Neither Snow nor Rain
by Devin Leonard
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Grove Press
Released: May 3,2016
Source: ebook review copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
The United States Postal Service is far more efficient than any other mail service—more than twice as efficient as the Japanese and easily outpacing the Germans and British. Journalist Devin Leonard tackles the fascinating, centuries-long history of the USPS.
Founded by Benjamin Franklin, it was the information network that bound far-flung Americans together, fostered a common culture, and helped American business to prosper. Under Andrew Jackson, the post office was molded into a vast patronage machine, and by the 1870s, over seventy percent of federal employees were postal workers.
As the country boomed, USPS aggressively developed new technology, from mobile post offices on railroads and air mail service to mechanical sorting machines and optical character readers. A first class stamp remains one of the greatest bargains of all time, and yet, the USPS is slowly vanishing.
Neither Snow nor Rain is the history of the U.S. Postal Service as seen through the frustrations and controversies faced by the postmaster generals. The book started around 1737 with Ben Franklin and the colonial system of mail delivery. We're given a short biography for each new postmaster general and descriptions of the frustrations they faced. We learned about how the postal service worked (in terms of sorting, transport, etc.) only if it related to a postmaster general's attempt to update the system or if it sparked a controversy.
So we learn about early delivery competitors and the USPS's attempts to shut them down, about censorship, about the patronage system and the rising influence of the unions. We're told about modernization efforts that were rejected by congress or fought against by the union. We also learned about mail trains and air mail, home delivery, zip codes, and stamp collecting.
Since the author focused on controversy, he often focused on what the minority were saying. I sometimes felt like we didn't get a balanced view of what people at the time felt about certain topics. However, this book was interesting.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.