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Neither Snow nor Rain: A History of the…
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Neither Snow nor Rain: A History of the United States Postal Service

by Devin Leonard

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"The United States Postal Service is a wondrous American creation. Seven days a week, its army of 300,000 letter carriers delivers 513 million pieces of mail, forty percent of the world’s volume. It is far more efficient than any other mail service—."

"...A rich, multifaceted history, full of remarkable characters, from the stamp-collecting FDR, to the revolutionaries who challenged USPS’s monopoly on mail, to the renegade union members who brought the system—and the country—to a halt in the 1970s."

Of course, I have a biased connection to this historical and remarkable organization, since I have been a mail-carrier for over 32 years. I am still glad I read it and actually learned a lot, from this well-researched single volume. I salute Benjamin Franklin, our postal Godfather. The postal service also developed some game-changing technology over the years, that it rarely gets credit for. If you have any interest in the U.S.P.S or just curious what a mail-carrier does, day in, day out, give this book a shot. I also got a kick out of this new to me factoid:

"In February 1914, the Pierstorffs of Grangeville, Idaho, sent their five-year-old daughter to visit her grandmother 75 miles away in Lewiston via parcel post, because it was cheaper than buying her a train ticket. Little May Pierstorff weighed 48 pounds, which meant that she was just under the Post Office Department’s 50-pound limit for parcels. The Grangeville postmaster charged her parents 53 cents, attaching the appropriate stamps to the front of her coat. May traveled all the way to Lewiston in a railway baggage car under the watchful eye of a railway mail clerk. When she arrived, a mail clerk on duty drove her to her grandmother’s house rather than leaving her at the post office for morning delivery. Soon there were more incidents of “child mailing,” and finally the Post Office Department outlawed the practice.” ( )
1 vote msf59 | Feb 26, 2019 |
Really boring. I can't lie, I am very frustrated with the USPS. Today a package arrived damaged and yesterday I had a package that was said to have been delivered...when it wasn't (it appeared later in the day). But despite my issues with the USPS this seemed like an intriguing pickup. I often enjoy micro-histories or histories of very specific items/entities/products so I thought I'd give this a shot.
 
Unfortunately it's an extremely tedious and boring read. I'll give the author/publisher credit for getting the title correct: it's a history of the US Postal Service. That said, as at least one negative review notes, it reads very much like a very dry retelling. The author clearly has a passion and interest for it (and the prologue seemed to show promise for the rest of the book), but wow, was this really dry and boring.
 
That said, there were some interesting tidbits (like delivering for Amazon, addressing workplace violence which is sadly rather relevant). But it was difficult to get into. The author clearly feels a passion for the subject but that didn't quite translate to the reader. It could be that my dislike got in the way too much but overall I just wasn't impressed with the style.
 
If these types of stories are your thing then give it a try. Would recommend you borrow it from the local library unless there's something about the USPS that you'd need for reference.
 
  ( )
  acciolibros | Feb 11, 2018 |
Mail delivery is something we all take for granted … every day except Sunday and a few national holidays, there our postal carrier is, pulling up in his truck to our mailbox. Devin Leonard tells the story of the United States Postal Service over the years, before we were officially the United States of America, through the dangerous first years of airmail delivery, up to today.

Neither Snow nor Rain is a delightful book that’s chock-full of facts, anecdotes and eccentric characters. Whenever hear a complaint about the USPS not keeping up with technology and not being able to pay its own way, I will know why (the U.S. Congress). And I’ll lament, along with the author and other PO aficionados the passing of rural post offices.

This is such a delightful good book – well-written, funny in parts and easy to read -- that I’m recommending it as one of the books our non-fiction book group reads in the coming year. ( )
  NewsieQ | Mar 26, 2017 |
Neither Snow nor Rain is a great study of the history of the largest letter carrier and the second largest employer in the US, or rather, it is a great book about the history of the US, especially the federal government, through the lens of the US Postal Service. Having grown up in a country where mail delivery is not reliable and rarely safe, I was shocked to see the things Americans mail through their national mail system. Checks! Jewelry! Legal documents! All of that was baffling to me, and quickly, I was in awe of the USPS. Over the years, Americans have become increasingly disgruntled with the USPS, and I found it difficult to understand why such an institution had such a bad reputation, despite being still very reliable and honest. Devin Leonard's extremely well researched and well written book does an excellent job of explaining the turning points, the key players, and the difficulties the institution has faced in the past and still faces today. Beyond the obvious (that physical mail is being replaced by electronic mail) Leonard's research shows how the political forces within and without the federal government, private interests with big lobbies, the unions, and the determination to insist on a capitalist mentality have driven the USPS to some tight corners over the centuries.

