Post box

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Postbox of the Russian Post in Moscow.
A British Lamp Box post box of the 1940 pattern at Denvilles, Havant, Hampshire.
First Paris street letter box from c.1850
A public (though unconventional) post box in Japan shaped as tea caddy

A post box (British English and others, also written postbox, known in the United States and Canada as collection box, mailbox, post box, or drop box) is a physical box into which members of the public can deposit outgoing mail intended for collection by the agents of a country's postal service. The term post box can also refer to a private letter box for incoming mail.

History of post boxes[edit]

Lamp box mounted next to a sewer gas destructor lamp in Crookes, Sheffield, England.

Europe[edit]

In 1653, the first post boxes are believed to have been installed in and around Paris.[1] By 1829, post boxes were in use throughout France.[2] The first public post boxes in Poland were installed in Warsaw in 1842.[3]

A post box originally installed in the wall of the Wakefield Post Office is dated 1809 and believed to be the oldest example in Britain.[4] It is now on display at the new Wakefield Museum.[citation needed]

In the British Isles the first red pillar post boxes were erected in Jersey in 1852.[5] Roadside wall boxes first appeared in 1857 as a cheaper alternative to pillar boxes, especially in rural districts. In 1853 the first pillar box in the United Kingdom was installed at Botchergate, Carlisle. In 1856, Richard Redgrave of the Department of Science and Art designed an ornate pillar box for use in London and other large cities. In 1859 the design was improved, and this became the first National Standard pillar box. Green was adopted as the standard colour for the early Victorian post boxes. Between 1866 and 1879 the hexagonal Penfold post box became the standard design for pillar boxes and it was during this period that red was first adopted as the standard colour. The first boxes to be painted red were in London in July 1874, although it would be nearly 10 years before all the boxes had been repainted.[6] In 2012 to celebrate Olympic gold medals for Team GB, selected boxes are painted gold. One has been vandalised briefly with graffiti.[7] One has been painted in the 'wrong' town.[8]

The first public letter boxes (post boxes) in Russia appeared in 1848 in St. Petersburg.[citation needed] They were made of wood and iron. Because these boxes were lightweight and easy to steal, they disappeared frequently; later boxes were made of cast iron and could weigh up to 45 kilograms.[citation needed]

Asia[edit]

The post box arrived in the late 19th century Hong Kong and were made of wood. In the 1890s, metal pillar box appeared in Hong Kong and remained in use till the late 1990s. From the 1890s to 1997 the boxes were painted red and after 1997 were painted green.[citation needed]

North America[edit]

The United States Post Office Department began installing public mail collection boxes in the 1850s outside post offices and on street corners in large Eastern cities.[9] U.S. collection boxes were initially designed to be hung or supported, and were mounted on support pillars, lamp-posts, telegraph poles, or even the sides of buildings.[9] By the 1880s, these pillar boxes were being made of heavy cast iron to deter theft or vandalism.[9] As mail volume grew, the Post Office Department gradually replaced pillar mailboxes with larger free-standing models, though many of the pillar boxes continued in service as late as the 1960s.[9]

The four-footed, free-standing U.S. Mail collection box was first suggested in 1894, following the successful use of such designs in Canada, and quickly became a fixture on U.S. city street corners.[9][10]

Unlike Canadian mailboxes, which were painted red,[11] U.S. mail collection boxes were originally painted in red or green. Beginning in 1909, all mail collection boxes were painted a dark green to avoid confusion with emergency and fire equipment.[9] Dark green gave way to olive drab green after World War I, when the U.S. Army donated a large supply of olive drab green paint to the Post Office. Olive drab green subsequently became the standard color for all U.S. mail collection boxes until 1955. On July 4, 1955, Postmaster General Arthur Summerfield announced that the Post Office would begin painting all mail collection boxes in red, white, and blue to make them easily identifiable. Subsequently, the Post Office began painting mail collection boxes in red and blue, with white lettering.[12][13] In 1971 the Post Office (now USPS) changed mail collection boxes to the current USPS Dark Blue with contrasting lettering.[10][13][14] The coming of the automobile also influenced U.S. mailbox design, and in the late 1930s, an extension chute or "snorkel" to drive-up curbside collection boxes was adopted.[9]

USPS "Snorkel" collection boxes for drive-through access
A British pillar box with two apertures, one for stamped, and the other for franked, mail
A wooden wall box in Burlington House, London.

