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W. N. DOAK, Secretary

CHARLES E. BALDWIN, Acting Commissioner


For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, Washington, D. C.




Price 10 cents


This bulletin was prepared by Dr. W itt Bowden, o f the United
States Bureau of Labor Statistics.




Recent innovations in the postal system_____________________________
Problems of the Postal Service-------------------------------------------------------Administrative changes:
Departmental organization----------------------------------------------------------Fact-finding surveys____________________________________________
Miscellaneous administrative changes------------------------------------------Improved methods of accounting_________________________________
Procedure in a representative central accounting office________
Efficiency ratings_______________________________________________
Modernizing the physical plant__________________________________
Handling letters at offices of origin__________________________________
Procedure in a representative large office_________________________
Procedure in an office only partly mechanized-------------------------------Handling letters between offices-------------------------------------------------------Handling letters at offices of destination-------------------------------------------Handling parcels at offices of origin_________________________________
The Van Buren annex___________________________________________
Handling parcels between offices-------------------------------------------------------Handling parcels at offices of destination_____________________________
Special services of the postal system_________________________________
Mechanizing of the money-order accounting system___________________
Measuring output:
Mail handling__________________________________________________
Special services________________________________________________
Classes of labor and volume of employment----------------------------------------Changes in number of employment opportunities-------------------------------Communication versus other postal services__________________________
Trend of employment_______________________________________________






n o . 574

D e c e m b e r , 1932


Recent Innovations in the Postal System
A study of the recent history and present status of the postal
system by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that
it has been undergoing a series of changes which, although more
continuous and therefore less noticeable, are probably no less radical
in character than the changes that have revolutionized many other
American industries. One needs to go back no more than a quarter
of a century to discover that the system has been transformed in
regard to the nature and variety of services rendered; the use of
mechanical methods; the introduction of administrative changes;
the adaptation of the physical plant to changing conditions and
needs; and the increased productivity of labor.
Since 1908 (the first year included in the present study) the vast
and complicated system of parcel post has been developed. Con­
nected with parcel post has been the introduction of the collect-ondelivery system, the insuring of parcels, and special-handling ar­
rangements. Among the other additions to the services rendered are
the Postal Savings System, village delivery, and extensions of the
delivery system in both city and country.
In smaller offices and with regard to some phases of the work in
larger offices, mechanical methods are not economically applicable;
but for handling a wide variety of activities, such methods have
been devised and extended in recent years to an extent that is seldom
realized by patrons of the system. Improved canceling and post­
marking machines are used in all offices large enough to justify their
adoption. In preparing letters for the canceling machine, mechani­
cal facing tables are used. Many varieties of automatic conveyors
have been devised and put into use. An important factor in the
development of motor vehicles and airplanes has been the extensive
patronage of these industries by the postal system. Large firms and
institutions have been encouraged to make use of such devices as
metered postage machines. In the handling of finances and accounts,
many kinds of the most efficient types of bookkeeping and calculating
machines are in extensive use.




There has been an even greater variety of administrative changes
for the purpose of promoting efficiency. Among these may be in­
cluded a definite budgeting of funds for encouraging invention and
for buying or renting and maintaining labor-saving devices. A di­
vision of cost ascertainment has been established for carrying on a
continuing study of the various phases of income and expenditure
as a basis for conducting the financial affairs of the postal system
according to sound economic principles. The handling of the ac­
counts of smaller offices has been decentralized in what is known as
the district post-office accounting system. Kemarkable economies
have been effected in the money-order accounting system. Surveys
have been conducted for the purpose of discovering the most efficient
methods, formulating plans for standardized procedures, and mak­
ing available to the entire system the best methods found anywhere
in the system. An administrative reorganization has coordinated
the mailing and finance divisions in the various larger offices. In
order to avoid slack time and to make possible a full utilization of
the labor facilities of the system, postal employees perform a variety
of functions and thus the advantages of specialization are combined
with the economies of interchangeability of labor. An important il­
lustration of recent coordination of labor for greater efficiency is the
unit system for facing, canceling, and separating letters in the larger
offices. The development and general application of a system of effi­
ciency ratings has characterized recent postal history.
In the adaptation of the physical plant to changing conditions and
needs the principal problems have been created by the development
of the Parcel Post System. During the first decade of the present
century an extensive program of construction was undertaken and
the buildings put up were remarkably efficient for the handling of
the classes of mail then authorized by law. With the development
of the Parcel Post System during the second decade of the century,
the existing plant proved to be extremely inadequate. Its inade­
quacy was accentuated by the halting of construction programs as
a result of the World War. With the working out of experimental
methods for handling parcel post and the new special services, and
with the further improvement of the technique of handling other
kinds of mail and the older special services, a new program of con­
struction was recently undertaken and is now well advanced.
The various changes thus briefly outlined have been accompanied
by a remarkable increase in the productivity of labor. On a con­
servative basis of calculation (conservative in the sense that the
change in the volume of output is underestimated and the change in
the volume of labor is overestimated) the productivity of labor in the
ostal system increased from a base of 100.0 in 1908 to 171.8 in 1930,
eclining, because of the falling off in business, to 163.4 in 1931.
In regard to these changes and the methods used by the Postal
Service in handling its business, there is very little published infor­
mation. The general lack o f knowledge, although no doubt in part
attributable to the relative lack of self-advertising on the part o f the
post offices, is in a measure a result of the high degree of efficiency and
adaptability of the system. An institution or an organization which
comes into such intimate contact with the lives and interests of the
people generally as does the post office would inevitably be subjected




to extensive and critical scrutiny unless it found means of performing
its functions efficiently and with a smoothly operating adaptation to
changing needs and conditions.

Problems of the Postal Service
Post-office employees carry on their work under a remarkable
variety of conditions and find it necessary to meet and solve a great
diversity of problems. These conditions and problems range all the
way from the crossroads country post office to a metropolitan postal
A more or less typical office of the more remote kind is supplied by
a star-route contractor who brings the mail once daily from a town a
dozen miles away. This town in turn is reached, not by railway nor
by public conveyance, but by star-route from the nearest railroad
station 25 miles away. All the work of the post office, handling the
mail of the various classes, performing the various special-service
transactions (for example, insuring parcels), keeping books and
making reports, and serving as a central agency for community infor­
mation—all of these varying activities are required of the postmaster
virtually without assistance.
In contrast is a metropolitan post office 150 miles away with many
hundreds of employees, millions of dollars in revenue, millions of
special-service transactions (as the issuing of money orders), and
hundreds of millions of pieces of mail per year.
Varying conditions and problems are illustrated by the types of
buildings and of material equipment. In many places the work of
the postal employees is carried on in rented structures, as, for ex­
ample, in an outgrown mercantile establishment taken over by the
Post Office Department in one of the larger cities, pending the com­
pletion of a publicly owned building. A large proportion of the
structures now in use were built many years ago under the influence
of the so-called monumental ideal of public architecture. Even in
some of the larger cities where the volume of postal business is so
large as to make mass handling economical, there are buildings of
the monumental type with interior columns and other arrangements
which seriously interfere with the use of modernized mechanical
f acilities and efficient grouping of equipment and of employees. This
condition is the principal cause of the recent adoption of an extensive
building program.
The problems confronting postal employees are not confined to
those ox meeting the needs of individual patrons. There are many
specialized needs that require ingenuity and adaptability. These
are illustrated by the mass of parcels issuing from mail-order houses;
the vast quantity of periodicals, the bulk of which has rapidly in­
creased, due to modern advertising; the handling of money orders
for firms whose receipts are largely in that form ; and the irregular
influx of circulars in large quantities from big firms which, in recent
years, have made increasing use of circulars for advertising purposes.
Another phase is illustrated by the transfer and transportation of
mail. One of the most important matters in this connection is con­
cerned with conveying mail from one operation to another—for ex­



ample, from the canceling machines to the primary separating cases.
Another aspect of the problem of transportation is to be found in
conveying mail from one floor to another, while still another is found
in the transfer of mail from outside conveyances, as motor vehicles,
to the post office and vice versa. Of course, the larger aspect of
transportation is found in the conveying of mail from one post office
to another. Trunk-line railway connections, as between Washington
and Baltimore, simplify the problem, but even here the economical
utilization both of space and of the time of postal employees requires
constant study and adaptation to changing conditions. When the
two post offices are as widely separated as Baltimore, Md., and Burnt
Woods, Oreg., for example, transportation is obviously a complicated
process. It is sufficient here to enumerate some ox the principal
modes of transportation of mail from one point to another in an
office or in a given city and between the more remotely located offices.
Among these methods are conveyance by hand; by floor trucks of
many kinds; by a great variety of mechanical conveyors; by chutes
and floor wells; by tractor trains; by pneumatic tubes; by horse­
back; by horse-drawn vehicles, dog sleds, etc.; by motor vehicles;
by trains, both steam and electric; by steamboats and other water
craft; and by airplanes and airships. In connection with transpor­
tation there is the vitally important problem of choosing between
direct handling by employees of the Government and conveyance by
others under contractual arrangements.
Not the least of the problems of an organization which has such
varied activities and contacts with virtually everyone in the country
is the problem of personnel. In 1931 the regular, full-time em­
ployees numbered about a quarter of a million, and the system af­
forded part-time, contractual, and indirect employment to many
others. The range of activities carried on by the organization is
probably unequaled by any other business enterprise in the country.
There are innumerable problems of routine character connected with
time keeping, pay rolls, retirement deductions, efficiency ratings,
transfer from one type of work to another in order to avoid slack
time, etc. In general the problem of personnel involves in its most
significant aspect the maintenance of morale and efficiency without
resort to the virtually absolute power that is commonly vested in the
administrative heads of private business enterprises.
The most fundamental problem of the postal system—one which
permeates and determines the character of all its activities—arises
out of the universality and variety of the services rendered. These
are illustrated by the occasional letter or parcel handled for a farm
laborer in a remote country district reached only by rural carrier or
star-route contractor, and the millions of pieces of mail and specialservice transactions handled in the course of a year for a large mail­
order house. The extensive and increasing range of services ren­
dered and the universality of contacts required on the part of postal
employees give rise to the basic problem of constant adaptation of
the means at the disposal of the post office—often far from ade­
quate—to meet the widely divergent demands of a public which is
likely to be by no means uncritical.
In the study of the Postal Service undertaken by the United States
Bureau of Labor Statistics the aim is to arrive at a statistical esti­



mate of changes in the productivity of labor and of the effects of
these changes on the volume of employment. In connection with this
primary purpose of the study it is necessary to know how the postal
system works in its main features, and to analyze the principal
technological changes which have influenced the productivity of
labor and the volume of employment.

