Strong: Neither snow nor rain …

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“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” 

— Inscription, James A. Farley Post Office building, New York City

For thousands of years, getting mail from one place to another quickly and efficiently has been a priority. This was true even in 500 B.C.

The Greeks and Persians were at war. The Persian king needed information quickly. He built the Royal Road, 1,677 miles long, from the Aegean Sea to the capital, Susa. Mounted couriers delivered documents between these two points in nine days.

Writing the history of the Greco-Persian War, Greek historian Herodotus praised these couriers: “It is said that as many days as there are in the whole journey, so many are the men and horses that stand along the road, each horse and man at the interval of a day’s journey; and these are stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed.” The well-known postal quote paraphrases Herodotus.

The goal of rapid mail delivery continued. The Romans copied the Persian system of mounted couriers and relay stations. Formal postal systems were developing.

During the American colonial period, there were few post offices. Benjamin Franklin was appointed as one of two colonial Postmasters General. He worked to make the system more efficient, but in 1774, he was fired.

On July 26, 1775, the Second Continental Congress established the U.S. postal system, appointing Franklin as the first U.S. Postmaster General. He set up regular service between the colonies, realizing that swift and accurate communication was essential for Americans to win the Revolutionary War.

When the U.S. Constitution was written in 1787, the Post Office was mandated in Article I, Section 8, Clause 7. By this time, there were 75 post offices in the 13 states.

On July 1, 1847, the first official U.S. postage stamps were issued. The Pony Express was a further innovation. From April 3, 1860 to Oct. 26, 1861, mounted riders carried mail 1,900 miles in 10 days.

The U.S. Post Office was a Cabinet level agency, but on Aug. 12, 1970, President Richard Nixon signed the Postal Reorganization Act. This replaced the Post Office Department with the U.S. Postal Service, taking effect on July 1, 1971.

The Postal Service is self-supporting, depending on postal fees for revenue, with no direct taxpayer funding. This has created financial issues.

An 11-member Board of Governors manages the U.S.P.S. Nine members, who are appointed by the president, elect the Postmaster General. On May 6, 2020, the Board of Governors, chosen by President Donald Trump, announced the appointment of Louis DeJoy, a major Trump donor, as the new Postmaster General. He took office on June 16.

On the pretext of increasing efficiency, DeJoy has attempted several changes. He planned to dismantle over 600 high-speed mail sorting machines. He planned to remove hundreds of mail collection boxes. Public protests stopped much of this.

Now, DeJoy has devised a new way to delay mail service. He wants to move the Reno mail processing center to Sacramento, Calif. The Reno center processes mail for 22 percent of Nevada’s population. Reno is 132 miles from Sacramento, via Interstate 80, which doesn’t seem far, but recent events show the problems that will result.

The massive snowstorm that began on March 1 closed I-80 for over three days, with more snow falling after that. Traffic was stuck even longer. If all the Northern Nevada mail had been on its way to Sacramento, delivery would have been delayed for days.

Opposition to closing the Reno center has been strong and bipartisan, including Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo. The Nevada congressional delegation sent a letter to DeJoy on March 6. “The USPS standard for local Reno mail received and delivered is two days, a standard which USPS has already struggled to meet,” Nevada Democratic U.S. Sens. Jacky Rosen and Catherine Cortez Masto and Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei said in a letter to DeJoy. “Sending Nevadans’ mail to California does not seem like a promising way of improving this deficiency.” (Reno Gazette Journal, March 6)

The unofficial motto of the Postal Service says “Neither snow nor rain …” The recent storm shows that’s not always possible. Snow can delay the mail for days.

Moving the processing center will be a catastrophe. Hopefully, common sense and the protests of the people will prevail and the Postal Service can do its job properly. We’re all depending on that.

Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Foundation award-winning columnist. She may be reached at


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