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How Good Was Mail Service in Historic Canada Versus the Old West?

Mail service has a long and varied history across the entirety of North America. From the basic postal services in New England to the mail service across Canada and the communication in the Old West, mail was an important part of day-to-day life. But how do these services compare? What was the most efficient mail delivery system, and how did the Old West and Canada’s systems differ?

 Mailing Service: Historic Canada Vs The Old West

Mail Service in the Old West

The Gold Rush greatly increased the pace of westward expansion. New settlers in California demanded a better mail service system, which previously hadn’t even existed. Between the years of 1858 and 1861, the Overland Mail system transported both mail and passengers along the south route that connected San Francisco and St. Louis.

The service included a stagecoach which traveled both day and night. The journey between the two destinations took around twenty-four days to complete, and the speed averaged about five miles an hour. The roads were rough enough that men had to push on steep grades. If passengers interlocked their knees, a coach could hold nine people. If it was absolutely necessary, passengers could ride on the roofs of carriages. Despite the difficulties, though, it was well organized and dependable.

The mailing stations along the route were constructed in intervals of about twenty miles, and each stop to change driving teams lasted about twenty minutes. The station food was stale and abysmal, and sleep was near-impossible.

This service ended after March 1, 1861, after the Civil War broke out and the Apache uprising began in New Mexico and Arizona. The only time throughout the stagecoach’s run that the service failed to arrive was when the coach was attacked by Apache in 1861.

The most common east to west communication in the United States was the Pony Express, which cost $5 per ounce. For a letter to move between Sacramento and St. Joseph there was a time period of about ten days.

Following the collapse of the Overland Mail system, mail throughout the West still operated through Ben Holladay and Wells Fargo. However, the government contracts with these services were cancelled on May 10, 1869, at the time when the Transcontinental Railroad was finished. After the advent of the railroad, mail took seven days or fewer to arrive.

All mail traveled on the main railroad lines, but travel was complicated when mail needed to be delivered to more rural areas. 1845 saw the establishment of Star Routes by the postal department, which allowed contractors to be hired to haul mail along rural routes. These contractors used any transportation methods from canoes to snowshoes. Star Routes were used for mail delivery in the West until the service was finally ended in 1974.

Mail Delivery in Historic Canada

The postal service across the country went through more changes as regimes and expansion changed. During the French regime, no postal service had been established. The one exception was a courier system between Montreal and Quebec, established in 1721. While the courier system was originally developed for the delivery of government dispatches, private letters were also carried between the two areas.

After the British conquest of the country, the British post office was implemented in Canada. This office had been established toward the end of the 1600s. The first post office was opened in 1755 in Halifax, which established communication between Halifax, London, and Boston. In 1763, more post offices were opened in Montreal, Three Rivers, and Quebec. There were also courier lines between New York and Montreal.

After the thirteen British colonies declared their independence and became the United States, a postmaster-general was installed in the British-controlled colonies that would later become Canada. The headquarters was in Quebec. In the British North American colonies, all aspects of the postal service were controlled by the postmaster-general.

However, this led to a huge number of complaints due to the fact that citizens of the British North American colonies did not have any control of their postal service. The postmaster had complete control over the postal service and did not even answer to the governor-general of the country.

Even despite the discontent across the nation, the governments of the colonies didn’t come into control of their post offices until the period ranging from 1847 to 1851. After the post offices came under government control, the number of them and the efficiency rapidly increased. The rates for postage also decreased substantially to a sum of one-third of their original cost. It was during this time that the postage stamp was introduced. This was a way of compelling people to pay for sending letters, rather than collecting payment for letters upon the delivery of the letter.

Post offices remained stagnant until the new Dominion government took them over in 1867. At this point, post offices were put in charge of the country’s postmaster-general. The position of postmaster-general was also made an official government member. In 1878, the country joined the Universal Postal Union, which attempts to facilitate communication between multiple nations across the world. 1897 saw the implementation of imperial penny postage, and 1875 saw the introduction of the postcard.

The last major change to Canadian postal systems took place in 1908, when rural mail delivery systems were integrated with the system. This integration has continued expanding to this day; there are now about a quarter of a million rural mail boxes in the country.

Comparison Between the Two Histories

The postal history in the Old West began later than the overall history of Canada’s postal service, largely because the settlements lacked a unified postal method prior to the Gold Rush.

The biggest difference between the two methods of postage were that the United States contracted companies to undertake their postal services, while Canada’s postal service was developed by government employees.

It was about the same time as the Gold Rush that Canadian postal services were brought under the Dominion government rather than being part of British rule. This facilitated rapid growth and expansion of Canada’s overall postal service and the number of post offices available.

Overall, Canada’s postal service has been historically more organized despite undergoing more regime changes. Meanwhile, the United States postal service has been historically reliable despite the difficulties inherent in postage delivery. Also notably, the Canadian postal service was much cheaper than the United States postal service at the same time.

Mailing Services Today

We’re lucky that mailing services today don’t take nearly so long to arrive at their destinations. Troi Mailing Services is the premium provider of Canadian direct mail and printing. The company was first established in 1991 and has since accumulated expertise regarding Canadian regulations and postal processes.

To find out more about the mailing services or get a quote for your letter or package, give the company a call at 1-866-486-9350.


About: Seamus Barton
Seamus Barton - Author
Seamus Barton joined Troi Mailing Services in 2014 after graduating from York University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Professional Writing. As a manager of print and direct mail solutions, he sees how words play an important role in personalizing any experience. Seamus’ passion for writing motivates him to provide frequent direct marketing content that supports each Client’s individual needs. Please chat with Seamus about commercial printing and direct mailing campaigns, or about how to marry digital and physical strategies for optimal Smartmail Marketing success.

You can connect with Seamus on LinkedIn or by calling Troi Mailing Services at 1-866-486-0423 or via email at Read his latest article featured in Direct Marketing Magazine on “Dimensional Mail: Marketing’s Buffet Lobster

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