Remember when you misbehaved as a child and your parents threated to “send you away?” Well, what if we told you that, at a time, they had the ability to literally do just that? Maybe we would have fought less with our siblings or been more reluctant to use our colored markers on the wallpaper if we knew that when the mailman came, he could have taken us with him…
Pushing The Limits
Back in 1913, post offices began accepting packages over four pounds—which, at the time was a total shell shock for the postal system. But, there’s a good chance the U.S. Parcel Service didn’t think that change all the way through. With larger package sizes, you would think more regulations would be set for what could or could not go inside them, right? Wrong.
Aside from being able to send heavier items along with the local mailman, there were extremely vague rules in place for what these weighted items were allowed to be. So, naturally, people began pushing the limits of their mail courier by shipping some interesting packages to family and friends. Soon enough, mailmen everywhere were transporting items like eggs, bricks, and snakes! And while slithery serpents arriving at your front door may seem like the ultimate shock, people took it a step even further.
Nancy Pope, head curator of history at the National Postal Museum, can recall there being at least seven instances of people shipping their children in the mail between 1913 and 1915. Within the first month of this new parcel rule, the Beagues, a couple in Ohio, paid 15 cents for stamps, along with some insurance money, to surrender their infant son over to the mailman. Granted, his “shipping address” was only about a mile away at his grandmother’s, but can you imagine handing your baby over to your community’s mailman covered head-to-toe in stamps?
While baby Beagues had a short journey to grandma’s house, May Pierstorff and Maud Smith, on the contrary, had some pretty extensive travel plans. Pierstoff was sent 73 miles away by Railway Mail, and Smith—the last of the seven “mail babies”—was shipped 40 miles through Kentucky. The longest trek, however, was taken by a six-year-old girl from her home in Florida, 720 miles north to her father’s house in Virginia. Covered in 53 cents-worth of stamps, this little tot put on some serious mileage.
Family Road Trip
Being that there were less than ten of these instances in two years, it clearly wasn’t common practice to ship your children. And to be fair, even the rare occurrences were normally between families and mailmen they knew extremely well or even were related to. But even so, sending children covered in stamps across the states with couriers was not in any way an ideal situation.
After a handful of these shipments occurred, the mail system seemed to wise-up a bit and officially banned postal workers from shipping human beings through the mail. People tried to sneak past this new rule, and some even got away with it, but eventually mail people wised up and decided to save their jobs rather than place a baby in their canvas tote bags.