• From the early days, dense eastern cities subsidized rural western mail delivery, one of the earliest forms of public redistribution in the US. Many in the east did not like this arrangement, whereby sending a letter from Ohio to Virginia cost the same as New York to Philadelphia. In fact, customers paid all manner of different rates: a newspaper cost less than a barrel of flour, which in turn cost less than a single-page letter
  • This opened up opportunity for private couriers to transport mail at less expensive rates in dense areas (83), which led to a controversy over whether the federal government had a legal monopoly over mail service.
  • Before stamps, recipients paid for postage. Often travelers would use a scheme later employed in the age of collect calls, sending a letter when they reached their destination that their family would then refuse to receive, already satisfied with the information conveyed by its arrival.
  • A major impetus for home delivery of mail was the Civil War, when many letters contained news of a loved ones death, to allow grieving in private

One critical note about the book is that it is poorly edited. Several nearly duplicate sentences appear within a page of each other. For example, “By the end of the decade, Americans were mailing some three million valentines per year.” (97) and “Howland and her valentines were soon a great success, and by the end of the decade, Americans were mailing some 3 million of them per year.” (98)