Mailbox Drama and the Decatur Post Office

Purchasing a new mailbox was necessary to modernize the Decatur post office, but it wasn’t without drama.  Decatur, Georgia, eventually became the first city to use 100% motorized services to deliver mail. 

By Marissa Howard, Programs and Membership Coordinator

“Some folks get lost in thought…because its such unfamiliar territory” -A.C Keiser Atlanta Constitution,  April 9, 1957.

Have you ever thought about your mailbox? I didn’t until I came across a letter in the DHC Archives that piqued my interest. In urban areas, mailboxes were generally located directly on the house, requiring postal workers to walk door to door. For postal workers, delivering mail was a tiring, difficult, and slow process. But by the late 1950s, the United States Postal Service was modernizing.

In a letter from Decatur Postmaster, W. C. Lovejoy, Jr., to patrons on March 1, 1957, he urged patrons to order a new mailbox and place it at the curb. His letter included an order form and instructions on how and where to place your new mailbox.

DHC Blog: Mail Drama

Letter from Decatur Postmaster Lovejoy urging citizens to purchase a new mailbox. The USPS was modernizing and the new mailboxes would help in that process. It just wasn’t fully explained in the letter.  DHC Collections.

 

DHC Blog: Mailbox dimensions

The letter included a diagram for proper mailbox installation. DHC Collections.

 

 

DHC Blog: Mailbox Order Form

The letter also came with an order form for a new mailbox. DHC Collections.

“Decatur homeowners will be requested to move their mail boxes from locations on porches and houses to the edge of the road…the move is not mandatory, but will aid the postal department tremendously,” remarked Postmaster Lovejoy. 

He also claimed that Decatur would be the first city in the world to have its entire residential delivery motorized.

I had stumbled across an interesting piece of obscure history and I thought my research was done. But then, I came across the public’s reactions to the postmaster’s letter.

It was a chaotic mess: and more drama than a BravoTV reunion!

The letter stirred up confusion, complaints and “squabble” amongst Decatur patrons worried this was mandatory and that their mail would not be delivered without a new mailbox. (Did they not have Nextdoor back then?) Decatur residents brought complaints all the way to Washington, D. C. Officials from the D. C. Post Office responded with a “they can’t even do that” while the Regional Post Office in Atlanta sipped tea and refused to get involved. Meanwhile, local Decatur postal officials were forced to “wave a white flag” and explain what was going on.

DHC Blog: Mailbox Drama with Decatur Post Office

The post office drama begins over the “mandatory” mailbox. Atlanta Constitution, April 24, 1957.

In February, the Decatur Post Office announced that they would scoot mail using a “mailster” service, utilizing 18 brand new three-wheeled vehicles to deliver the mail.

DHC Blog: Decatur uses Mailster service for mail

“Decatur Mailmen to Scoot Mail.” Atlanta Constitution, February 20, 1957.

 

DHC Blog: Dogs riding a mailster

Dogs and mailmen delivering mail together.
Atlanta Constitution,  April 9, 1957.

 

Decatur was the first city to be 100% motorized. It just took some messy drama to claim that title.

Sources:

https://postalmuseum.si.edu/research-articles/machines-or-bust/transporting-the-mail#_ftnref13

 

 

DeKalb County Board of Health, ca. 1937, Clairmont officeDHC Blog: American Fare

Contact DeKalb History Center