A local sportsman by the name of L.L. Bean started his business in September 1912 in Freeport, ME, by mailing out 1,000 three-page flyers advertising his distinctive rubber-bottomed boots to out-of-state sportsmen applying for hunting licenses in Maine.

By 1919, the Freeport post office was the busiest one in the state. With an expanded product line, Mr. Bean located his store above the post office and had chutes installed to send packed boxes straight down to the PO, ensuring same-day processing. Over 100 years later, L.L. Bean continues to mail a paper catalog as part of its marketing campaigns and remains one of the largest catalog mailers in the country. 

This is just one of many stories about the unique partnership between the U.S. Postal Service and private industry that the National Postal Museum is telling in its virtual exhibition, “America’s Mailing Industry.” The exhibition celebrates the partnership between the USPS and the $1.4 trillion mailing industry that has helped citizens and businesses communicate and conduct business through the mail for over 200 years.

The virtual exhibition is rich with interesting tales of how mail helps people communicate, shop, ship, deliver, conduct transactions, build relationships, and foster citizenship. To gather material, the museum partnered with researchers and experts from the Postal Service, mailing-industry associations, and private companies.

Other accounts feature some of the biggest names in printing, envelopes, publishing, financial services, and nonprofit organizations. The museum has divided the industry into a series of 14 categories, but as it notes in the exhibition, no one section can really stand on its own: “Reading through these, you will discover that aspects of the industry overlap. ‘Catalogs and Mail Order’ is not a complete story without ‘Fulfillment and Parcel Shippers’ or ‘Direct Marketing.’”

This history of the Postal Service is deeply entwined with the history of this nation. The National Postal Museum knows this story better than anyone – it tells it every single day. Now, the museum has fleshed out even more chapters of the long narrative with this new virtual exhibition on the complex and gigantic world that is the mailing industry.

Share with us a story you have about this partnership. How does your organization use mail? Did any of the stories on the National Postal Museum’s America’s Mailing Industry exhibit surprise you?

Comments (2)

  • anon

    You need more people train for passport,I risk my health to renew my son

    Apr 08, 2017
  • anon

    I was put in the ACP program @ the request of Sheriff's office - Cowlitz Co., however the program has a tendency to make people late on their payments & some of what the postal employees' may think is junk may isn't always junk. When someone is in business for themselves the owner's have tendencies to do mail order. My real issue is that I cancelled my ACP program through Olympia around 2015 & I even tried a paid post office box then the former renter started back up again ordering from his (Robert Kanick) home sending to the Chehalis office I paid for. I do NOT know this man & years ago Carrie has problems with a "Robert regarding other types of identity theft". As of 3.3.2017 since cancelling my Chehalis Post Office Box, some one has gone to writing on my BANK STATEMENTS FOR ABOUT THE LAST 3 MONTHS...."GOOD ADDRESS & ALSO BAD ADDRESS" THEY ARE ALSO WRITING ON MY GARBAGE BILL. I am a former mailroom manager for a large reinsurance company in Seattle, Wa back in the early 2000's & nothing happened like this while I was managing. I am trying to see if the Washington Labor & Industries (Manny or Scott) will mail my email addresses to me as they were taken over by other people, the above email address I had for many years & I am locked out of it. Thank you, Carrie Webster-Henry

    Apr 03, 2017

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