Teaching Constant Motion:The Job of Railway Post Office Clerks with Primary Sources

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Teaching Constant Motion: The Job of Railway Post Office Clerks with Primary Sources NEW
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Final Run

Teach rpoIn 1930, more than 10,000 trains moved mail. Following passage of the Transportation Act of 1958, which allowed the discontinuance of money-losing passenger trains, mail-carrying passenger trains began to decline rapidly. By 1965, only 190 trains carried mail, and by 1970, the railroads carried virtually no First-Class mail.

On April 30, 1971, the Post Office Department terminated seven of the eight remaining routes. The last Railway Post Office, which operated between New York and Washington, D.C., on Penn Central/Contrail, made its final run on June 30, 1977.

Final Run: Teaching with Primary Sources

The Primary Sources:

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The Ideas and Tools:

In 1930, more than 10,000 trains moved the mail but railroads began losing passengers to highways and airplanes. With the Transportation Act of 1958, mail trains began their decline. by 1965, only 190 trains carried the mail, clerks began receiving letters informing them their jobs had been eliminated. On June 30, 1977, the mail train made its last run. This lesson focuses on the end of the Railway Post Office and has students consider other extinct jobs, why they became extinct and what the individuals with that particular skill set did for a career next. Students will analyze a letter sent to a clerk announcing the end of RPO jobs.

  • Examine the memo as a primary source. Practice the process of historical inquiry. Understand the processes of supply and demand concerning the way mail was delivered. 

  • As RPO Clerks left the railroad and either retired or moved to local post offices how do you think this change in position affected them with their job and family life? Do you think they missed the travel or preferred a job where they would be home every night?