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
Teaching Resource Sections: History of the RPO Love this Job
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Library of Congress Resources:

American Memory Collections:

teach rpoRailroad Maps, 1828-1900 The railway mail service is represented in this collection by the Galbraith maps. Frank H. Galbraith, a Chicago railway mail clerk, designed these maps to assist clerks in memorizing post office routes in several states. The maps were designed in 1897 and were not published but could be rented to prospective postal workers as a study guide. These maps are nothing like ordinary maps, they are truly a work of art. Like a typical map there are names of towns but the maps also have intricate artwork. The artwork gives a clue or hint to remembering the town. Frank Galbraith created maps for Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri, all are found in this collection. Unfortunately today some of the towns on these maps no longer exist and like the railway postal service they are just a fond memory.

teach rpoAmerica from the Great Depression to World War II: Photographs from the FSA-OWI, 1935-1945 This collection captures life in America between 1935 to 1944. The Railway Postal Service was at its peak during this time with over 10,000 trains moving the mail. The images in this collection show the postal clerks at work. Loading the mail cars, emptying mail bags and sorting mail were all part of the day for postal clerks.

teach rpoAmerica at Work, America at Leisure Motion Pictures from 1894-1915 A series of films taken of the U.S. Post Office operations in 1903 is a special highlight of this collection. Most of the postal films were taken in Washington, D.C., quite possibly at the Washington City Post Office (first occupied in 1898 and still standing today, known as the Old Post Office Pavilion. The motion pictures of rural free delivery service (instituted in 1896) were filmed in adjacent areas of Maryland. These films cover almost every aspect of the post office. One of the most unique films shows how mail trains used the catcher arm to collect mail while the train continues to speed ahead.


teach rpoPostal Memory Maps Frank H. Galbraith, a clerk with the Railway Mail Service, developed training maps in the late 1800s to assist company clerks sorting mail on the railroads in learning complex railway mail distribution networks for civil service examinations required by the Post Office Department. His hand-drawn pictorial maps were based on the premise of associating easily recognized cultural, historical and regional icons with post office names in order to create strong first impressions when memorizing spatial relationships along various rail lines. Galbraith focused on the mid-western railroad expansion, preparing maps for eight states, including this portion of Nebraska.

teach rpoGalbraith Railway Mail Service Map Designed by Chicago railway mail clerk Frank H. Galbraith these eight large scale maps helped employees of the Railway Mail Service quickly locate counties and post offices. The mail service numbered more than 6,000 employees, who traveled more than a million miles a year on the rails sorting mail. A printed title cartouche accompanied by a list of counties for each of the states by McEwen Map Company of Chicago is pasted on the maps.

Teacher's Page Collection Connections:

teach rpoRailroad Maps, 1828-1900 After nearly 4,000 years of delivery by foot, horse, or boat, in the early 19th century the speed of mail delivery was greatly improved with the use of steamships and railroads. The first American railway post office was created in 1864. Where trains did not run, stagecoaches continued to deliver mail. Students can use this collection
to study the impact of railroads on the postal service and its impact on the American lifestyle.

teach rpoPrints and Photographs The Prints and Photographs Division does not have a collection specifically for the Railway Post Office but a search for mail car will have more than 50 results.