June 13, 1920
I went to the post office the other day to ship off my latest eBay sale, and the sleepy postal worker behind the counter wanted to know if there was anything liquid, hazardous, or perishable in the package to be mailed. No, it was just a pair of boots that I’d fit into a flat rate box that somehow ended up costing more than the “flat rate” by the time the questions were through. I have mailed (or had mailed to me) many things over the years. Brownies to my children at camp. My brother mailed a Foster’s Lager to me for my sixteenth birthday (much to my parents’ chagrin). Pike Place Market in Seattle has sent fresh salmon to me overnight. I have not (to this date) tried to ship my children anywhere, however; and I am not sure how they would qualify under the “liquid, hazardous, or perishable” stipulations.
The introduction of “parcel post” to the United Stated Post Office in the 1910’s had a huge impact on America. The Sears and Roebuck catalog could now ship you a “basic black and white dog” if you wanted one, and both urban and rural families began shipping just about anything possible to friends and family throughout the United States. Until June 13, 1920, that is, when the USPO announced a new rule. Children would not longer be accepted as parcel post.
Out in Idaho a few years prior, Mary Pierstroff (a four year old girl from Grangeville) was delivered to her grandparents’ home in Lewiston for a postage rate of 53¢. Weighing just 48 ½ pounds, Mary came in just shy of the 50 pound limit the Post Office had placed on chickens and was able to have her postage cost calculated on that basis. Mary did arrive safely, and although it is not clear as to whether or not she was actually placed in a box, some folks in Indiana followed suit later the same year.
Imagine the surprise on the face of a recently divorced father in South Bend, Indiana when he received a box in the mail marked “live infant.” The box had been shipped off by the ex from Stillwell for a postage fee of 17¢.
After still another instance down in Pensacola, Florida when a six year old girl named Edna Neff was mailed to Christiansburg, Virginia for 15¢ (by a probation officer who had temporary custody of her), regulations were put into place by the Postmaster.
So many comments…so little space. Instead, we’ll celebrate little Mary Pierstroff from Idaho and just say that being mailed at the postage rate for live chickens really just takes the cake…
Idaho Potato Cakes
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
1 cup cold mashed potatoes
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
¼ cup baking cocoa
1 cup milk
1 cup chopped nuts
In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in potatoes and vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa and baking soda; add alternately with milk, beating well after each addition. Stir in nuts.
Pour into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking pan. Bake at 350° for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.