Overall, the history of the postal system is fascinating, not only because it is such an important part of our daily lives today, but also because it was such a strong influence in shaping the way the US developed as a country (for example, how it shaped the airline industry.) The early worries that allowing black man to become mail carriers, which would enlighten them and lead them to rise up against their "masters" might sound awfully weird and outdated today, but seem very much a part of how the country was shaped from its very beginnings. Similarly, how the USPS seems behind the times with its slow adaptation to the digital age, while it was at the forefront of air mail delivery, mechanical sorting, handwriting recognition, and scanning, may seem puzzling, but as Leonard shows, the push and pull of politics, private competitors (FedEx, UPS, etc.), and the unions seems to have shaped the strange place the government giant finds itself today, wedded uncomfortably to Amazon.

Strangely, the story of the USPS seems like a familiar tale to me, another case of Americans wanting to have their cake and eat it, too. We want better mail delivery to everywhere (the largest, house delivery range in the world!), but we do not want a bigger USPS with more employees. We want USPS workers to earn well and retire well, but we do not want to pay for it ourselves (then who?) in a time when the two biggest money-makers for the USPS (junk mail and first class mail) are at a decline and will probably never come back. It seems like another case of wanting better service without having to pay for it, and another case of Americans lacking perspective, not having experiences other postals services where you never send anything important through the government mail service unless you are poor and you cannot afford the private carriers... For example, when some remote post offices were going to be closed to save USPS billions of dollars, of course the residents (who would still get daily deliveries) were unhappy, but I bet most of those residents were also "against big government." So do we want big government that has far reach and affordable prices for ALL, or do we want small government and limited, better service (with good salaries for postals workers and good retirement).

Over and over again, Leonard reports the dilemma that the USPS has: a government agency bent on serving all equally well or a capitalist company that has to turn a profit. It seems that having both, just due to the size of the country and the immense amount of consumerism and banking, seems unlikely to succeed.

Recommended for those who like history, Benjamin Franklin, Wells Fargo, children put through the mail, and Jennies.

Thanks to NetGalley and Grove Press for a free digital copy of this book in exchange of my honest review. A great non-fiction read that I immensely enjoyed! ( )
  bluepigeon | Aug 14, 2016 |
A straightforward history of the USPS from its founding up to the present day. The first part of the book reads like a postal focused US history and the latter is more a series of articles about postal crises, including workplace violence and the threat of insolvency. It's well written and full of interesting facts and anecdotes about this venerated and maligned American institution. ( )
  wandaly | Jun 30, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802124585, Hardcover)

The United States Postal Service is a wondrous American creation. Seven days a week, its army of 300,000 letter carriers delivers 513 million pieces of mail, forty percent of the world’s volume. It is far more efficient than any other mail service—more than twice as efficient as the Japanese and easily outpacing the Germans and British. And the USPS has a storied history. Founded by Benjamin Franklin, it was the information network that bound far-flung Americans together, fostered a common culture, and helped American business to prosper. A first class stamp remains one of the greatest bargains of all time, and yet, the USPS is slowly vanishing. Critics say it is slow and archaic. Mail volume is down. The workforce is shrinking. Post offices are closing.

In Neither Snow Nor Rain, journalist Devin Leonard tackles the fascinating, centuries-long history of the USPS, from the first letter carriers through Franklin’s days, when postmasters worked out of their homes and post roads cut new paths through the wilderness. Under Andrew Jackson, the post office was molded into a vast patronage machine, and by the 1870s, over seventy percent of federal employees were postal workers. As the country boomed, USPS aggressively developed new technology, from mobile post offices on railroads and air mail service to mechanical sorting machines and optical character readers.

Neither Snow Nor Rain is a rich, multifaceted history, full of remarkable characters, from the stamp-collecting FDR, to the revolutionaries who challenged USPS’s monopoly on mail, to the renegade union members who brought the system—and the country—to a halt in the 1970s. An exciting and engrossing read, Neither Snow Nor Rain is the first major history of the USPS in over fifty years.

(retrieved from Amazon Wed, 04 May 2016 07:59:13 -0400)

Founded by Benjamin Franklin, USPS was the information network that bound far-flung Americans together, fostered a common culture, and helped American business to prosper. A first class stamp remains one of the greatest bargains of all time, and yet, the USPS is slowly vanishing. Critics say it is slow and archaic. Mail volume is down. The workforce is shrinking. Post offices are closing.This is a multifaceted history, full of remarkable characters, from the stamp-collecting FDR, to the revolutionaries who challenged USPSs monopoly on mail, to the renegade union members who brought the system--and the country--to a halt in the 1970s. An exciting and engrossing read, this is the first major history of the USPS in over fifty years.… (more)

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