Nineteenth in our series to appear on the first Friday of each month: Boston Firsts Fridays. #BostonFirsts
First Realty Management Corp. was founded in Boston over 50 years ago. We are proud to call this wonderful city our home, and call focus to some of the events & innovations that happened FIRST in Boston.
BF#19 First Post Office in American Colonies (1639)
This is a big one; the first post office in the American Colonies was established by act of the General Court of Massachusetts 375 years ago this week! On November 5th or 6th of 1639 the Court designated the house of Richard Fairbanks to be the location where all “…all letters which are brought from beyond the seas, or are to be sent thither, are to bee brought into; and hee is to take care that they bee delivered or sent according to their directions; and hee is allowed for every such letter 1 penny, & must answere all miscarriages through his owne neglect in this kind; provided, that no man shalbee compelled to bring his letters thither, except hee please.“*
Fairbanks was an early Bostonian who owned a tavern downtown between Washington & Devonshire Streets. It’s hard to pin these things down precisely, but it’s approximately where the old Boston Globe headquarters were, not far from the Old State House. The mail was essentially pinned up against one of the tavern’s massive support beams. Locating a postal service in a tavern may seem an odd thing to do, especially since you couldn’t be sure that the tavern’s customers wouldn’t go rooting through the mail looking for beer money (which they did), but you have to remember that up until that point, mail was given to whoever happened to more or less anyone going in the right direction. The British had always brought their post to taverns and eating houses and so the Bostonian Colonists would think it natural to put the responsibility of the nascent postal service into the hands of the well-respected Fairbanks.
Most of the correspondence of course was going back to England. When the Court made Fairbanks Tavern the first Post Office, it really was meant for overseas communication. Any local letters would make their way through the colonies hand to hand until 1673 when the first inter-colonial mail route was established between Boston and New York. This route, known as Old Post Road, would later make up sections of U.S. Route 1.
One more first: in 1692 the General Court of Massachusetts decreed that all mail needed to be somehow marked to show when it had been received at the post office. Hence, First American Postmark…^
* Article from April 8, 1922 Boston Globe
^ Konwiser, Harry M. American Philatelic Dictionary and Colonial and Revolutionary Posts. New York: Jacques Minkus, 1947.