What’s Pneumatic Post?

04 Apr 2020  Sat

Many different ways were tried to speed mail delivery in the early nineteenth century. Earlier, the only way to communicate at a distance was by the post. Experiments were conducted. They tried balloons and railroads and trolley cars and even the Pony Express. The speed of communication was always at a premium especially in business where the value of timely information could be immense.

In the late nineteenth century, several European countries experimented with pneumatic mail. The system was simple in theory. The tubes were laid underground throughout a city and letters could be placed in them and routed to their destination without waiting for scheduled delivery or getting caught in traffic. Good concept but the system had technological problems. The tubes require a vacuum or air pressure to move the vessels carrying the letters. And this pressure is difficult to maintain over any distance. Further, it was difficult to route letters to many different destinations on a pneumatic system. Still, the speed of communication was so important and alternatives so limited that many major European cities built pneumatic lines throughout their central districts in the period from 1880 onwards.

Several countries issued postal stationery designed to be used with the pneumatic post but only Italy issued a special set of postage stamps for the service. These exist as a relic of yet another technology made useless by the great electric revolution of the last 125 years.

Image Courtesy: Apfelbauminc

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