Post Offices set the stage for American innovation and the government’s expansion in the 1800s, according to new academic research.
The expansion “[helped form] a huge web connecting the country” and went hand in hand with the nation’s technological dominance during the period, the researchers write.
“At the center of this web was the Post Office … which soon became the single most important government employer in the first half of the 19th century.”
The researchers — a trio of professors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University and the University of Chicago — emphasize how Post Offices made it easier to file patents and expose customers to more information and ideas.
The paper also notes how the New York Times in 1852 described the postal system as “the mighty arm of civil government.”
Many people may not realize how much the government facilitated innovation, James Robinson, one of the researchers, told Harvard Business Review.
“One of the big secrets of the U.S., historically, is the construction of this immensely capable state,” Robinson said.