Tots in transit

A letter carrier with a child in a mailbag. Image: National Postal Museum

Heard the one about children being “mailed” through the postal system?

While true, it isn’t the whole story.

Yes, some parents did use Parcel Post to transport children at the beginning of the 20th century.

However, Smithsonian Magazine recently dispelled the myth that such “mailings” were sanctioned.

“According to the regulations at that point, the only animals that were allowed in the mail were bees and bugs,” said USPS Historian Jenny Lynch.

Still, some newspapers carried occasional accounts of parents successfully mailing their children. The newspaper coverage may have led to the perception it was a common occurrence.

In 1913, an Ohio infant became the first known child mailed in the United States after a rural carrier delivered him to his grandmother’s house a few miles away. The postage was 15 cents and he was insured for $50.

A year later, an Idaho girl was mailed via train for 53 cents to her grandparents’ house 73 miles away.

Although it was against postal regulations to mail children, the fact that some parents did so reflects the trust they placed in postal employees.

“Mail carriers were trusted servants, and that goes to prove it,” Lynch said.