Mail jumping is a type of mail delivery. The person doing the mail jumping (known as a mail jumper) is transported on a body of water by a boat. The person jumps off the boat onto a dock, places incoming mail in a mailbox, retrieves outgoing mail, and jumps back onto the boat. The boat continues to move at a slow and steady pace (about 5 miles per hour (8 km/h)) while the mail jumper is jumping.
The mail jumping delivery system has been employed on houses surrounding Geneva Lake in Walworth County, Wisconsin, United States, since before roads were built around the lake in the late nineteenth century. Roads were first built around the lake in the 1920s. Some residents still use boats as their primary means of transportation to their summer homes on the lake including getting groceries.
Six jumpers are hired annually to deliver mail on behalf of the United States Postal Service each summer from June 15 until September 15. Male jumpers were used until the first female was hired in 1974; the cruise line has hired women since. Jumpers began daily at 7 a.m. by sorting mail. Delivery begins at 10 a.m. aboard the U.S. Mailboat Walworth. Mail is delivered to about 60 houses and the delivery is completed by around 1 p.m. A typical jumper misses the jump returning to the boat once in her career and works the rest of the day wet.
The Lake Geneva Cruise Lines has operated the boat since 1916. It takes approximately 160 tourists along for the ride; most mail runs are at full capacity. Jumpers are expected to be able to speak as tour guides as the tour passes historic summer houses and Yerkes Observatory. The jumpers are privately hired by the cruise line and they work closely with the U.S. Postal Office. The Walworth II is the only mail jumping boat in the United States. Mail has been delivered this way since 1873. A local resident said "There was a time during the war when everyone really counted on the mailboat. We didn't have TV and computers and all of that, so everyone would gather to meet the mailboat."
References in popular culture
- Seiser, Lisa. "Travel Channel's 'bizarre' host coming to Lake Geneva". Lake Geneva News. Retrieved 12 June 2010.
- West, Dennis (August 14, 1994). "Mail Jumpin'". Milwaukee Sentinel. Retrieved 13 June 2010.
- Hammel, Katie. "The mail jumpers of Lake Geneva". Gadling. Retrieved 12 June 2010.
- Brian, Dakss (June 26, 2005). "Special Deliveries". CBS News Sunday Morning. Retrieved 13 June 2010.
- "Annual "Mail Jumper" tryouts held in Wisconsin". Comcast Sports Network, San Francisco area.
- Jacquest, Samantha (June 23, 2013). "Challenges often await mail-jumpers". Janesville Gazette.
- Alden, Sharyn (August 3, 2008). "Letters, Leaps and Bounds on Lake Geneva". Washington Post. Retrieved 12 June 2010.