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Publisher's Summary

A masterful history of a long underappreciated institution, How the Post Office Created America examines the surprising role of the postal service in our nation's political, social, economic, and physical development.

The founders established the Post Office before they had even signed the Declaration of Independence, and for a very long time it was the US government's largest and most important endeavor - indeed, it was the government for most citizens. This was no conventional mail network but the central nervous system of the new body politic, designed to bind 13 quarrelsome colonies into the United States by delivering news about public affairs to every citizen - a radical idea that appalled Europe's great powers. America's uniquely democratic post powerfully shaped its lively, argumentative culture of uncensored ideas and opinions and made it the world's information and communications superpower with astonishing speed.

Winifred Gallagher presents the history of the Post Office as America's own story, told from a fresh perspective over more than two centuries. The mandate to deliver the mail - then "the media" - imposed the federal footprint on vast, often contested parts of the continent and transformed a wilderness into a social landscape of post roads and villages centered on post offices. The post was the catalyst of the nation's transportation grid, from the stagecoach lines to the airlines, and the lifeline of the great migration from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It enabled America to shift from an agrarian to an industrial economy and to develop the publishing industry, consumer culture, and the political party system. Still one of the country's two major civilian employers, the post was the first to hire women, African Americans, and other minorities for positions in public life.

Starved by two world wars and the Great Depression, confronted with the country's increasingly anti-institutional mind-set, and struggling with its doubled mail volume, the post stumbled badly in the turbulent 1960s. Distracted by the ensuing modernization of its traditional services, however, it failed to transition from paper mail to email, which prescient observers saw as its logical next step. Now the Post Office is at a crossroads. Before deciding its future, Americans should understand what this grand yet overlooked institution has accomplished since 1775 and consider what it should and could contribute in the 21st century.

Gallagher argues that now, more than ever before, the imperiled Post Office deserves this effort, because just as the founders anticipated, it created forward-looking, communication-oriented, idea-driven America.

©2016 Winifred Gallagher (P)2016 Gildan Media LLC

Critic Reviews

"Long the most important activity of the federal government, the Post Office knit together America's geographically spread out democracy. Winifred Gallagher fluently illuminates not only the fascinating, picturesque past, but also the various possible futures of the American postal service." (Daniel Walker Howe, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848)

What members say

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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Interesting enough

Probably more than I needed to know. Cracks me up that historians give numbers from 200 years ago like 645,292. How do they know it was not 645,302? They do not.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Fascinating Book with Poor Delivery

This history of the USPS is fascinating with many interesting anecdotes. The flow of the narrative is well done even if not always chronological.

The one drawback to the audiobook is the annoying, authoritarian, sanctimonious voice of the narrator. While I wanted to hear the story, I found the voice irritating enough that I reluctantly returned to the book. It was like being lectured by your third grade teacher!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Terrible Reader

Interesting concept for a book, a little light on content, but good. Sadly, the reader's performance makes it nearly unlistenable. Speedy cadence, over-enunciation, and just plain annoying delivery made it tough to get through.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Super interesting. I'm so disappointed.

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

A reader that was at least tolerable and this lady was a good reader but I'm sorry her voice is absolutely intolerable. The worst I have ever experienced and I'm a nonstop listener of audible.

How did the narrator detract from the book?

Made it so bad I can finish it

Any additional comments?

Get someone else to be the narrator. I hate to clearly define the worst I've ever heard but this is it. She killed the entire book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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Poorly Written History of Westward Expansion

Most of the book is just a briefly summarized history of westward expansion. I typically can enjoy even the driest of books, but this book is beyond me.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful