United States Postal Service creed

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Inscription on James Farley Post Office (click to see detail)

The words "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds" - while by no means an official creed or motto of the United States Postal Service - have long been associated with the American postman. The motto is inscribed on New York's James Farley Post Office, but it has no official status.[1]

The phrase can be found in block letters on the James Farley Post Office in New York City, facing Penn Station. It was a translation by Prof. George Herbert Palmer, Harvard University, from an ancient Greek work of Herodotus describing the angarium, the ancient Persian system of mounted postal carriers c. 500 B.C. The inscription was added to the building by William M. Kendall of the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White, the building's architects. It derives from a quote from Herodotus' Histories, referring to the courier service of the ancient Persian Empire:

It is said that as many days as there are in the whole journey, so many are the men and horses that stand along the road, each horse and man at the interval of a day’s journey; and these are stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed.

— Herodotus, Histories (8.98) (trans. A.D. Godley, 1924)

Nonetheless the USPS does occasionally cancel deliveries in unsafe weather conditions.[2]

2001 commercial[edit]

In 2001, the USPS created a television commercial edited to Carly Simon's song "Let the River Run".[3][4] The commercial, which ran after the September 11, 2001, attacks and the anthrax mailings, featured no voice over, only the following text interspersed on title cards. A portion of this variation also appeared without citation in the USPS 2001 Comprehensive Statement on Postal Operations (1.A-1):

We are mothers and fathers. And sons and daughters. Who every day go about our lives with duty, honor and pride. And neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, nor the winds of change, nor a nation challenged, will stay us from the swift completion of our appointed rounds. Ever.[5]

In popular culture[edit]

The "creed" is also quoted in the lyrics of the 1981 Laurie Anderson single, "O Superman,"[6] and in the 1997 film The Postman, starring Kevin Costner.[7]

In Adventures in Odyssey, the character Wooton Bassett said the mailman's motto is: "Rain or shine, snow or sleet, we deliver your mail! (But sunny days are optional...)"

In Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Going Postal, the motto for the Ankh-Morpork Post Office is very similar, reading "Neither rain nor snow nor gl om of ni t can stay these mes engers abo t thier duty", the missing letters having somehow relocated to the clothes store Hugo's.[8]

The lyrics of the Motown hit song "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" echo the creed.[citation needed]

A corrupted version appears in Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 as the creed of the fictional Tristero postal service. The creed as Pynchon has it goes thus: "... neither tempest nor strife, nor fierce beasts, nor the loneliness of the desert, nor yet the illegitimate usurpers of our rightful estate, can deter our couriers."

In the Seinfeld episode "The Calzone," postal carrier Newman calls in sick because it's raining. When reminded by George Costanza of the U.S. Postal Service creed, he replies, "I was never that big on creeds."[9]

The quotation is referenced in the 1982 comedy-drama film Diner, in which a quiz-show question asks for its author.[10]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]