as postmasters of the town. With these flexible partnerships, mail speeds up immigrants. Being able to track to, helped connect the distant parts of a vast country.

The “paper trail” reminds us that the post was political long before the controversy in recent mail ballots. Until 1971, the post office was a ministerial division of the government. The work in the post office was provided as a sponsor. Of the 80,000 appointments submitted to the Senate for approval between 1829 and 1917, nearly 62,000 were post office jobs. The facility itself was often transformed into a de facto campaign headquarters where the partisans begged for voters. Parliamentarians often lined up over who should be the postmaster in their district. A friend of Nebraska’s postmaster, Jules Sand, expressed anger at the political use of the mail.

However, the existence of postal services in the 19th century has not been divided. Democrats and Republicans alike packed supporters into the sector. To please voters, lawmakers from both parties sought more routes in their district. The post is still popular today, with 91% of Americans rating the agency in a positive light last year. However, Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers despised it, especially postal voting.

One of the most striking aspects of the “Paper Trail” isn’t in this book. Blevins is a digital historian who uses data science to analyze historical trends. He created an attached website with a wealth of interactive maps to show readers how postal services helped colonize the continent in a generation. These online dispatches are a perfect example of the ability of snail emails to form.

This article appeared in the printed Books & arts section under the heading “How the West was Victory”.

The postal service enabled America’s westward expansion Source link The postal service enabled America’s westward expansion

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