Administrative Changes
Departmental Organization
Under the Postmaster General as executive head there are four
main divisions of the Post Office Department, each under an assistant
postmaster general.
The First Assistant Postmaster General is in charge of services
and personnel connected directly with the handling of mail in the
post offices throughout the country, and the delivery of mail to pa­
trons of the post office in city and country alike. The Second Assist­
ant Postmaster General is concerned primarily with transportation
facilities; arrangements with railroads and other transportation
agents; the Railway Mail Service, which is in charge of the transfer
of mails in terminals and of the handling of mails in transit; the
air mail service; and the international aspects of the Postal Service.
Financial matters, money orders, classification of mail, stamps, reg­
istered mails, postal savings, and cost ascertainment are among the
more important aspects of the work assigned to the Third Assistant
Postmaster General. To the Fourth Assistant Postmaster General
have been assigned, in general, such matters as pertain to the super­
vision, upkeep, and improvement of the physical plant, including
buildings and equipment. Under him is also the Division of Engi­
neering and Research, which has a very important part to play in
the process of technological improvement.
In addition to the four main branches of the Post Office Depart­
ment there are various officials with specialized duties, as the solici­
tor, the chief inspector, the comptroller, and others who are directly
responsible to the Postmaster General. The final auditing of
accounts is in charge of the General Accounting Office, which is not
under the jurisdiction of the Post Office Department.
Fact-Finding Surveys
The recent history of the administration of the postal system has
been marked by a series of important surveys, which have been car­
ried on in part by congressional committees, in part by special com­
missions, and in part by officials of the Post Office Department.
The post-office appropriations act for the fiscal year 1906-7 created
a joint commission of Congress on second-class mail matter. The
chairman of this commission was Senator Penrose and the vice chair­
man, Representative Overstreet. The commission reported that
because of lack of adequate cost data it was unable to make definitive
recommendations regarding changes in rates. It therefore recom­
mended in the first place a series of special weighings of the mails
and in the second place the appointment of a special commission to



study the whole question of cost ascertainment and business methods
in the postal system.
As a result of the recommendations of this commission, Congress
provided for extensive special weighings of the mails to extend over
a period of six months during the fiscal year 1907-8. A new com­
mission, known as the Joint Commission on Business Methods
of the Post Office Department and the Postal Service, was also cre­
ated by act of Congress of March 2, 1907. The chairman and vice
chairman of the former commission (Senator Penrose and Repre­
sentative Overstreet) were in charge of the new commission. A little
later, in 1911, another commission on second-class matter was ap­
pointed; it was known as the Hughes Commission because it was
headed by Charles Evans Hughes.
On the basis of the information resulting from the special weigh­
ings and special counts and from the investigations of the PenroseOverstreet and Hughes commissions, rapid progress was made toward
a more efficient administration of the department and toward the
introduction of labor-saving devices.
During the years 1913 and 1914 four commissions, consisting of
post-office inspectors and representatives of the Division of Post
Office Service, made extensive studies of principal post offices, and
on the basis of their recommendations numerous changes were made.
Equipment was rearranged to economize floor space. Carrier routes
were reorganized for a fuller utilization of the 8-hour day prescribed
for letter carriers. A more careful coordination of work in the post
offices with train schedules was undertaken. Efforts were made to
reduce the amount of slack time on the part of employees by shifting
them from one kind of work to another in accordance with the vary­
ing amounts of work required. A beginning was made in the coor­
dination of the different divisions of postal administration by
combining the various departments under the two main divisions of
mails and finance.
During the period of the World War, progress in connection with
buildings and the physical plant was checked by war-time needs.
At the same time the growth of the Parcel Post Service and of other
special services made increasingly urgent a program of adaptation
of the plant to the growing volume and variety of services rendered.
The seriousness of the problem led to the establishment in 1920 of
the Joint Commission on the Postal Service, composed of certain
members of the Senate and House Post Office Committees. The com­
mission chose an advisory council of business men and engineers for
carrying on detailed investigations of conditions and needs. The
purpose of the commission is indicated by the following quotation
from the law creating it: “ The commission shall investigate all
present and prospective methods and systems of handling, dispatch­
ing, transporting, and delivering the mails and the facilities therefor;
and especially all methods and systems which relate to the handling,
delivering, and dispatching of the mails in the large cities of the
United States.”
The work of this commission, which extended over a number of
years and which was made public in the form of numerous official
documents, formed the basis of outstanding changes in the methods
of carrying on the Postal Service since that time. One of the out­



standing results of its investigations was the establishment of the
Division of Cost Ascertainment. Closely connected with the com­
mission’s investigations was the extensive building program author­
ized by Congress in 1926 and still in process of execution.
Another series of important surveys of the postal system was car­
ried on by officials of the Post Office Department during the years
1929 to 1931. Extensive surveys were made of 55 principal offices,
and detailed analyses made of various operations. There was a com­
parison of time, labor, and cost per unit of output at principal offices.
Efforts were made to discover the causes of variations in efficiency
and to extend throughout the system the methods in use in the more
efficient offices.
Miscellaneous Administrative Changes
The problem of the most efficient internal organization of the
larger post offices gave rise as early as 1909 to an experimental con­
solidation of all work having to do with the handling of the mails
under one superintendent and of all work having to do with financial
matters under another superintendent. In 1911 it was reported that
some of the larger offices were undergoing such a reorganization,
with two instead of five main divisions, and that as a result the
“ same amount of work ” was being done by “ a relatively smaller
force.” As a result of the work of commissions of postal experts,
beginning in 1913, the 2-division plan of organization was developed
and extended practically throughout the Postal Service. At that
time it was reported that post offices handling 75 per cent of the
country’s mail had been reorganized in such manner as to conform
to standard principles of business management. By the merging of
the mail, city, carrier, parcel-post, registry, money-order, postal-savings, finance, stamps, and second-class sections and divisions (all of
which had been more or less independent) into the two large divisions
of mails and finance, it was found that a large amount of slack time
on the part of employees was eliminated and that at the same time
the work of the various divisions was accelerated by a ready inter­
change of labor under the new system of organization.
The coordination and interchangeability of labor was further
promoted by the development of forms for use by foremen, super­
visors, and superintendents. These forms have been developed at
the principal offices in such manner as to meet local needs and con­
ditions. They include such data as enable postal officials to keep a
constant check: on the number of hours and the amount of work done
in the various divisions and subdivisions of the Postal Service. In
one of the larger offices, for example, a monthly statement is prepared
showing the number of employees and the hours consumed in handling
all mails. The statement classifies both the personnel and the work
done so as to have instantly available a record showing the trend
of the productivity curve. In a word, the post offices have adopted
methods of plant management such as are in use in the more efficient
industrial establishments in private enterprises.1
1 An instance of plant management methods is the unit system, described on pp. 15, 18,
and 19.



Improved Methods of Accounting
One of the more important changes in postal administration has
been the inauguration of improved methods of accounting. The
annual report of the Postmaster General for 1909 pointed out the
need of more effective supervision of the more than 60,000 offices
throughout the country. A plan was then proposed which was later
developed into the system of district post-office accounting. It was
reported in 1917 that under congressional authorization the country
was divided into districts with central offices therein for the distri­
bution of supplies and the administrative examination of accounts.
Under this arrangement the smaller district offices obtained their
supplies and rendered their accounts through a central accounting
postmaster. Recommendation was made for a further extension
of the system on the ground that not more than 25 per cent of the
possible savings were being realized by the limited extent of the
district post-office accounting system, which recommendation was
later carried out. Particularly important was the extension of the
system in 1922. It was reported in 1923 that in accordance with
recent changes all postal receipts and money-order funds were made
immediately interchangeable and available for all authorized postoffice expenses; that the auditing of 600,000 money-order accounts
annually in Washington was eliminated; and that other significant
improvements and economies were effected. In 1928 it was reported
that “ a new system of postal accounting has been inaugurated at
45,000 third and fourth class offices, under which postal and moneyorder accounts were merged. This eliminated the rendition and
auditing of 540,000 money-order accounts annually.”
Procedure in a Representative Central Accounting Office

The nature of the work done and the principal recent changes in
the methods of the central accounting offices may perhaps best be
described by means of an illustration. The office chosen as an illus­
tration handles the accounts of about 870 third-class and fourthclass offices.
There is in use a cash-accounting machine introduced about two
years ago. This machine audits daily the various forms of postoffice remittances, also requisitions for stamps and supplies. Three
forms are used by the district post offices for (1) money orders,
(2) district-office deposits of surplus funds, and (3) requisitions for
stamps and supplies.
Corresponding to these three forms are three types of record index
cards for filing. The machine combines three operations (except
for requisitions, in which there are only tw o ): (1) Posting on the
record index card; (2) printing a receipt for the remitting post­
master (in connection with a money-order remittance or surplusfund remittance); and (3) printing a tape record for the book­
keeper’s use in checking the transaction. Each of these operations
was formerly done by hand. The present method of mechanical
operation, combining all three, saves time and also reduces the chances
of error. The machine also adds any desired total during the day;
and the bookkeeper who has the key to the machine adds the day’s
grand total.



As the remittance and requisition letters are received, the items
are added on an ordinary adding machine. The operator of the cashaccounting machine has these sums. I f the two machines agree, the
handling of the accounts is correct. As a check against the actual
amounts received, the bookkeeper, who controls the making of the
grand total by the machine, takes this total, removes the tape record,
and checks it against the actual receipts.
The remittance form, or letter, contains a blank postal-card re­
ceipt. This receipt is filled out by the cash-accounting machine as
one of its three combined operations. A bundle of these forms is
put into a mechanical cutter to remove the postal-card receipts, which
are returned to the remitting postmasters. This process replaces the
old method of writing out the receipt on thin paper and sending it in
an envelope. Those receipts were often lost, and the present method
saves much time and trouble incidentally in avoiding duplication of
Another accounting device is a bookkeeping machine, in use since
about 1920, but recently adapted to new functions. Its main use is
for auditing quarterly reports of postmasters in the central account­
ing area. There is an abstract, or itemized list, of receipts and
payments for each office. Offices are known by numbers. On a
single line the bookkeeping machine records the number of a par­
ticular office and all items of receipts, together with the payments.
The receipts are added, and the payments are subtracted, and at the
end of the line a balance is struck.
The cash-accounting machine mentioned above is also used for the
daily bookkeeping of the local post office, including the handling of
transactions with district offices. The particular form now used was
originated locally. The machine lists the receipts at the top of the
page and adds them; then, below the receipts, it lists and sums up
the expenditures. Expenditures plus the bank balance should equal
the receipts. The machine is so designed as to be adaptable to the
handling of different forms.
The bookkeeping machine described above as being used for audit­
ing quarterly reports of district postmasters has also been used
locally for keeping a check on the daily disbursements from the Post
Office Department’s allotment of funds for overtime and substitute
services. In order to conserve the allowance it is important to know
the extent of its use from day to day. The record of expenditures
has been reduced to simple forms filled out mechanically on the
bookkeeping machine and thus a great deal of time is saved in han­
dling records of variable expenditures. The method has been adopted
by other offices.
The work done by the bookkeeping and the cash-accounting
machines was formerly done by hand in the now fast-disappearing
books and forms used by the old-fashioned expert manual bookkeeper.
There are also in use check-writing machines, signature devices,
machines for computing the complicated rates on second-class matter,
time recorders, and various other mechanical or semimechanical
Combined with mechanical devices is the more systematic method
of utilizing labor to effect still further economies. The pay roll is
an instance. Formerly one day was required in the office being
described to enter the time on the books and to compute the amounts



due on the basis of the scale of pay for regular time, overtime, night
work, etc. The next day the checks were written. On the third day
employees came to the office, signed vouchers, and were given their
checks. Now the entire process consumes about one-half of one day,
without extra help, except for four clerks from the mailing division
who were given special training and are transferred to this work onehalf a day twice a month.
Another innovation at the same central accounting office is a system
for a cumulative index record of deductions from salaries for the
retirement fund. Contrary to a widely held idea, this fund is not
derived from the Public Treasury but is formed by deductions from
the pay of Government employees. This of course means added
accounting, which, unless systematized, would become intricate and
The system of dividing the offices of the country into districts with
central accounting offices through which the business of the smaller
offices is transacted results in many economies and a considerable net
reduction of time on the part of postal employees. (1) Regional
handling of supplies and accounts makes possible the economies of
mass handling from Washington to the central accounting offices as
distributing centers ; (2) increase in variety and volume of work at
the central accounting offices tends to flatten out their peak loads
and to promote interchangeability of labor; (3) officials of the
central accounting offices, Slowing local conditions and needs, can
often more intelligently handle the problems of the post offices in
their districts than could the officials at Washington.
Efficiency Ratings
Another administrative change which approximately coincides
with the early portion of the period included in the present study
is the system of efficiency ratings applied to employees of the Postal
Service. A beginning was made in 1909, and considerable extensions
were made in 1911. The system was gradually improved and applied
throughout the Postal Service and placed on a basis which combines
the advantages of comparative security for the worker and efficiency
for the system.
Modernizing the Physical Plant
Probably the most significant features of postal administration
in its relation to the productivity of labor are to be found in the
adaptation of the physical plant to the needs of the service. To
this end, all branches of the postal administration have contributed,
but the office of the Fourth Assistant Postmaster General has been
charged in a distinctive sense with responsibility for the maintenance
and improvement of buildings and equipment. In recent years the
Division of Engineering and Research in the office of the Fourth
Assistant Postmaster General has been particularly active in this
Many rewards have been paid to employees for labor-saving de­
vices. Extensive and rapidly increasing appropriations have been
made for the purchase and maintenance of mechanical equipment.
Extensive experimentation has been conducted in the devising, test­
ing, and improving of equipment. The principal problem has been
concerned with the adapting of older buildings to changing needs (as



