For the past couple of days a great deal of media focus has been on the fate of the United States Postal Service.
However, little attention has been paid to the USPS's storied history.
So for Remembered Places this week, Patch decided to fill in some of these oft-overlooked tidbits of trivia that most people never really stopped to consider.
For example, who knew that the USPS is one of the few independent government agencies explicitly authorized by the United States Constitution?
In fact, up until 1971, the USPS held a seat on the official Presidential cabinet, with the Postmaster General being the last person in the presidential line of succession.
Something else most people probably don't realize is that the postal service actually predates the United States and was established under a grant from King William and Queen Mary of England in February 1692.
But more than just a mail delivery service, the USPS also boasts one of the oldest law enforcement agencies in the U.S., with an inspectors unit formed under then Postmaster General Benjamin Franklin, who dedicated this force to the protection of postal service employees and its customers.
Indeed, as one looks back at the history of this one thriving institution, the impact the USPS has had on American history is undeniable.
Today it delivers close to 177 billion pieces of mail annually—an impressive feat by any standard—and continues to function under a congressional monopoly with the authority to regulate its competition.
It operates the largest civilian vehicle fleet in the world with just under 219,000 vehicles and remains the second-largest civilian employer worldwide with over 574,000 employees, a close runner up to Wal-Mart.
Even so, sadly it now faces a serious fiscal crisis, with a significant drop in demand for mail delivery, which has been estimated to have fallen nearly fifty percent in the past 10 years.
There’s no real telling what will become of the United States Postal Service and some fear the inevitable end to an agency as American as the Star-Spangled Banner.
Still, one thing is sure; the USPS is an integral part of the American way of life that’s deeply embedded in American history.
Here's to hoping it can weather the storm!
What do you think should happen with the United States Postal Service? (Tell us in the comments below.)
About this column: Remembered Places highlights the historic venues, buildings and homes even longtime northeast Queens residents might have missed.