Abstract: The Three Postal Networks of the United States in the 1830s

Robert Dalton Harris, Jr.


The reorganization of the United States Post Office Department in 1836 changed postal topography, and included a design for the local accumulation of the mail as well as for the dispatch of the principal mails among the hubs. From Congressional documentation, I have compiled the "New York State Postal Route Gazetteer" and an index by post office of all mail service among 1500 offices in New York State in 1837. The design of a local postal network emerges in every detail (including a "power law" relation between local revenues and the frequency of the mails). A principle for the self-organization of intensive postal development also emerges to complement the overall design of the system. Over time, transportation miles, not mail frequency, dominated the scale-free behavior of the system as a whole. The interaction of these incommensurate networks was understood to constitute a zone of perfect freedom for the entrepreneur.

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