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How One Man Defied the Post Office

Written By: Lucille J. Goodyear  |  Posted: Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

There didn't seem to be any way to lick the high cost of postage until Lysander Spooner came to the rescue. Since 1971, the cost of sending a letter has gone up 150 percent. Our mail service seems slower each day. And, there appears to be no feasible solution or alternative in sight. Like the weather, everyone talks and complains about the high postal rates and apparently slower service, but no one knows what to do about them. Perhaps we need another Lysander Spooner. Lysander who? The Lysander Spooner, a fiercely independent New Englander who went to battle and brought about a change in the postal system. He could also be called the "Father of the three-cent stamp."

Born on a farm in Athol, MA, in 1808, young Spooner studied law, pamphleteered and crusaded for dozens of causes before hitting upon an adversary worthy of his mettle: The United States Post Office, and he almost put it out of business! By 1844, the spiraling postal rtes had so irked Spooner that he began an extensive study of the situation. There was no question that rates were much too high. It cost 18 3/4 cents to send a letter from Boston to New York and 25 cents to send on all the way to Washington DC. A letter sent from Boston to Albany, NY written on a 1/4-ounce sheet of paper and carried by the Western Railroad, cost 2/3 as much as the freight charge for carrying a barrel of flour the same distance. Spooner's summation of his study was succinct: high cost and no service.

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