Types of post boxes[edit]

Varieties of post boxes (for outgoing mail) include:

Some postal operators have different types of post boxes for different types of mail, such as, regular post, air mail and express mail, for local addresses (defined by a range of postal codes) and out-of-town addresses, or for post bearing postage stamps and post bearing a postage meter indicator.[citation needed]

Some countries have different coloured post boxes; in countries such as Australia, Portugal, and Russia, the colour indicates which type of mail a box is to be used for, such as 1st and 2nd class post. However, in Germany and parts of Sweden, because of postal deregulation, the different colours are for the different postal services. Other nations use a particular colour to indicate common political or historical ties.[15]

Post boxes or mailboxes located outdoors are designed to keep mail secure and protected from weather. Some boxes have a rounded or slanted top or a down turned entry slot to protect mail from rain or snow.[10][16] Locks are fitted for security, so mail can be retrieved only by official postal employees, and the box will ordinarily be constructed so as to resist damage from vandalism, forcible entry, or other causes.[10][16][17] Bright colours are often used to increase visibility and prevent accidents and injuries.[18][19] Entry openings are designed to allow the free deposit of mail, yet prevent retrieval via the access slot by unauthorised persons.[10][20]

Clearance[edit]

Post boxes are emptied ("cleared") at times usually listed on the box in a TOC, Times of Collection, plate affixed to the box. In metropolitan areas, this might be once or twice a day. Busy boxes might be cleared at other times to avoid overflowing, and also to spread the work for the sorters. Extra clearances are made in the period leading up to Christmas, to prevent boxes becoming clogged with mail.[citation needed]

Since 2005, most Royal Mail post boxes have had the time of only the last collection of the day listed on the box, with no indication of whether the box is cleared at other times earlier in the day. The reason given for this by the Royal Mail is that they needed to increase the type size of the wording on the "plate" listing the collection times to improve legibility for those with poor sight and that consequently there was insufficient room for listing all collection times throughout the day. Some post boxes may indicate the next collection time by a metal 'tab'[21] or dial that can be changed while the box is open. The tab displays a day or number, each number corresponding to a different time shown on the plate.

A problem with clearance of some boxes is their use as a dumping ground for used hypodermic needles.[22] In relevant cases staff are issued with protective equipment.[23]

Terrorism and political vandalism[edit]

The surviving Manchester pillar box from the 1996 bomb

During 1939 a number of bombs were put in post boxes by the IRA as part of their S-Plan campaign. When the Provisional IRA blew up the Arndale shopping centre in the 1996 Manchester bombing one of the few things to survive unscathed was a Victorian pillar box dating from 1887 (A type A Jubilee pillar).

In 1952, a number of post boxes were attacked in Scotland in a dispute over the title adopted by the British monarch which was displayed in cypher on the boxes. This included at least one which was damaged in the Inch housing estate in Edinburgh with a home made explosive device. The issue in question was the fact that Queen Elizabeth I had not been the queen of Scotland, and so Scotland couldn't have a Queen Elizabeth II. Indeed the present Queen is the first Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdoms with there now no longer being Kings or Queens of England, Scotland or Ireland. The compromise was to put the Scottish crown on Scottish pillar boxes, without any reference to the particular reigning monarch. One such example can still be seen today in Hong Kong at Statue Square.

