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Mail Crawl

March 2023
1min read

During an age in which nearly everyone has a horror story to tell regarding mail service, it is refreshing to look hack upon the problems, and solutions, of an earlier time—namely, the summer of 1896, when Eugene V. Debs ordered workers of his American Railway Union off the job. Ron Genini tells the story:

“Although Debs had warned his followers not to interfere with the U.S. Mails, a few mail trains were inevitably delayed—among them the Southern Pacific s run between California s San Joaquin Valley and San Francisco. On July 6, Arthur Banta of Fresrio proposed an eighteen-hour mail-delivery service to the Bay Area via bicycle. The route, in eight relays, left Fresno and went west 11 miles to Kerman before turning north to the town of Firebaugh, a 28-mile run; it continued 31 miles northwest to Los Banos, then 10 miles due west to Pacheco Pass, 14 miles over the mountains to Bell’s Station, 25 miles north to Madrone, 33 miles to Menlo Park, and the final 29 miles into San Francisco.

“The Postal authorities in Fresno had no objection. In fact, they issued a special green stamp, printed from a single die in sheets of six. Today, that stamp is worth sixty-five dollars in the world of philately. This would be small comfort to Banta. During the twelveday strike period, he carried 380 letters to San Francisco at twenty-five cents an item—and lost $25.30 on the venture.”

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