A Visit to the Original Post Office

Hana with Cindy Heyward, postmaster of the Franklin Post Office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo courtesy of the author.

Hana with Cindy Heyward, postmaster of the Franklin Post Office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

In 1775, tensions were high between the American Colonies and Great Britain. Delegates from the 13 Colonies gathered in Philadelphia to form the Continental Congress. The delegation would help decide the fate of the future United States.

During that meeting, the group appointed Benjamin Franklin as Postmaster General. He founded the Franklin Post Office in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Today, more than two centuries years later, that post office remains.

“The Colonies needed a way to get mail from one location to the other,” Cindy Heyward told me during a recent visit. “As the Colonies grew, they needed to have a way to communicate.” Heyward is the current postmaster.

Before Franklin opened the post office, the Colonies depended upon merchants to get their mail from one place to another. It was an arduous process. By starting a post office, Franklin helped people “get mail to their neighbors, their families, and people living in other areas,” Heyward said.

At the time that the post office was established, the colonists did not purchase stamps. Franklin would sign letters to “approve” the mail.

“When people come in here now, we use what’s called a postmark,” Heyward said. A postmark is an official stamp on an envelope or a package. The postmark that the Franklin Post Office uses includes a replica of the Founder’s signature.


 © F11photo/Dreamstime

The post office that served the American Colonies is still operating today.


Heyward said that the digital age has affected the operations of many post offices around the country. “Mail volume has taken a hit,” she said, “especially letters, because mail no longer takes two or three days to arrive. It can take up to four days. But the number of packages being sent has increased.”

While the volume of mail has declined, Heyward said that the enjoyment of receiving and reading a letter has not diminished. “People love getting their mail,” she said. “Even though we have email and all these other ways of communicating, people still want their mail.”

Despite its ups and downs, the post office that Franklin started is still a place of historical significance. “Of the 38,000 post offices in the U.S., this is the first one,” Heyward said. “We predate this nation. We are the only post office that doesn’t fly an American flag outside. It all began here.”

Top photo courtesy of the author; bottom photo: © F11photo/Dreamstime