Irish Republicans painting a Royal Mail postbox in Derry for the Green Post-Box Campaign in 2008

In the United States of America, nearly 7,000 USPS collection boxes were removed following the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack and the 2001 anthrax attacks in which letters containing anthrax spores were placed in public collection boxes. Since that time, a decrease in first-class mail volume and the onset of online bill payment processing has resulted in lower demand for collection box service in the U.S.[9]

In Northern Ireland several red Royal Mail post boxes were painted green by Irish Republicans in early 2009, in order to resemble An Post's post boxes in the Republic of Ireland.[24][25][26]


Colours[edit]

Colors of post boxes for standard mailings.
Please help

Symbols[edit]

Swedish Royal Post
Irish Post & Telegraphs "P&T" logo
  • Australia — a styled red letter "P" on a white circle, "P" standing for "Post".
  • Canada — a combination of a bird wing and an aircraft wing in a red circle and flanked by the words Canada Post / Postes Canada. Previously the words Canada, Canada Post, or Canada Post Corporation) were used on post boxes. Until the early 1970s, post boxes had the words "Royal Mail" and the Royal Coat of Arms of Canada.
  • Continental Europe — most designs include a Post horn, like those used by postmen to announce their arrival. In Germany the post horn is the only element indicating post services.
  • France — the arrow-shaped logo of La Poste.
  • Netherlands — an orange triangle with "postnl" and a royal crown in it.
  • Ireland — from 1922 the Irish harp entwined with the letters "SE" for Saorstát Éireann, then "P&T" Gaelic script for Post and Telegraphs and from 1984 An Post with their wavy lines logo, often on the door as a raised casting.
  • Russia — logo of Russian Post (Почта России) written white on blue and black on yellow 1st class mail boxes.
  • Japan — a "T" with bar above it ().
  • United Kingdom — all post boxes display the Royal Cypher of the reigning monarch at the time of manufacture. Exceptions are the Anonymous pillar boxes of 1879–1887, where the cypher was omitted, and all boxes for use in Scotland manufactured after 1952 (including replicas of the 1866 Penfold design) which show the Queen's Crown of Scotland instead of the Royal Cypher for Elizabeth II. Private boxes emptied by Royal Mail do not have to carry a cypher. Royal Mail post boxes manufactured since 1994 carry the wording "Royal Mail", normally above the aperture (lamp boxes) or on the door (pillar boxes). Before this date all post boxes, with the exception of the Anonymous pillar boxes, carried the wording "Post Office".
  • United States — the United States Postal Service (USPS) eagle logo, except that boxes for Express Mail use the USPS Express Mail logo.


Gallery of post boxes from around the world[edit]

See also[edit]

References and sources[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Lawrence, Ken. "Before the Penny Black". Ken Lawrence. Retrieved 2008-08-15. 
  2. ^ Batcow, Stan (2001-12-02). "The Post Boxes of Blackpool, England". Retrieved 2008-08-15. 
  3. ^ Hampel, Tadeusz (1993). Encyklopedia filatelistyki. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Naukowe PWN. p. 509. ISBN 83-01-11373-1. 
  4. ^ "Putting history on an envelope". London: BBC News South West Wales. 2009-08-18. Retrieved 8 August 2012. "The earliest known surviving posting slot was placed in the wall of Wakefield Post Office in Yorkshire in 1809" 
  5. ^ Barford, Vanessa (2012-03-02). "BBC News - Are there places more British than the UK?". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-03-10. 
  6. ^ Wicks, Paul (2002). "History of British Letter Boxes - Part 1: Victorian Letter Boxes". Paul Wicks. Retrieved 2008-08-15. 
  7. ^ a b "BBC News - Jessica Ennis gold postbox in Sheffield vandalised". BBC Online. 8 August 2012. Retrieved 8 August 2012. "A postbox that was painted gold in Jessica Ennis's home city of Sheffield, to celebrate her Olympic triumph, has been vandalised." 
  8. ^ a b "BBC News - Laura Trott golden postbox painted in Harlow by mistake". BBC Online. 8 August 2012. Retrieved 8 August 2012. "The Royal Mail has promised to paint a postbox in Olympic cycle champion Laura Trott's home town gold, after first painting one in the wrong place." 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h Marsh, Allison (2006-03-20). "Postal Collection Mailboxes". National Postal Museum. Retrieved 2008-08-15. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Shaman, Tony. "Antique Street Letterboxes". Antique67.com. Retrieved 2008-08-16. 
  11. ^ Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation, History In A Box: Red Forever!, Civilisation.ca. http://www.civilisations.ca/cpm/histbox/canad_e.htm
  12. ^ U.S. Post Office Bulletin 19867, 9 August 1955
  13. ^ a b Marsh, Allison; Pope, Nancy (2006-04-28). "Orr & Painter mailbox". Postal Collection Mailboxes. National Postal Museum. Retrieved 2008-08-16. 
  14. ^ United States Postal Service v. Lost Key Rewards, Inc., U.S. Patent and Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, Opposition No. 91185802 (15 November 2010), retrieved 23 January 2012
  15. ^ Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation, Colour, A Postal Symbol, Civilisation.ca. http://www.civilisations.ca/cpm/histbox/couleu_e.htm
  16. ^ a b Glancey, Jonathan (2007-01-16). "Classics of everyday design No 6". theblog. The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-08-16. 
  17. ^ Marsh, Allison (2006-04-29). "Street collection box damaged September 11, 2001". Postal Collection Mailboxes. National Postal Museum. Retrieved 2008-08-15. 
  18. ^ "A Victorian post box in Brecon - made in the Black Country". Black Country Bugle. 2007-06-28. Retrieved 2008-08-15. 
  19. ^ "Campaign to preserve red post boxes". BBC UK News (BBC). 2002-10-03. Retrieved 2008-08-15. 
  20. ^ William, Earle (1975-04-29). "Secured mailbox". USPTO Database. USPTO. Retrieved 2008-08-16. 
  21. ^ "Changes to post box collections: Collection Tabs". Postwatch.co.uk. Archived from the original on 2007-06-30. Retrieved 2008-08-15. 
  22. ^ "Used needles found in post boxes". BBC Online. 17 October 2008. Retrieved 6 January 2013. "Postal workers in Derby are being warned to take care after a rise in the number of used syringes being found in post boxes." 
  23. ^ "BBC News - Somerset postal workers given gloves to protect against needles". BBC Online. 4 January 2013. Retrieved 6 January 2013. "Protective gloves are issued to postal workers emptying a Somerset postbox used by drug addicts to dump needles." 
  24. ^ Quinn, Louise (2009-02-04). "Green postbox row MLA told to say sorry". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  25. ^ "Anger over green postboxes". Belfast Telegraph. 2010-11-10. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  26. ^ "Seeing red on green postboxes". Derry Journal. 2008-09-10. Retrieved April 20, 2012. 
  27. ^ All Royal Mail / GPO post boxes were painted BS 538 Post Office Red between 1874 and 1969. With the introduction of the K8 Telephone kiosk in 1969, a new "red" colour was adopted for GPO street furniture, designated B.S. 539 Post Haste Red. After British Telecom and Royal Mail were split by the British Government, BT continued to use BS539 exclusively, whilst Royal Mail use both BS538 and BS539 in a seemingly random way. Prior to 1859 there was no standard colour although there is a document in the BPMA archive indicating that optionally, the lettering and Royal cypher could be picked out in white or black. In 1859, a bronze green colour became standard until 1874. It took ten years for every box to be repainted during this period).
  28. ^ In 2012 UK post boxes in the home towns of Team GB gold medal winners in the 2012 Summer Olympics were painted gold.
  29. ^ PIN MAIL AG

Sources[edit]

Farrugia, Jean (1969). The letter box: a history of Post Office pillar and wall boxes. Fontwell: Centaur Press. p. 282. ISBN 0-900000-14-7. 

External links[edit]