the handling of parcel post) and the planning of new buildings in
such manner as to make them attractive as public buildings and at the
same time adapted to the rapidly expanding needs of the service.
A few years before the Parcel Post System was introduced in 1913,
an extensive building program had been undertaken. A new build­
ing in Chicago, which was occupied in 1905, was equipped with belt
conveyors, automatic elevators, facing tables, and other up-to-date
facilities. It became a model for other offices, notably the new
buildings at St. Louis and Washington.
This building program of the earlier years of the century was
halted by the inauguration of the Parcel Post System, which necessi­
tated many changes in the arrangement and equipment of post-office
buildings. Before an extensive plan for the adaptation of the
physical plant to the new conditions created by the Parcel Post Serv­
ice and other special services could be fully formulated and carried
into effect, the war intervened, and this in turn was followed by a
period of reconstruction and excessive building costs. The annual
report of the Postmaster General for 1920 stated that there had been
no public-building legislation since the act of March 4,1913, and that
an acute problem had arisen in some of the larger cities. Succeeding
annual reports of the Postmaster General called attention to the
acuteness of the problem and described the temporary arrangements
that were being made, together with the studies and experiments
that were under way for the purpose of meeting the situation as
soon as Congress might authorize a construction program.
One of the results of the survey undertaken by the Joint Commis­
sion on Postal Service established by act of Congress of April 24,1920,
was the formulation of plans for modernizing the physical plant.
No comprehensive program was adopted by Congress, however, until
1926. By an act of May 25 of that year the Postmaster General and
the Secretary of the Treasury were made jointly responsible for the
execution of the program. These officials appointed five representa­
tives, including a secretary, who formed a public-buildings committee.
This committee, on the basis o.f a nation-wide survey, formulated ex­
plicit plans for the extensive building program which was soon to be
undertaken. The detailed work of planning the buildings and their
equipment was carried on by the Division of Engineering and Kesearch, which in 1931 checked and revised plans for 290 publicly
owned buildings and drew up plans for 87 leased buildings.
Reconstructing practically the entire physical plant of a nation­
wide enterprise was a problem of such magnitude that progress was
necessarily slow if mistakes were to be avoided and the program was
to be adapted most satisfactorily to the varying needs and condi­
tions of different parts of the country. The last year included in
the tables following is the fiscal year ending June 30, 1931. During
that year the Postal Service in all of the larger cities was still being
carried on under the twofold disadvantages of older and temporary
buildings and of projected or actual transition to the new plants.
The extensive reductions in labor and other costs of operation ex­
pected from the reconstructed physical plants do not, therefore,
appear in the tables. On the contrary, it is likely that the upward
trend of output per employee has been retarded by construction,
transition, and readjustment,



A sample of the country-wide program of modernizing the build­
ings and equipment of the Postal Service is to be found in the
new post-office building at Chicago. This building is described
in a public announcement by the Post Office Department made in
January, 1931. In this announcement it was stated that “ when
completed and ready for occupancy, which it is estimated will be
within a year and a half, the structure will contain approximately
2,309.000 square feet of floor space, covering an area of practically
50 acres.” It is claimed that post-office employees will find at their
disposal in this building “ every convenience and detail for handling
the mails which it has been possible for human ingenuity to provide.”
The length of the building is 800 feet, the width 350 feet, and the
height 200 feet, with 12 stories in front and 9 stories in the rear.
Forty elevators are provided, 18 for conveying mails, and 22 for
passengers. Provision is made for 74,000 linear feet of mechanical
conveyor belts and for 2,000 linear feet for the loading and unloading
of mail from motor vehicles.
Although the building is designed with a view to the utmost
degree of efficiency for the transaction of business, artistic effects
have not been ignored. At the base of the main f agade with the prin­
cipal public entrances are piers in harmony with the commodious
interior public lobbies. The exterior walls are of stone. At the four
corners are pylons, 200 feet high and 100 feet by 500 feet in area.
Thus a balanced composition of the facades is obtained. Setbacks at
the top story of the corner structures tend to emphasize their effects.
The long wall surfaces between the pylons are cut by vertical piers.
There is little of the merely ornamental. The artistic effect is
primarily derived from a sense of proportion and from a careful and
scientific adjustment of the structure to the uses for which it is de­
signed. There is in this way a radical departure from the older mon­
umental type of public building.
It was estimated in January of 1931, in the statement describing
the new building, that an ordinary day’s business in Chicago in­
cludes the handling of approximately 6,500,000 letters, 250,000 out­
bound parcel-post packages, and 80,000 sacks of paper and parcelpost mail for delivery at Chicago. The number of letters handled in
a single day has run as high as 11,000,000. “ The plans in the build­
ing for handling mail are so designed that the raw material will come
into the building, go to the upper floors and travel by gravity
through the building, and be a finished product ready for dispatch
from the city or to delivery to the patrons of the several offices in
Chicago when it reaches the ground floor.”
In addition to the various classes of mail there are the special
services and the auditing of the accounts of post offices in the Chi­
cago district. The receipt of remittances, the handling of postage
stamps, and the various other operations of related nature require
vaults, cages, storage rooms, and facilities in general such as any
large financial institution must have. “ The first and second floors
in the front half of the building will be devoted entirely to financial
matters dealing with the public, the supplying of stamps and money
orders, furnishing facilities for the registration of mail matter,
handling of large C. O. D. and insured mail, and receiving parcels
direct from the public for dispatch,” Facilities are furnished for



many of the activities of employees, including a cafeteria. “ Space
is also provided for the benefit of the employees for what is known
as their credit union, where they take care of their own associates in
case financial assistance is required. The executive offices are all lo­
cated in the front of the building above the first floor. There are
assembly halls and recreation rooms; in fact, everything that is pos­
sible to be carried on in a post office will be conducted in the

Handling Letters at Offices of Origin
When the Federal Postal Service was established, and for a long
time afterwards, its purpose was to enable the people of different
sections to carry on communication. Handling letters still remains
its most important function. Letters, letter-size circulars, and postal
cards are handled in substantially the same way. The ordinary
patron of the postal system writes a communication and deposits it
and is likely to give it no further thought. This fact in itself is a
tribute to the efficiency of postal employees, for if communications
were not handled safely and with little delay, patrons would quickly
become conscious of the failure and would take the trouble to learn
the nature of postal operations, if for no other reason than to
discover the cause of failure.
The method used in handling a communication depends on the
place of origin and on the destination. A letter coming from the
country or a town or small city is handled in the early stages of
transit in a radically different manner from a letter originating in a
large city. Similarly the methods of delivery vary with rural, town,
small-city, and large-city destinations.
The first stage in the journey of a letter after it leaves the writer
is its deposit for collection. The postal system affords a variety of
arrangements for the convenience of patrons, ranging from a box on
a rural delivery route to the drop window in an urban office with
automatic belt conveyor running to a special-handling section.
Letters, when collected from the various places of deposit, are
handled in all offices, except those large enough to justify specialized
and mass handling, by methods not varying in essential respects
from those used many years ago. Letters must be faced (arranged
with the stamps all facing the same way), canceled, and postmarked;
classified according to their destination; pouched, labeled, and dis­
patched. These various processes are more or less specialized, de­
pending on the size of the office and the amount of mail. After a
letter leaves the office of origin it is transported to a point where it
merges with the main stream of postal traffic. I f the office of origin
is on a railway post office (a division of a railroad which is handled
by a particular crew of Railway Mail Service employees as, for in­
stance, between Pittsburgh and Washington), there is a direct trans­
fer of mail to the Railway Mail Service, usually either by motorvehicle operators employed by the Government or by mail messengers
working under contract. I f the office of origin is not on a railway
post office, anjr one of several methods of transport may be used for
conveying mail to the point where it merges with the main traffic
stream. Among these methods are rural carrier, star-route carrier,
and mail messenger, by means of horseback, buggy, automobile,
steamboat, bus line, or other conveyance.



The larger cities are of course on the main traffic stream and their
quantity of mail is such as to make possible a higher degree of
specialization and a larger use of mechanical methods.
Although details of handling mail in the larger cities vary with
the size of the citv and the nature of the physical plant, there are
certain clearly denned stages characteristic of all of the larger post
offices. These stages include— (1) Collection of letters from vari­
ous places of deposit and transfer to the post offices; (2) transfer
from street to work floor; (3) facing at the facing or pick-up tables
(arranging the letters so that the stamps all face the same w ay); (4)
canceling and postmarking; (5) classification according to region of
destination at the primary separating cases; (6) more detailed classi­
fication according to destination at the secondary separating cases;
(7) tieing out, labeling, pouching, and dispatching; and (8) transfer
to motor vehicle or other conveyance.
Not all mail goes through these various stages and some mail goes
through additional stages. “ Special handlings” of various kinds
are necessary in the case of special-delivery letters, air mail, regis­
tered letters, odd sizes and weights, precanceled and metered-postage
mail, and large quantities of circulars.
Procedure in a Representative Large Office
In order that the discussion of methods of handling outbound let­
ters may be consecutive and may avoid the confusing differences of
detail to be found in different offices the account will be confined,
for the present, to the more or less typical methods used in one of
the larger offices.
Mail collected from the various places of deposit is brought to the
post-office building by motor vehicles and fed directly from the
street into chutes which terminate near a belt conveyor in the base­
ment. The pouches and sacks are placed on this conveyor, which
carries them to a bucket elevator similar in operation to the kind used
to lift coal from mines. There is an electrically operated endless
chain of trough-shaped “ buckets ” into which the belt feeds the mail.
The only manual control is by a man who is stationed at the termi­
nus of the belt to space the pouches and to keep them from jamming.
This elevator takes the pouches to a mezzanine over the second floor
and deposits them on a metal slide, and laborers (not the more highly
paid postal clerks) empty the pouches into traveling hoppers. These
hoppers move mechanically above the facing tables on the second
floor, and by a tripping device are made to feed the mail as desired
onto the facing tables.
At the facing tables letters unsuited for machine cancellation, and
also special-delivery and air-mail letters, are held out. Ordinary
mail is handled by the so-called unit system. A unit without the
mechanical facing table consists of (a) 2 manual facing tables 8 feet
by 12 feet; (5) 4 canceling machines; (c) 1 table for two hand stamps
(for canceling pieces not suited to mechanical cancellation); and
(d) 36 separating tables, each with 30 pigeonholes for the primary
separation. Such a unit is operated at the peak of traffic by 55 men
handling about 55,000 pieces of mail per hour.
Some of the units have mechanical facing tables. The mechanism
is not used for automatically facing the letters but for conveying the



