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Letters Sent By The Postmaster General, 1789 - 1836
M601

Background

Fifty volumes of copies of Letters Sent by the Postmaster General between October 3, 1789, and December 31, 1836, are here reproduced. Each volume is assigned an alphabetical designation and contains an index of names of correspondents. The letters are arranged chronologically. The volumes reproduced on rolls 28, 38, and 46 are letters to members of Congress.

The letters, written by the Postmaster General, deal with activities of the Post Office Department and relate chiefly to post offices, postmasters, mail transportation, mail contracts, departmental organizations, appropriations, legislation, postal laws and regulations, budget, international mail service, international postal conventions, postage stamps, departmental employees, mail fraud, lottery cases, and claims against the Post Office Department and postmasters.

The Postmasters General holding office during the time these letters were written were: Samuel Osgood, beginning September 26, 1789; Timothy Pickering, beginning August 12, 1791; Joseph Habersham, beginning February 25, 1795; Gideon Granger, beginning November 28, 1801; Return J. Meigs, Jr., beginning April 11, 1814; John McLean, beginning December 9, 1823; William T. Barry, beginning March 9, 1829; and Amos Kendall, beginning April 11, 1835.

The Office of the Postmaster General originated on July 26, 1775, with the selection by the Continental Congress of Benjamin Franklin as Postmaster General for a term of one year. The position of Postmaster General was continued by the Congress of the Confederation. An act of September 22, 1789 (1 Stat. 70), under the Federal Government provided for the temporary establishment of a general post office and authorized the appointment of a Postmaster General who was subject to the direction of the President. It also provided that the duties, salaries, and regulations of the Department should be the same as those under the Congress of the Confederation. An act of February 20, 1792 (1 Stat. 232), later provided in detail for the Post Office Department and the postal service generally. Subsequent acts made the Post Office a permanent agency and enlarged its duties.

The Post Office operated as a single, undifferentiated unit until the appointment of a chief clerk on April 1, 1818. This officer was assigned supervision of the field operations of the Post Office, including mail contracts, inspections, activities of special agents, disbursements, and measures to deal with mail depredations. As the Post Office came to perform more services, other functions of the Postmaster General were delegated to the Chief Clerk and the Assistant Postmaster General. (The First Assistant Postmaster General was authorized on January 28, 1792; the Second Assistant Postmaster General on April 30, 1810; the Third Assistant Postmasters General on July 2, 1836; and the Fourth Assistant Postmaster General on March 3, 1891.) The salary of the Postmaster General was placed on an equal basis with that of other Department heads on March 2, 1827, and in 1830 the Postmaster General became a regular Member of the Cabinet.

The records reproduced in this microcopy are part of Record Group 28, Records of the Post Office Department. Related records are among Records of the Bureaus of Assistant Postmasters General, the Bureau Accounts, and the Bureau of the Chief Inspector of the Post Office Department also in Record Group 28.


Index to Microfilm Rolls

Roll Number, Inclusive Dates

Roll 1:    October 3, 1789 - June 12, 1792
Roll 2:    June 13, 1792 - October 27, 1793
Roll 3:    September 27, 1793 - October 27, 1794
Roll 4:    October 29, 1794 - January 25, 1796
Roll 5:    January 30 - November 25, 1796
Roll 6:    November 24, 1796 - October 14, 1797
Roll 7:    October 14, 1797 - October 13, 1798
Roll 8:    October 12, 1798 - May 8, 1799
Roll 9:    May 8, 1799 - March 4, 1800
Roll 10:   March 3, 1800 - August 6, 1801
Roll 11:   August 7, 1801 - January 25, 1803
Roll 12:   January 24, 1803 - March 16, 1804
Roll 13:   March 16, 1804 - April 17, 1806
Roll 14:   April 12, 1806 - October 30, 1807
Roll 15:   October 30, 1807 - June 23, 1809
Roll 16:   June 24, 1809 - July 20, 1811
Roll 17:   July 23, 1811 - March 12, 1813
Roll 18:   March 13, 1813 - December 15, 1814
Roll 19:   December 15, 1814 - March 12, 1816
Roll 20:   March 12, 1816 - December 13, 1817
Roll 21:   December 13, 1817 - May 11, 1819
Roll 22:   May 11, 1819 - December 12, 1820
Roll 23:   December 12, 1820 - December 26, 1821
Roll 24:   December 27, 1821 - December 30, 1822
Roll 25:   January 3 - August 23, 1823
Roll 26:   August 21, 1823 - March 30, 1824
Roll 27:   August 29, 1823 - April 9, 1824
Roll 28:   December 23, 1823 - January 26, 1827
Roll 29:   March 30, 1824 - January 25, 1825
Roll 30:   April 9, 1824 - September 9, 1825
Roll 31:   January 26 - August 23, 1825
Roll 32:   March 14 - October 18, 1825
Roll 33:   August 23, 1825 - March 28, 1826
Roll 34:   September 12, 1825 - March 12, 1827
Roll 35:   October 18, 1825 - August 10, 1826
Roll 36:   March 29 - December 20, 1826
Roll 37:   December 21, 1826 - May 8, 1827
Roll 38:   January 25, 1827 - January 30, 1830
Roll 39:   May 9 - November 24, 1827
Roll 40:   March 21 - December 20, 1827
Roll 41:   December 19, 1827 - May 12, 1828
Roll 42:   May 12 - October 15, 1828
Roll 43:   October 15, 1828 - May 12, 1829
Roll 44:   May 21 - December 14, 1829
Roll 45:   December 14, 1829 - October 18, 1830
Roll 46:   February 1, 1830 - March 19, 1832
Roll 47:   October 18, 1830 - December 20, 1832
Roll 48:   December 22, 1832 - June 9, 1834
Roll 49:   June 9, 1834 - March 8, 1836
Roll 50:   March 10 - December 31, 1836


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Bibliographic note: Web version based on Pamphlet Accompanying M601, Letters Sent By The Postmaster General, 1789 - 1836. General Services Administration, Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Service, 1965. 5 pages.

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