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 Early postal laws left door open for 'baby mail'

On January 1, 1913, the then Cabinet-level U.S. Post Office Department first started delivering packages. Americans instantly fell in love with the new service and were soon mailing each other all sorts of items, like parasols, pitchforks and… babies.

Yes, as documented in the article, “Very Special Deliveries,” by curator of the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum Nancy Pope, several children, including one “14-pound baby” were stamped, mailed and dutifully delivered by the U.S.

According to Pope, postal regulations, being few and far between in 1913, failed to specify exactly “what” could and could not be mailed via the still very new parcel post service. So in mid-January 1913, an unnamed baby boy in Batavia, Ohio was delivered by a Rural Free Delivery carrier to its grandmother about a mile away. “The boy’s parents paid 15-cents for the stamps and even insured their son for $50,” wrote Pope.

Despite a “no humans” declaration by the Postmaster General, at least five more children were officially mailed and delivered between 1914 and 1915.

Now don’t worry, because long before the then Post Office Department had created its “special handling” guidelines, children delivered via “baby-mail” got it.
According to Pope, the children were “mailed” by traveling with trusted postal workers, often designated by the child’s parents. And fortunately, there are no heartbreaking cases of a baby being stamped “Return to Sender” on record.

The longest trip taken by a “mailed” child took place in 1915, when a six-year-old girl traveled from her mother’s home in Pensacola, Florida, to her father’s home in Christainburg, Virginia.
According to Pope, the nearly 50-pound little girl made the 721-mile trip on a mail train for just 15 cents in parcel post stamps.

The Post Office Department officially put a stop to “baby mail” in 1915, after postal regulations barring the mailing of human beings enacted the year before were finally enforced.

About the Photographs: As you can imagine, the practice of “mailing” children, usually at costs far lower than regular train fare, drew considerable notoriety, leading to the taking of the two photographs shown here. According to Pope, both photos were staged for publicity purposes and there are no records of a child actually being delivered in a mail pouch. The photos are two of the most popular among the extensive Smithsonian Photographs on Flicker photo collection.

Even today, postal regulations allow the mailing of live animals, including poultry, reptiles, and bees, under certain conditions. But more babies, please!

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