faced letters from the table. Such a table has a troughlike groove,
slot, or runway around the edges. On one side of the partition
which divides this groove are placed the long letters and on the other
side the short letters. At the base of this partitioned groove is a
motor-driven belt conveyor taking the letters to two mechanical
stackers, one for long letters and one for short letters, with the
stamps all facing the same way. Because of this facing process the
tables are called facing tables although other names are used, as
pick-up tables and set-up tables. From the stackers the letters are
fed automatically into machines which automatically cancel and
postmark them at the rate of about 600 per minute per machine.
When canceled the letters are taken to the primary separating cases.
Letters which are unsuited for cancellation and postmarking by
machine are picked out from the others at the facing table and
placed on a small shelf in front of the employees at the facing table.
Such letters are canceled manually with a steel hand stamp and are
then taken to the primary separating section, where they are merged
with the ordinary letters and separated to States or groups of States
according to destination.
Special-delivery and air-mail letters also receive special handling,
and are placed on a flat metal shelf above the facing table. From
this shelf they are automatically collected by a series of baskets
with brush attachments, the whole forming an endless cable, which
carries them to a central location where they are automatically de­
posited on a slide by a tripping device on the bottom of each basket.
From the slide they are deposited automatically on the table for
cancellation and postmarking and immediate handling to insure
connection with the next outbound train.
Letters from the drop window in the lobby of the post office are
also given special handling. They are sent from the first floor in
boxes on a vertical conveyor or “ finger lift ” operated by chain drive
to the second floor where the finger lift passes by a metal chute or
inclined plane. The fingers of the lift on which the boxes rest pass
by the chute but deposit the boxes on the chute. The chute in turn
conveys the boxes to the special-handling section.
Ordinary letters and cards., when sent through the facing process
and stacked either by hand m the case of nonmechanical tables or
automatically by the mechanical tables, are taken from the facingtable stacks to the adjacent canceling machines. A bundle of letters,
faced and stacked, is placed in contact with a canceling machine in
such manner that the letters feed automatically through the machine.
It is possible to cancel about 1,500 letters per hour by hand. The
speed of the machine varies with the type, but the speed commonly
attained is 600 per minute. The canceling machine not only com­
bines the canceling and postmarking processes but automatically re­
stacks the letters. The stacker arrangement attached to the cancel­
ing machine permits an accumulation of about 2 feet of stacked letters.
These are distributed to the primary separation cases by employees
assigned to this detail.
The canceled letters, whether manually or mechanically canceled,
are next put through the process known as the primary separation.
In each of the units there are about 36 primary separating cases.
Each individual primary separating case has 30 pigeonholes of a
convenient size for letters—6 holes across and 5 holes m height—and



these are labeled for the 4 throwing” of mail by States or groups of
States. There are also usually a few 4 directs” (larger cities to
which the volume of mail is large enough to justify separate pigeon­
holes in the primary cases). Uncanceled, nondeliverable, and dam­
aged mail is held out for special handling.
The letters, after being placed in the primary separating cases,
are regularly 6 cleaned out” and sent to the secondary separating
cases. The transfer is in part manual and in part mechanical. The
4 clean out ” from a particular pigeonhole is put into a pan. There
are 30 of these pans, corresponding to the 30 primary separations (for
example, letters for Illinois are put into one pan, letters for Ohio
into another, etc.). An employee detailed to the 44clean-out” work
starts at one end of a unit of primary cases and collects from each
case the mail for a particular State or group of States, as, for instance
for Ohio. Thus all Ohio mail is placed in one of the pans and the
pan placed on a belt conveyor. Each pan has a tripper attachment
adjustable to 14 stations. The tripper on the pan containing Ohio
mail is set to the station number corresponding to the Ohio station
of the secondary separating section, and the pan moves along the
belt to its proper station where it is automatically tripped, removed
from the belt and placed on a slide. At the bottom of the slide the
pan is removed, the mail is emptied, and the pan placed on a second
belt to be returned to the primary section. Each of the 30 separa­
tions of the primary section is dispatched to the secondary section
in the same manner, but because of the limited number of belt-delivery stations more than one of the pans are routed to the same sta­
tion. Large letters (“ lumber” ) are worked through the primary
units in the same manner as the small letters, but on account of their
size the pan conveyor can not be satisfactorily used for transferring
them from the primary to the secondary sections and they are, there­
fore, conveyed in 4 gurneys ” (canvas baskets on castors).
The primary separation is to a large extent alphabetical according
to States or groups of States. When letters destined to a particular
State reach the secondary separating cases a much more complicated
system of distribution is necessary. The larger post offices in a par­
ticular State are represented alphabetically in the pigeonholes of the
secondary cases. These are known as “ directs,” and mail is dis­
tributed to them alphabetically as in the case of the primary units.
Letters to other post offices are distributed to trains in accordance
with an elaborate 4 scheme.” Distributors are required to memorize
the train connections for all post offices in the State to which their
particular scheme applies, and must be able to choose the appro­
priate train connection available at any given time during their
time or 4 tour ” of duty. The scheme of distribution includes, of
course, the smaller offices not on railroads and the distributor must
know through what office these other offices not on railroads receive
their mail.
Before each train departure the letters in the various pigeonholes
of the secondary cases must be 4 tied out,” labeled with the appro­
priate train connection, and pouched. In the larger secondary sec­
tions the pouches are arranged on racks in such manner as to permit
direct pouching from the secondary cases, thus avoiding the sending
of packages of letters to one central point for pouching. Pouches
for a particular train are numbered and the last pouch is marked



with a suffix “ X 5 following the number. Suitable records are made
and the pouches are sent by spiral chute to the loading platform
in the basement, whence they are dispatched on Government motor
vehicles to appropriate railroad stations.
In order to adapt the cases to different distribution schemes, the
distributing cases are ingeniously provided with reversible square
labels. Otherwise it would be necessary to have a separate set of
cases for every distribution scheme. Some of the cases also have
movable partitions for varying the sizes of the pigeonholes and, on
occasion, doubling the number of holes in a given case. The labels
are painted, thus avoiding the frequent renewal necessary when the
old-fashioned pasted labels were used.
One of the units at the office now being described has a device for
feeding letters from the facing table directly into the canceling
machines—one for canceling long letters and the other for short
letters. This eliminates the intermediate manual process of remov­
ing the letters from the facing-table stackers to the feeding devices
of the canceling machines.
There is also in experimental operation an arrangement, which is
to be used in the office under construction, for automatically convey­
ing letters from the primary to the secondary separating cases. This
was devised by a local post-office employee. The pigeonholes of the
primary separating cases are provided with hinged bases which can
be automatically thrown back so that letters, when put into the holes,
instead of having to be taken out by hand (cleaned out) for transfer
to the secondary cases, will slide down onto a belt conveyor. For each
pigeonhole in the several cases which is used for a particular desti­
nation (Illinois, for example) there is a belt conveyor, so that all
letters for that destination will automatically converge onto that
particular belt. The large number of belts that will be required gave
rise to a problem of conserving space. This problem is being solved
by putting the belts through the floor below the primary separating
cases and running them along the ceiling of the room below. Then
they are to be brought back through the floor to the appropriate
secondary distributing centers. The letters borne along these belts
will be automatically stacked and then distributed in the secondary
distributing cases for tie-out and pouching. In order to send the
letters upward by belt conveyor from the ceiling of the room below
back to the mailing floor, an ingenious “ tail-drive ” device has been
invented. In order to maintain an even, constant, upward movement
of mail, a second belt with a certain amount of slack is placed above
the belt conveyor so that when a piece of mail begins its upward
journey the upper belt presses flexibly against it and keeps it from
sliding backward. The flexibility of the second belt also permits the
movement of different sizes of mail matter. In various new post
offices it is proposed to add this remarkable feature (the mechanical
transfer of mail from the primary to the secondary separating cases)
to the various other mechanical refinements of the unit system for
facing, canceling, and distributing letters.
It should be noted that the unit system is more than a mechanizing
of mail handling. It involves constant study and correlation of the
labor force in such manner as to assign to each stage of the process
the number of men called for by the most efficient operation of the
unit as a whole.



Procedure in an Office Only Partly Mechanized
The mechanical arrangements and elaboration of detail just de­
scribed apply only in part to offices of moderate size. There is often
a remarkable degree of efficiency in offices which, on account of the
limitations of the physical plant, find it impossible to make full use
of more recently developed mechanical equipment. In one office of
this type, for instance, outbound letter mail is handled in an out­
grown mercantile establishment leased temporarily, pending the com­
pletion of the new post-office building. In this building the handling
of mail is based on the principle of a continuous flow of mail in an
orderly forward movement, handled by carefully supervised crews
in its different stages.
Mail comes to the western end of the main post office by motor
vehicles and is sent direct by conveyors to the western end of the
second floor. Laborers, not clerks, place the mail on facing tables,
emptying the pouches onto one side of the table as fast as the clerks
are aole to handle the mail. The pouches are brought from the con­
veyor to the tables on hand trucks.
The facing tables are long and rectangular. On one side is a
troughlike groove, or runway, divided for long and short letters,
with a belt at the base for carrying the letters to automatic stackers.
The mail is unpouched on the opposite side of the table from the belt.
On each table, in front of the groove into which the letters are
faced or set up, is a separating case with holes for air mail, specialdelivery mail, flats, “ slugs ” (first-class mail that can not be run
through canceling machines), etc. The mail is fed under this case
to the set-up men.
As the letters leave the facing-table conveyor they are automati­
cally stacked, the long letters on one stacker and the short letters on
another. #The letters are then put through canceling machines, which
are within easy reach of the stackers, there being two canceling
machines to each table, one for long and one for short letters. The
canceling machines automatically restack the canceled letters.


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There are several facing tables. A unit in full operation includes—
(a) a table with 8 men; (b) 2 men at the two canceling machines;



(c) 2 carriers taking the canceled letters from the stackers to the
primary separating cases across the aisle; and (d) 16 men at the
primary cases—a total of 28 men.
There are two rows of primary cases placed at right angles to the
aisle, one row for long and one for short letters.
One man is in charge of the facing tables, another in charge of the
various primary separating tables, etc.
Each primary case has 18 holes for separations, which include (a)
“ directs ” to a few large cities, (b) States, (<?) groups of States, and
(d) foreign mail. Mail originating locally for local delivery is sent
over in hampers unpouched to a branch office which specializes in
the handling of inbound mail.
To the north on the same floor is a section for handling “ slugs.”
Beyond, and to the east of the primary cases, is an aisle parallel to
the aisle between the facing tables and the primary cases. Beyond
this second aisle are cases, running at right angles to the aisle, for
handling the secondary separations, the special-delivery mail, the
air mail, and the “ directs ” (mail distributed at the primary cases to
five principal cities). These “ directs5 are merely checked lor errors
from the primary separation, tied out, pouched, and dispatched.
Special-delivery mail and air mail, separated at the facing tables,
is brought every 5 or 10 minutes to the special-handling cases, can­
celed, distributed, tied out, and dispatched on the earliest trains.
All mail from a particular pigeonhole in each of the primary
separating cases (Ohio mail, for example) is regularly removed from
the primary cases (“ cleaned out” ) and taken to the appropriate
secondary separating cases across tne aisle from the primary cases.
The degree of distribution in the secondary cases varies with the
region to which the mail goes. This secondary separation, except in
the case of State mail (that is, mail addressed to offices in the State
of the post office now being described), is according to railway postoffice distribution schemes.
State mail coming from the primary cases is brought across the
aisle to what is called, not a secondary separating section, but the
“ State primary.” Most of the State mail is here distributed alpha­
betically by towns (“ directs ” ). The “ residue ” of State mail, which
is destined to smaller offices, and which amounts to about 35 per cent,
is separated alphabetically by groups of towns (towns beginning with
the letters A to J, and towns beginning with the letters K to Z).
Then the “ residue,” thus broken up into these two separations, is
taken to what is known as the “ State secondary.” Here it is dis­
tributed to railway post offices, including “ dis ” offices (“ dis ” offices
being offices through which other offices, usually not on a railroad,
receive their mail, by star routes, mail messengers, buses, electric
lines, steamboats, or other conveyance).
All distributors of State mail, except those who handle the
“ residue,” make use of the alphabetical system. They merely need
to know the arrangement of the pigeonholes in the separating cases,
somewhat as a typist automatically strikes the right key without
looking at it or consciously aiming at it. Distributors also tie
out and pouch their mail, but they are supplied with a constantly
revised list by dispatchers. For State mail this alphabetical arrange­
ment simplifies and facilitates distribution, because the individual



distributor no longer is required to keep in mind as he throws his
mail into the holes the intricate systems of railway post offices, trains,
and dispatching. But distributors of the State “ residue,” and other
distributors at secondary cases, “ must know their tie-outs,” that is,
must be acquainted with the general distribution scheme for the mail
they are handling.
Each distributor is required to master at least one distribution
scheme, but in the case of the State directs, the actual handling of the
distribution, as far as the dispatching scheme is concerned, is done by
the dispatcher. The making of the dispatcher’s pouching lists and
the handling of pouches are duties which require much training and
alertness. One small town alone, for example, receives mail in the
course of 24 hours by 7 different trains, and the tie-out of letters
for dispatch must be governed accordingly.
Beyond the cases for handling the various secondary distributions,
the State secondary, the “ residue,” etc. (that is, beyond the cases
where letters are finally “ tied out ” for pouching), are located the
pouch racks, labeled appropriately for dispatch. The dispatcher and
his assistant keep the labels in order, maintain the pouching lists,
lock the pouches, make entries of pouches dispatched, and check off
the dispatches as they are completed.
Much of the mail is put through only a portion of these processes.
This is true especially of unstamped mail, both metered and un­
metered. Such mail usually arrives from the sender in large quanti­
ties, with a statement accompanying each lot. It is dumped onto a
table at the south end of the mailing room and checked for irregu­
larities. In the case of unmetered mail (the amount of which is not
limited mechanically, as is true of mail from users of metered-postage
machines) there must be a check-up to see that the sender has a de­
posit large enough to cover the lot. Some unstamped mail can be
sent direct to the dispatching section. A part of it must be put
through the secondary separating cases. None of it goes through
the facing tables and canceling machines, and little goes through the
primary separating cases. Metered-postage machines materially
reduce the amount of labor in handling mail.
Letters when finally pouched and made ready for dispatch are sent
by hand trucks and elevators to the loading platform at the opposite
end of the building from the unloading platform, after having
passed in an orderly and consecutive forward movement through
the various processes necessary for transfer to transportation

Handling Letters Between Offices
Letters originating at any one of the more than 48,000 post offices,
at their branches, or on tributary routes are merged in one of the
numerous main streams of postal traffic, directly or indirectly, as
indicated in the preceding account. These larger streams of traffic
between the more important centers consist of railroad routes known
as railway post offices, and of air-mail routes.
The air-mail routes are used almost entirely for letters. The rapid
growth of the air-mail service is indicated by the fact that in 1927
the amount of air mail carried was less than 500,000 pounds, while



in 1931 it was more than 8,500,000 pounds. Miles flown increased
from less than 3,000,000 to more than 21,000,000. The handling
of the mail at terminal points is by methods not radically different
from the methods used in handling mail at railroad terminals. On
account of the relatively small quantities of mail by weight, ordinary
motor-vehicle service affords facilities adequate for speedy transmis­
sion to and from post offices.
Although air-mail routes have grown rapidly in numbers and in
amount of business handled, the main streams of postal traffic remain
largely with the trunk-line railroads. The transfer of mail between
motor vehicles and trains is under the supervision of postal clerks
in transfer offices. In addition to transfer offices there are terminal
railway post offices where mail distributors work what is known as
“ lay-over ” mail (mail held at the terminal for some time before it
can be dispatched). They also distribute what is known as “ stuck 5
mail (first-class mail from railway cars which the mail clerks on the
cars were unable to distribute). A relatively large proportion of the
work of the Railway Mail Service in terminals consists of the han­
dling of classes of mail other than letters. This is because of the bulk
of parcels, periodicals, etc., and because of the fact that many of the
post offices of the older type were constructed in such a way as not
to be adaptable to the handling of large quantities of parcel post.
In the case o f letters as well as other classes of mail, how­
ever, the transfer and terminal offices of the Railway Mail Service
perform the vitally important functions of (1) supervising the safe
and speedy transfer of mail between motor vehicles or other local
transportation facilities and trains; (2) the distribution of such por­
tions of mail as can be more economically handled and more speedily
forwarded in terminal offices than in post offices or in railway mail
cars; (3) the adjustment of facilities (for example, the number and
types of railway mail cars) to changes in the kinds and quantities of
mail passing through the transfer and terminal offices; and (4) the
arrangement of distribution schemes and constant readjustment of
the routing of mail to points throughout the country in such manner
as to avoid needless expense in transportation and, at the same time,
to make sure of the speedy handling of mails, especially of letters,
daily papers, and other kinds of mail requiring special handling.
Mechanical devices (chutes, conveyors, hand trucks, trackless trains
of floor trucks driven by electric batteries, etc.), although used for
letter mail, are important mainly in connection with the handling
of the more bulky kinds of mails, and will be described in that con­
When letter pouches are finally placed in the railway mail cars
they leave the jurisdiction of the transfer clerks, and the railway
mail clerks in the postal cars become responsible for them. In these
cars, letters, daily newspapers, and a few parcels are distributed.
The nature of the mail matter handled, as well as the extent of its
distribution, depends on such factors as the time elapsing between
the receipt of letters at the post office and the time of departure of
trains; the facilities available in the post offices for handling mail;
the problem of making connections at distant terminals; and the
amount of time intervening between the arrival of the mail at its
destination and the first possible delivery by carrier. Intricate and



constantly changing schemes of distribution are used. A high de­
gree of skill and accuracy in the “ throwing ” of mail is required.
In spite of the recent decline of business and of the tendency to
increase the proportion of air mail, the railway postal clerks in 1931
are credited with 10,496,298,615 distributions and redistributions of
pieces of first-class mail and 6,202,295,782 distributions and redis­
tributions of pieces of second, third, and fourth class mail. During
the same year the number of pieces of registered mail handled
amounted to 84,951,637. Much first-class mail, as well as most of the
mail of other classes, is carried in storage cars and in “ closed pouch ”
cars, and is merely transferred and not otherwise handled on trains.
Under the jurisdiction of the Railway Mail Service are transfer
offices, terminal railway post offices, railway post offices in transit,
and the closed-pouch service. The latter refers particularly to the
transportation of mail in closed pouches on trains or other convey­
ances between offices not supplied by regular railway post-office
A further explanation of the nature of the work done by railway
postal clerks in mail cars is afforded by an illustration—the case of
the Kansas City, Fort Madison, and Chicago Railway Post Office,
operating between Kansas City and Chicago. Clerks in this car,
eastbound, distribute mail originating at Kansas City or transferred
there from other points and destined to offices served directly or
indirectly by this car, including, of course, offices to the eastward of
Chicago. On the westbound trip the process is merely reversed. The
crew of the car must include clerks acquainted with the distribution
schemes of Kansas City and Chicago and of Missouri, Illinois, and
adjacent States and also familiar with the routing of mail for more
distant points.
One of the important functions of these clerks is to distribute city
mail either to carrier stations or, in some cases, even to carrier routes
diverging from carrier stations. The clerk assigned to> the distribu­
tion of Chicago mail must know to which of about 55 carrier stations
every street number in Chicago is assigned. Also, on dividing streets
between carrier-station areas, he must know which side of the street
has the odd and which the even numbers. On the westbound car,
distribution of letters is made to carrier routes for certain down­
town areas of the city, and the clerk must know to which of 72 car­
rier routes every street number, large building, and prominent firm
in down-town Kansas City belongs.

Handling Letters at Offices o f Destination
An effort has been made, in the above account, to follow the course
of letters from their various places of origin through the offices of
origin and along the lines of transportation to the places of desti­
nation. The handling of letters at the places of destination varies
in much the same manner as the handling of letters at the places of
origin, the method depending on whether the destination is a country
office, a town, a smaller city, or a metropolitan center.
The method of handling mail in rural, town, and small-city des­
tinations depends on whether or not the destination is on the main
traffic stream. I f it is on such a stream, letters are handled from a



railway post office directly from the train to the post office either
by motor-vehicle operators employed by the Government or by mail
messengers working under contract or by employees of the railroad
or other contracting carrier. I f the place of destination is a “ dis5
office (not on a railway post-office route, but supplied through an
office on such a route) various means of transportation are used for
conveying letters to their final destination. These methods are simi­
lar to those used for conveying letters originating at the same
offices. Final delivery of the letter may be by general delivery, by
private post-office box, by rural delivery, by star-route carrier, or
by village or city carrier. The village delivery service was originated
for the purpose of furnishing smaller places with carrier service
when such places were not served by rural carriers and were not
large enough for city delivery service. Whether the carrier is a
member of the village, city, rural, or star-route delivery system, the
letters destined to addressees on his route are separated, usually in
the post office though occasionally by the Railway Mail Service, from
letters destined to addressees on the other routes supplied from the
same post office. Having received an allotment of mail, he separates
it in the order of delivery to his patrons, and proceeds to cover his
route in the prescribed maner, on foot in town, by carriage (usually
automobile) if in the country, making final transfer of mail from the
postal system to its patrons on his route.
In the case of offices in larger cities the volume of mail makes pos­
sible not only a considerable degree of specialization but the econ­
omies of mass handling. Transfer from the railroad station or
air-mail station to the post office is usually by motor vehicles owned
and operated by the Government.
Much of the inbound mail for larger cities is distributed^ as has
already been seen, by the Railway Mail Service, usually in mail
cars, though sometimes in terminal railway post offices. Such mail
may go to the appropriate carrier station without being unpouched
en route. In some cases it is sent to the main post office and there
either forwarded without being unpouclied, or else distributed in the
central office to carrier routes under the supervision and by means of
the mass-handling facilities of the central office.
Mail not worked by the Railway Mail Service goes through a
series of processes which are the reverse of the processes to which
outbound mail is subjected.
The handling of inbound letter mail, circulars, and small parcels
in larger offices varies with the nature of the building and the equip­
ment, as does the handling of outbound mail. The underlying prin­
ciples of mail handling, however, are similar in the various offices
and may be illustrated by the case of one of the larger offices. In the
office in question temporary facilities are in use pending the comple­
tion of the new post-office building. The methods, nevertheless, are
in large measure typical.
All inbound mail except parcel post for this office is distributed on
the second floor. This includes mail trucked in from other depots,
the main office, the branch offices and the box collections, and brought
by elevators on hand trucks to the second floor. There are primary
and secondary distributing centers for each of the three main types
of foot-carrier mail: (1) Letters; (2) letter-size circulars; and (3)



tray mail (flats, small parcels, and paper mail). These three dis­
tributing centers are arranged conveniently so as to facilitate for­
ward movement of each class of mail from primary distributing cen­
ters onward and downward to the loading platform.
The cases for tray mail must be much larger than those for letters
and letter-size circulars. In order to make all holes in a particular
case accessible to the distributor, the case is broken into sections and
arranged in horseshoe shape. This saves much time and reduces lost
motion formerly required by the distributor in going back and forth
to reach the various holes in his case. Tray mail is brought to these
cases in trays on hand trucks.
The primary distribution is mainly to station sections. A station
section may include only one carrier station, if the station has a
large number of carrier routes, but it may combine several carrier
Mail for each station section is taken to the secondary distributing
cases and distributed to the carrier routes of each carrier station.
The separating cases are arranged in long rows. A crew is as­
signed to each row, each member of the crew handling a complete
case. The members of the crew are given approximately the same
amount of mail to “ throw.” As soon as this amount is distributed
they move to the opposite side of the case, and if a particular dis­
tributor is repeatedly the last to change sides, it is apparent that he
is below the average in speed. There is thus an automatically oper­
ative impulse to “ keep up with the procession,” and an automatic
check on the work of the slower members of the crew. To relieve
the strain, crews stand on one side and sit on the other side of the
In order to check the amount of time spent and the volume of out­
put on a given operation and to see that the output per unit of time
is maintained, a set of forms has been devised.
The primary separations are simple. The distributor merely
needs to know to which of the station districts a particular address
belongs. The secondary separation requires familiarity with a much
more elaborate distribution scheme. The distributor must know to
which of the various carrier routes of the station section that he is
handling a particular address belongs. Each distributor must know
the primary scheme and at least one of the secondary distribution
schemes. The distributors are thus interchangeable and slack time
is reduced. Since circulars and tray mail are handled by the same
scheme of distribution that applies to letters, clerks are changed from
one type of mail to another as the volume of mail demands. Inter­
changeability of employees is possible also in connection with some
other types of work. Distributors, for instance, may be shifted to
the canceling machines for canceling such mail as is not canceled at
the main office, or to the special-delivery section, or to various other
types of work. Interchangeability, with a corresponding reduction
of slack time, is also brought about by shifting men from the main
office to a branch office and vice versa. This is possible because the
peak of inbound mail comes at a different time from the peak of
outbound mail.
Formerly the regular crew went on in the early morning and in
the late afternoon and peaks in the volume of mail were handled by



substitutes and auxiliary employees. By changing the hours of the
regular crew, the peaks were handled almost entirely by regular em­
ployees and auxiliary help has been largely eliminated.
There was formerly much lost motion and idle time due to crews
changing at different times during the day. This has been reduced
by means of timing the “ trips ” (the periods on duty) so as to make
only one major “ clean-up” between the shifting of crews.
At times there is not enough work for full crews, and in order to
reduce the amount of slack time, “ compensatory ” time is granted
as far as possible during the slack periods. That is, men are given
time off to make up for Sunday duty or other special work.
Due to night differential pay rates, papers (except daily papers)
and circulars are handled in the daytime unless there is slack time
at night when men would be on duty with no urgent mail to handle.
Letters, circulars, and small parcels are distributed to carrier routes
throughout the city in the manner described above, or in a similar
manner, varying with local conditions. When distribution to car­
rier routes is made at the carrier station (the station from which
the carrier operates), mail goes direct to the carrier’s desk. I f the
advantages of mass handling cause distibution to be centralized,
either at a single office or at district offices which supply a number of
carrier stations, the mail must of course be dispatched by motor
vehicles from the distributing center to the appropriate carrier
A considerable part of the letters, circulars, and small parcels, such
as carriers handle, is delivered to the addressees through general
delivery, private boxes, and special delivery. In the larger cities,
however, the letter carriers handle the bulk of these classes of mail.
After the mail for a particular city, originating both locally and
throughout the world, has been put through the various processes
briefly described above, it finally reaches the desks of the letter
carriers. These desks contain separations for use by the carriers in
the distribution of their mail. At regularly scheduled periods (the
number of periods varying with the city and with the area in a
particular city to which a carrier is assigned) a carrier collects his
mail from the distributing cases into which the distributing clerks
have placed it. I f distribution is made at a central office other than
the carrier’s own station, his mail is brought to his desk from a
motor vehicle. At his desk he takes charge of his “ hand ” and sets
it up for delivery. The setting-up process is simply the arrangement
of the mail by streets and street numbers in the order of its delivery
to the addressees. Each “ hand ” is then made up into convenient
bundles, each bundle is tied with a strap specially adapted to the
purpose, the bundles are placed in a carrier satchel, and the carrier is
then ready to proceed over his route.
The routes of letter carriers are kept in a flexible condition.
Eecords are kept as to the length of time necessary to cover the differ­
ent routes, the varying amounts of mail carried, the time required for
the distribution of the mail by the carriers in the office, the strapping
of bundles, and other duties. By such methods the amount of work
done by letter carriers is standardized and average output per carrier
is maintained, whether the volume of mail fluctuates or not.



Handling Parcels at Offices of Origin
Before 1913 fourth-class mail was limited to small bundles which
ordinarily were delivered by foot carriers, and which created no
serious problem of mail handling in the office or out of it. Periodi­
cals classed as second-class mail were then far less bulky than in more
recent years when the amount of advertising, as well as of reading
matter, has tended to increase. With the gigantic increases in the
average size per piece and in the total volume of second and fourth
class mail, revolutionary changes in methods of mail handling were
As in the case of letters and circulars, the methods of handling
vary at the places of origin and at the places of destination, depend­
ing on the location and, particularly, the size of the places. Irrespec­
tive of the places of origin and of destination, the handling of these
classes of mail, as well as of letters and circulars, along the main
streams of traffic is standardized to a considerable degree.
For places of origin which are too small to afford a volume of
mail large enough for mass handling there are two main methods.
In the smaller offices there is an unspecialized handling of these
classes of mail, as well as of all other postal services, by the post­
master with occasional clerical assistance. In offices of moderate
size the amount of work and the number of employees make special­
ization possible, but not mechanized mass handling. A clerk may
be assigned, for example, to the handling of insured parcels. Vari­
ous other specialized functions prove economical in such offices. It
is apparent, however, that unless there is some special circumstance,
such as the existence of a mail-order house in a small city, the
amount of bulky mail would not justify the expense of mechanical
handling, such as by belt conveyor, spiral chutes, etc.
In rural, town, and small-city offices the process of transportation
to stations and, in general, the merging of these classes of mail with
the main traffic stream are substantially the same as in the case of
letters and circulars. Much of the handling is done at terminal
railway post offices under the supervision of the Railway Mail Serv­
ice. The city post offices in many cases are not adapted to the hand­
ling of bulky mail and in other cases they are not large enough to
meet the requirements of a rapidly expanding volume of mail and
special services. These and other considerations (for example, the
problem of routing bulky mail) account for the larger proportion
of second-class and fourth-class mail which is partly distributed in
terminal railway post offices.
The most significant developments of recent years in connection
with the Postal Service, so far as technological improvements are
concerned, are probably those that have grown out of the problems of
handling the rapidly expanding volume of parcel-post mail in the
larger cities. In these localities mechanized equipment has proved
to be practicable and has already been installed in many offices. It
is to be provided extensively in the numerous larger post-office build­
ings now under construction. Early in the history of the Parcel
Post System, experience indicated the desirability of separate build­
ings located near railroad stations and equipped with mechanical
mail-handling facilities.



The methods of handling outbound bulky mail may be illustrated
by an urban office of moderate size, but large enough to justify a con­
siderable degree of mechanization. The heavier paper mail and the
“ flats” (large flat pieces of third-class mail), as well as parcel-post
mail, are handled in a separate building specially equipped for the
Parcels deposited at the main office and the various branches,
and parcels transferred from railroad stations for handling here,
come in by motor vehicles and are unloaded in one end of the build­
ing. The other end is used for loading after the mail has been
handled in the post office. Fragile pieces, loose parcels, etc., are
moved on elevators to the basement. Ordinary parcels are sent to
the second floor by belt conveyor and dumped onto a big central
separating table in the center 01 the room. On one side of this table
where parcel-post mail is handled, parcels for the State in which the
post office is located are distributed, and on the other side, all others.
On the State side of the table, State parcels are taken to the dis­
tributing racks (rows of sacks held open on metal racks, with labels
indicating railway post offices). The distributor must know the
whole State scheme of distribution (the proper routing throughout
the day for reaching every post office, and the distributing centers
for reaching all post offices not on railways). Parcels are thrown
or placed in the appropriate sacks with great precision and skill.
On the opposite side of the separating table mail is distributed to
railway post offices for three adjacent States. For other regions
mail is sent to the appropriate terminal railway post offices (for
example, for Pennsylvania, to Pittsburgh for distribution; for New
Jersey, to Philadelphia for distribution; for Virginia, West Vir­
ginia, North Carolina, and Ohio, to Cincinnati for distribution).
Distributors must know all railway post offices in the States for
which distribution is made and all the offices receiving mail through
each one; the post offices through which all post offices not on rail­
roads receive their mail; and the railway post offices by which all
“ directs ” are to be dispatched.
Men on the unloading platforms make primary separation to the
extent of picking out mail for the State in which the office is located,
and also segregating articles unsuited to sacking (“ outsides ” ) to be
sent to the basement for direct handling and transfer to trucks.
In a larger office, which numbers important mail-order houses
among its patrons, the handling of outbound mail is more extensively
mechanized, there being in a separate building a postal station spe­
cializing in parcel-post mail. For receiving outlbound parcel-post
mail there are three chutes from the street into which the mail trucks
unload, and one chute from the lobby for packages mailed at this
particular station. The trucks bring parcels and papers from other
postal stations or branch offices and from the main office for handling
These four chutes lead into the basement. Here a separation is
made of large parcels and others not to be sacked (“ outsides ” ) and
then the mail is put on hand trucks and taken by elevators to sepa­
rating platforms or tables on the fourth floor, where the primary
separation breaks it up into seven parts, by main sections of the
143467°—32----- 3



country. State parcels (that is, parcels for other offices in the State
in which this post office is located) are sent by belt conveyor to an­
other part of the floor. For the rest of the country there are six
chutes into which the parcels are separated, to be sent to the third
floor for further handling. State parcels are separated alphabeti­
cally by towns into six parts, for example, towns beginning with the
letters C to E, and also sent, by six additional chutes, to the third
floor for distribution. The alphabetical separation is so adjusted as
to give each chute approximately the same amount of mail.
On the fourth floor, circulars and periodicals (other than those
that are distributed in the publishing houses and firm offices and
sent direct to trains) are distributed and sacked and dispatched by
elevators from the fourth floor to the loading dock.
On the third floor there are two distributing centers. On one side
(near the terminals of the six chutes carrying State mail) are
distributing tables and sack racks for State parcels. For these there
are 600 “ directs ”—that is, offices to which mail is distributed alpha­
betically and sent direct without further handling. The “ residue ”
of mail goes to small offices, some on railways and some inland.
Towns not on railways receive their mail through junction towns
and are known as “ dis ” offices. The distribution of the “ residue ”
mail, therefore, requires knowledge of the distribution scheme of
the entire State, so that mail for a particular town will be put in the
appropriate sack and dispatched on the proper train.
On the other side of the third floor a similar distribution is made
for the rest of the country, except that there are fewer “ directs,”
about 80 for a neighboring State, for example, and the “ residue ”
is correspondingly larger. The “ residue,” instead of being distri­
buted at the post office, is sent to the terminal railway post office in
the same city for distribution. Avhere mail is distributed to 14 States.
As the sacks are tied out for dispatch they are put on a belt con­
veyor which empties into a spiral chute leading to the loading dock
or platform. For mail not adjacent to the conveyor, there is a second
chute not connected with the conveyor.
Insured and C. O. D. parcels, which are handled on hand trucks
instead of conveyors and chutes, are sent to the fourth floor for
special handling and are then merged with the ordinary mail.
Large quantities of outbound parcel post are handled at the mail­
order houses. Each of the two main mail-order houses has about
20 Government clerks making distribution there instead of at the
post office. This mail is sent by the mail-order houses direct to the
trains, instead of to the post office. This arrangement not only
speeds up the mail for the mail-order houses but also saves the post
office the labor and cost both of hauling the mail from the post office
to the trains and of handling it at the post office.
The Van Buren Annex
One of the most interesting illustrations of the mechanized massi
handling of parcel-post and other bulky mail is the system used at
the Van Buren annex of the Chicago post office. The physical plant
of the postal system of Chicago, as of many other cities, is under­



going reconstruction. This, however, has not prevented the con­
tinued use of a truly remarkable system of mail handling.2
The Van Buren annex is a building located near the Union Sta­
tion and was designed for the use of a mechanical belt system primar­
ily for the handling of parcel-post mail.
Mails reach the Van Buren annex in various ways, from different
sources, and in several conditions:
(1) From the main post office parcel post is brought unsacked in
nondamage parcel dump trucks, six of these trucks being placed
in a single motor vehicle. The trucks are unloaded from the motor
vehicles at the north receiving platform, elevated section, and emptied
onto feed belts by an automatic tripping device. These trucks are the
invention of an employee of the Chicago post office.
(2) Mail from branch offices and from private mailers is brought
to the receiving dock partly sacked and partty loose. These mixed
loads must be handled in several different ways as will be indicated
(3) Sacked mail from Union Station railroad lines is transferred
directly by means of belt conveyors.
(4) Sacked mail' from other depots than the Union Station is
brought by Government motor vehicles to the north section of the
receiving dock on the first floor and placed on hand trucks for fur­
ther handling.
Mail received at the Van Buren annex from these several sources
reaches the primary distributing centers in the following ways:
(1) Mail from the main post office brought in dump trucks is
emptied onto an elevating belt conveyor at about 16 degrees pitch,
terminating at the south end of the third floor. This belt empties
onto a main feed belt. I f mail traffic is heavy two sets of belts are
(2) Mails received from private mailers in their own vehicles and
from city stations are of all classes and must, therefore, be handled in
different ways. A single motor-vehicle load may include ordinary
canceled parcel post; ordinary uncanceled parcel post; C. O. D.,
insured, special-delivery, and special-handling parcel post; outside
parcels, that is. such as can not be sacked (eggs in crates, automobile
tires, broom handles, etc.) ; and, in addition, periodicals, catalogs,
circulars, and letters. Ordinary canceled parcel post in sacks or in
bulk is sent by hand trucks to the elevating belts on the first floor,
where the sacks are emptied and loose parcels deposited and mechani­
cally transferred to the third floor for primary separation. Circu­
lars, catalogs, and periodicals, after appropriate special handlings,
are sent to the fourth floor by elevators for primary separation,
unless already made up in sacks to trains and “ directs ” (a particular
sack containing mail to one post office exclusively), in which case
sacks so made up are sent by chutes to train platforms for car-door
and depot separation. Outside parcels received from all sources are
always handled on hand trucks and elevators and are sent to the
fourth floor for distribution. All first-class mail received at the Van
2 The Bureau of Labor Statistics is indebted to the post-office authorities at Chicago and
particularly to Mr. E. A. Goodrich, assistant superintendent of mails, for a large part of
the data contained in the following description of the Van Buren annex.



Buren annex is sent at hourly intervals to the main post office for
proper treatment and dispatch.
(3) Parcel post from Union Station railroad lines is handled, in
the first place, by portable belt conveyors operated electrically from
special sockets. A belt is long enough to extend from the car
openings to the platform about 15 feet away. Mail dumped onto
one of these belts is deposited in turn by the belt, through floor open­
ings in the platform, onto a connecting belt conveyor 1,400 feet in
length and in continual operation. This belt is divided into two
units, the south half running north and the north half running south,
which meet at about the center of the building and deposit their mails
onto a cross belt operating on the ceiling of the basement level. This
cross belt connects, in turn, with an elevating belt leading to a
break-up point or separating unit on the track floor. Here the mail
brought by crossover belts is separated and deposited through chutes
onto belts for dispatch to its several destinations, including the Yan
Buren annex. Mail for the annex is then taken by elevator to the
fourth floor, where the sacks are emptied into holes in the floor lead­
ing to the separating centers below.
(4) Parcel post irom depots other than the Union Station, is de­
livered by Government motor vehicles to the north section of the
unloading platform on the first floor, where it is removed from the
vehicles, placed on hand trucks, and sent by elevator to the fourth
floor for treatment such as is given to parcel post received from Union
Station lines—that is, sent through floor chutes to the appropriate
separating centers.
Movement of mail is generally from the unloading platforms up­
ward to the primary distributing centers, mainly to the northward
on the third and fourth floors. From these points gravity and elec­
trically operated distributing belts are used to carry the mail to the
secondary distributing centers, from which, in turn, the movement
is mainly southward and downward to the first floor and the train
levels for dispatch. Thus there is a continuous forward movement
o f mail with the handling of the mail being carried on, as far as
possible, while it is in motion.
Mail irom the several sources, as has been seen, converges (either
by elevating belt conveyors to the third floor or by elevators to the
fourth floor and thence through chutes to the third floor) in the thirdfloor primary separating centers. The primary separation is made
from two main feed belts. Paralleling this center tier of two feed
belts are two separating units of eight belts each. Of the eight belts
for each of the two units four are on each side of the center tier of
feed belts, and are used in each case only by one of the two groups
of postal clerks assigned to the primary separation; and four belts
are in the center and are used in common by the two groups of sepa­
rators. I f the volume of mail is not too large, one unit of belts
only is used. In this primary section, with its two 8-belt separating
units, 70 employees can be used. Their duty is to take the parcels
from the moving feed belts and to place each parcel on its appro­
priate belt in one of the 8-belt separating units.
Seven of the eight belts of each of the two separating units go
direct to secondary separating tables, taking to these tables parcels
destined to States or groups of States which receive the larger por­



tion of this class of mail originating at Chicago. These seven belts
(or 14 if both units are used) carry about 65 per cent of the mail from
the feed belts. The eighth belt, carrying about 35 per cent of the
mail, leads upward to the fouth floor and there becomes a fe# belt
for another system of belts for separating the 35 per cent of the
mail. This mail is for more than 30 States, mainly the remoter
areas to which the volume of mail is light. Thus the eighth belt
becomes a feed belt for a second primary distributing center which
handles mail for the more distant areas; the reason for this is that the
building now used is not adapted to the installation of enough belts
accessible to separators for the requisite number of separations. The
15 primary separations (T from the main feed belt and 8 from the
auxiliary feed belt) would require 15 belts accessible to any particular
separator. In the new post-office building the belting will be so
simplified that all of the primary separations can be made from one
feed belt direct to the various destinations included in the primary
scheme of distribution. Then 100 per cent instead of 65 per cent
of the mail from the feed belt will be distributed to belts leading
directly to the secondary distributing centers.
Each of the 15 primary separations is followed by a secondary
separation at the terminus or the appropriate primary separating
belt. At the secondary tables an alphabetical separation to floor
trucks (gurneys) is made for the purpose of distributing parcels
to direct saqj|js, each such sack containing nothing but mail for a
particular post office and requiring no further handling en route.
This direct distribution for the six nearby States serves to send with­
out additional handling approximately 94 per cent of all parcels
received for these States. The residue, about 6 per cent, is sent to
the Railway Mail Service for further distribution.
In the case of towns in some of the more distant States it is rela­
tively difficult to make a direct distribution at Chicago to these towns.
In such cases the mails for some of the larger offices in these States
are sent direct, but the residue is dispatched to a railway-mail ter­
minal or post office located at a point convenient for distribution to
these towns. Such terminals or post offices are usually railroad
centers from which an entire State may be served without difficulty,
and often the center to which mail is sent for distribution lies outside
the State to be served. For example, it has been found that all
parcel post for the State of Arkansas can most economically be sent
to the terminal at St. Louis, Mo., for distribution to directs for
Arkansas. In other cases it is necessary to subdivide the mails in a
number of ways in order to speed up the servicing of sections of
larger States. Instances are to be found in the case ox parcel post for
California and for Texas. California mails are divided by a scheme
of post offices according to which some of the California mail is sent
to the Los Angeles terminal and the remainder to the Sacramento
post office, and from these two points all of the State of California
may be serviced. Texas is divided into three parts, one section being
served from the terminal at Texarkana, Ark., one from the terminal
at Fort Worth, Tex., and the third from the Kansas City, Mo.,
The problems involved in the choice of such centers of distribution
as St, Louis for Arkansas mail are among the most important of the



Postal Service. It is desirable to maintain, as far as possible, a
continuous forward movement of mail and, at the same time, there
must be a concentration at strategic points for the “ fanning out ”
of the jjnail from distributing centers to tributary points. Choice of
a particular distributing center requires careful and extensive study
o f the district to be served and of the available railroad
In the movement of parcel-post mail through the Van Buren
annex the parcels received in each of the 15 secondary separating
centers (located at the terminals of the 15 primary separating belts)
are handled in one of two ways. Either they are made up into
“ directs ” which require no further handling till they arrive at the
office of destination, or parcels to different offices are combined in such
manner as to call for further distribution en route.
Methods in use at the secondary distributing centers may be illus­
trated by the case of one of the 15 centers—the one for the handling
of mail for the States of Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Nevada, and
Texas. It will be recalled that mail sent to the fourth floor (the 35
per cent of the mail taken from the primary feed belts described
above) is separated onto eight primary separating belts. One of these
belts contains mail for the five States mentioned above. From this
belt it is emptied into a chute leading to a secondary distributing
table on the third floor. Mail for Kansas is sorted out from the rest
and mail for Kansas offices beginning with the letters'A to L is put
into one sack and mail for offices beginning with the letters M to Z
is put into another sack. When full, or at the time for dispatch, the
sack is locked and labeled “ Kansas City, Mo., Terminal, Kansas PP
No. 1 (D4) from Chicago, 111.” and the second sack is labeled the same
way with the exception of “ No. 2 ” instead of No. 1. Nevada and
Arkansas mails are a sent solid ” and “ tagged out ” to the proper
terminal railway post office. Missouri and Texas parcels are sepa­
rated, loaded on gurneys, and worked again by principal towns with
a “ residue ” of miscellaneous parcels.
It will be recalled that in connection with the distribution of
letters and circulars, distributing cases are used with pigeonholes
into which the letters are put before being tied out and pouched. For
pouching, the sacks are placed on racks in such manner as to hold the
sacks open in a position for receiving the packages of letters as they
are thrown from a central point by the distributor. In the case of
parcel post it is obvious that distributing cases can not be used. The
conveyor belts for the primary separations correspond to the primary
separating cases. At the secondary separating tables used for parcel
post, small floor trucks or gurneys are used for such parcels as re­
quire further distribution. When parcels are finally ready to be
sacked, sack racks resembling pouch racks are used; but since the par­
cels and the sacks are of larger size, the process of sacking is neces­
sarily slower and more difficult than the process of pouching.
Parcels for a particular destination (whether for a single post
office, for a region, or for a number of post offices) when finally dis­
tributed and sacked are sent by floor wells or chutes to belts on the
floor below. These belts in turn feed into spiral chutes which lead
to the loading levels. A particular route must be chosen because the
several spiral chutes feed into different sections of the Union Station



and into different loading areas for depots other than the Union
Station. It will be recalled that the Kansas mail referred to above
contained on the label the symbol “ D4.” This symbol indicates the
floor well, the belt, and the spiral chute to be used for that particular
sack. The symbols U l, U2, U3, and U4 denote the Union Station
mail platform. Mail for Union Station trains is delivered by spiral
chutes direct to track level, where a car-door separation is made.
About 35 mail cars may be loaded at one time. Symbols other than
U l to U4—as, for example, D4—on sack labels indicate other sta­
tions. Delivery to these stations is by spiral chutes to the motorvehicle loading platform, where separation is made onto hand trucks
for motor vehicles which carry mail to stations other than the Union
Station. The placing of mails in the cars is done by railway em­
ployees under the supervision of transfer clerks of the Railway Mail
In addition to the distributing center just described for the States
of Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Nevada, and Texas, there are 14 other
secondary distributing centers. Some of these have separations
which are mainly alphabetical; for example, Illinois mail is dis­
tributed directly to nearly 1,100 post offices out of a possible 1,550
offices. The “ residue ” in this case (the mail which railway postoffice trains would receive as miscellaneous) is approximately only 5
per cent of all Illinois parcel post handled. In other cases, especially
when the destination is more remote, the proportion of mail which
requires additional handling en route is much larger.
The Van Buren annex is by no means limited in its operations to
the handling of parcel-post mail. If we return, for a moment, to the
main feed belt on the third floor and observe the stream of mail on
this feed belt we see considerable quantities of first-class mail, cir­
culars, periodicals, and small miscellaneous items. These various
classes of mail are not removed from the main feed belt but are
allowed to ride to a table at the end of the belt, where they are placed
in gurneys and sent by elevators to the fourth floor for further hand­
ling. First-class mail is sent each half-hour to the main post office
to be merged with the main stream of letters handled there.
Special-delivery and other parcels requiring special handling are
held out on the first floor when possible, otherwise at the primary
separation from the feed belt, and are sent to special-handling sec­
tions, mainly on the fourth floor. Foreign mail is also handled on
the fourth floor.
Much of the parcel-post mail can not be put into sacks without
special handling. Parcels that can not be sent by belt to the sack
racks and that can not be placed in sacks while the sacks are on the
racks are sent to the fourth floor and sacked separately in order to
take advantage of the lower transportation rate for sacked mail.
Even with special handling there are many parcels which can not
be sacked and which are known as “ outsides.” These are conveyed
on hand trucks and elevators to the fourth floor, where they are dis­
tributed to depots and returned by hand trucks and elevators for
dispatch. All outside parcels received are separated on the same
schedule as mails which are sacked, and are included in the same
trains as sacked parcels.



A large variety of paper mail is handled at the Van Buren annex.
Included under this general heading are catalogs, advertising mat­
ter, periodicals, calendars, samples of no commercial value, and tran­
sient newspapers. Second-class mail is received principally in sacks,
weighed by lot, and zone-inspected, and recorded in the name of the
mailer before being sent by hand trucks and elevators to the fourth
floor. Various other kinds of paper mail are also sent to the fourth
floor. Here 60 separations to sacks are made. Mails for a few of
the large cities are labeled direct to these cities. The rest of the
paper mail is distributed to Railway Mail Service terminals in other
cities, with the exception of mail for the States of Illinois, Iowa,
Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and California, which is sent to
the Chicago terminal railway post office for further distribution.
The division of labor between the Railway Mail Service and the
Van Buren annex is determined by such factors as economy of labor,
speed of delivery, and facilities available. Paper mails are sent from
the fourth floor to loading levels and dispatched in a manner similar
to the method outlined for parcel post.
The various spiral chutes which feed the trains of the Union Sta­
tion and the other outlets terminate on the track level or adjacent
to the motor-vehicle loading platform southward of the unloading
docks. There is room within the building’s boundaries for loading
about 15 cars. By means of stubs or spurs beyond the build­
ing’s boundaries north and south, about 20 additional cars can be
For the purpose of hauling trains of trucks to car doors for load­
ing at points beyond the south and north ends of the building, where
hand movement is difficult or too laborious, tractors driven by electric
batteries are used.
A superficial view of the operations at the Van Buren annex gives
the impression of a confused maze of belt conveyors, chutes, trucks,
tractor trains, and other facilities. Further observation reveals an
orderly arrangement and movement of the various kinds of mail from
the places of ingress upward to the appropriate centers for necessary
handling and then forward and downward to the places of dispatch
to trucks or trains. There is a prodigious amount of motion but a
remarkably small amount of lost motion.

Handling Parcels Between Offices
The account so far given concerns the collecting of parcel post and
the placing of it in a position to be transported along the main
streams of traffic toward its destination. As has been seen, there are
two main classes of mail from the point of view of its preparation
for transit: (a) “ Directs,” which require no distribution en route and
which require a minimum of transfer, relabeling, and redispatching;
and (6) other mail, which is not assorted by post offices and which,
therefore, requires additional distribution before reaching the post
office of destination.
In the case of parcel post, such mail as requires distribution en
route is not handled ordinarily in railway mail cars. Because of the
relatively high cost of space and of transportation facilities in rail­
way mail cars, these are reserved largely for letters and daily papers



and small quantities of mail of other kinds requiring special handling. The distribution of parcel post en route is usually in terminal
railway post offices.
The uses of terminal railway post offices were mentioned in con­
nection with letter mail,3 but their functions are more vital in the
handling of other classes of mail.
A relatively simple illustration of the work of terminal railway
post offices in the handling of parcel post is to be found in the case
of the terminal at Kansas City, Mo. Terminal post offices are located
at railroad terminals, or at least in such manner as to facilitate the
distribution and dispatch of mail in a forward direction. The
Kansas City terminal post office is operated in connection with the
railroad terminal. Mail to be transferred from one train to another
and not to be worked in the terminal post office is brought from the
mail cars on hand trucks to a chute and sent by chute to a platform
in the sub-basement to be redispatched. Mail originating in Kansas
City is brought to an unloading dock on motor vehicles and sent
through four chutes to the sub-basement, where the transfer mail
from the train floor is also received by chute. From the terminal
post office on the floor above the sub-basement six chutes bring mail
worked in the terminal post office for similar separation to trains.
4 Outsides ” in great variety are handled by means of hand trucks
and elevators and these also are sent to the sub-basement.
Thus transfer mail, together with mail from Kansas City (both
sacks and outsides), is conveniently assembled in the sub-basement.
As it comes into the assembling center it is distributed, while being
worked backward toward the train sheds, for convenient transfer to
appropriate trains. Sack mail comes down the four chutes from the
unloading dock and is dumped onto a separating table. Also, the
chute leading from the train unloading floor terminates on a separat­
ing platform near the terminus of the four chutes used for mail from
Kansas City. Near the separating platforms are six belt conveyors
moving backward toward the train sheds. The mail on the separat­
ing platforms is separated to railways and placed on the six belt
conveyors, each of which leads to a dispatching platform. 4 Out­
sides,” as they are distributed, are handled on hand trucks.
Thus mail of these various kinds and from these several sources
(transferred from trains, sent by chute from the terminal post office,
and trucked in from the Kansas City post office and its branches) is
moved backward, distributed, and prepared for dispatch. It is then
sent through a tunnel underneath the train floor on hand trucks and
raised by elevators to the various tracks, each hand truck going to
the track of the train for which its load is dispatched.
Due to the fact that the main terminal railway post office does not
have sufficient room, there is an overflow distributing center known
as the annex, which is chiefly used for working mail for Oklahoma,
Texas, and Nebraska. The same system of distribution is used and
there are no distinctive mechanical devices in the annex.
The scheme of distribution used in terminal railway post offices is
essentially the same as in general post offices; but it involves more
extensive knowledge of train schedules and connections and of the
country-wide system of terminal railway post offices, and the em­
* See pp. 21 and 22.



phasis is on routing and dispatching rather than separating and
A terminal railway post office resembles in many ways a city postoffice building which specializes in the handling of parcel-post mail
and paper mail, as does the Van Buren annex or the Quincy station
at Chicago. A terminal railway post office, however, functions not
so much in the handling of parcels to or from the city in which it is
located as in the routing, transfer, and economical “ fanning out ” of
mail from a strategic center to its tributary areas.4
The actual movement of ordinary parcel mail along the main traffic
stream to the point of its diversion for transfer to the office of des­
tination is in storage cars or in cars in which storage space is re­
served at contractual rates.

Handling Parcels at Offices o f Destination
Parcel mail has now been followed from the office of origin into
the main traffic stream and along the stream to the point where it
must be diverted from the stream for transfer to the office of destina­
tion. As in the case of transfer from the office of origin to the main
traffic stream, the methods used for diverting parcel mail from the
stream to the office of destination depend (1) on whether or not the
office of destination is in a city through which a main stream of
postal traffic flows, and (2) on whether or not the office of destina­
tion is large enough to justify specialized modes of handling mail.
Much of the transfer work is done by employees of transportation
companies having mail contracts. Generally, in smaller places, mail
messengers working under contract are employed. In larger places
Government employees convey the mail in publicly owned motor
vehicles. Bus lines, electric railroads, steamships, and various other
modes of transportation are often found necessary, as in the case of
the transportation of mail from the point of origin to the main traffic
When parcel mail has finally reached its office of destination, the
methods of delivery to addressees also vary substantially as do the
methods of collecting parcel mail from the addressors and conveying
it to the offices of origin. In smaller places there is not even spe­
cialized handling. In offices of moderate size there is a varying de­
gree of specialization of labor, but very little mass handling by
mechanized methods. In the larger cities and, in general, in places
having a volume of mail sufficient to justify mechanized handling,
various devices are used similar in general nature to the devices
used for handling outbound parcel post in the offices of origin.
In the largest cities the specialization goes so far as to include
the use of separate buildings for handling inbound and outbound
parcel mail. In Chicago inbound parcel post, together with similar
mail, is handled at the Quincy station and outbound parcel mail,
as already seen, goes through the Van Buren annex. The Quincy
station is the distributing center for all parcel-post and paper
mail for city delivery. At this station are received (1) parcelpost and paper mail in sacks from all Chicago railroad depots; (2)
4 See pp. 31 and 32.



parcel post, papers, and special delivery matter in sacks or pouches
from all city postal stations; (3) parcel post, both ordinary and
special delivery, unsacked from the Van Buren annex in nondamage
dump trucks, and also paper mail in sacks; (4) paper mail in sacks
direct from publishing houses for city delivery; and (5) a certain
amount of first-class mail, the delivery of which can be advanced by
transfer from railroad depots to the Quincy station instead of to
the main post office. Each of the special containers bringing un­
sacked parcel-post mail from the Yan Buren annex has a capacity
equaling 12y2 sacks, and each automobile has room for 6 containers.
This container was invented at the Chicago post office, and is there
known as the Madigan nondamage dump truck. It can be quickly
unloaded and, by means of a tripping device, emptied in one move­
ment. The use of this container eliminates the necessity of filling
and emptying mail sacks, reduces motor-vehicle loading and unload­
ing time, and speeds up the movement of mails.
The various kinds of mail from the several sources mentioned
are sent by hand trucks and elevators to a mezzanine above the
fourth floor. Here the mail is dumped from sacks, or, in the case of
the parcel-post mail from the Yan Buren annex, emptied directly
from the Madigan trucks onto a belt conveyor feeding a belt sep­
arating unit on the fourth floor.
Men along this feed belt remove the large parcels and put them
onto separating belts running parallel to the feed belt. O f these
separating belts seven lead to tables which serve parcel-post delivery
districts of the city. The eighth belt serves as a feed belt for a sec­
ond break-up. From this eighth belt C. O. D. parcels and parcels
being returned to the large mail-order houses are sent to specialhandling sections. The parcels delivered by the belts terminating
at the tables which serve the parcel-post delivery sections of the city
are separated by employees in accordance with the Chicago delivery
scheme to parcel-post carrier routes and placed in sacks. The sacks
are labeled to indicate these routes, and are then dispatched to the
platform used for outgoing mails to be loaded on Government motor
vehicles for delivery to the appropriate city postal station. At the
station a parcel-post delivery man for each route receives the sacks
for his route, arranges the parcels upon the tailboard of his automo­
bile roughly in the order of delivery, and proceeds to cover his route
in a manner analogous to the way in which letter carriers cover their
routes. Formerly parcels were arranged in the post office by postal
clerks in the order of delivery by streets and street numbers. It was
found that this consumed a great deal of time without speeding up
the delivery in a corresponding degree. The sorting of the mail by
the motor-vehicle operator on the tailboard of his truck saves a great
deal of time on the part of postal employees without materially
slowing up the delivery of mail.
In addition to parcel post delivered by motor-vehicle operators in
the manner just described, other classes of mail are handled at the
Quincy station. The large feed belt on the fourth floor carries small
parcels and paper mail as well as ordinary parcel post. Small par­
cels and paper mail are allowed to travel to the ena of the main feed
belt, where they fall into a chute leading to second-floor outlets.
Separation to city postal stations is made on the second floor* In



addition to the small parcels and paper mail received from the main
feed belt on the fourth floor, there are large quantities of secondclass mail, particularly periodicals, brought to the receiving platform
by local publishing and printing concerns. This mail of local origin
is sent to the second floor for distribution along with the paper mail
and small parcels received from the main feed belt on the fourth
floor, and is then distributed to appropriate postal stations, to which
it is dispatched and from which it is delivered to addressees by the
regular district foot carriers.
Special-delivery parcels are handled separately and sent by elevator
to the second floor, where the time of receipt is postmarked on the
parcels. Delivery tickets are drawn up and parcels are turned over
to a squad of special-delivery messengers for delivery. These mes­
sengers buy and maintain motor vehicles with bodies conforming to
the general construction and appearance of the regulation Govern­
ment mail truck.
First-class mail handled at the Quincy station consists largely of
pouches of letters received from various city postal stations for
transfer to other stations. Distribution of this mail to appropriate
stations for delivery in the city is performed on the second floor.
Letters are pouched and the pouches labeled, and locked and dis­
patched by motor vehicle at scheduled intervals for delivery to
appropriate stations. There is also a quantity of first-class mail
received from railroad stations to be handled at the Quincy station
in order to facilitate delivery. This mail is usually distributed on
railway mail cars and the special service of delivery to city stations
by way of the Quincy office instead of the main post office results in
advancing the delivery of a considerable body of first-class mail.
Outside parcels received from all sources are separated to parcelpost delivery districts on the receiving platform of the first floor and
are dispatched by automobile, with the sacked parcels, to the appro­
priate parcel-post delivery station.
The larger buildings in the Quincy station district are served by a
special time-saving arrangement. Owners or managers of these
buildings were solicited and, after a thorough explanation, their
cooperation was obtained in the form of rooms being set aside at
no cost to the post office for the delivery of parcels to these buildings,
and for the separation of parcels in the buildings instead of in the
post office. Under this system carriers and motor-vehicle employees
are supplied with keys to these rooms. One truck driver can serve
nine buildings and one carrier can serve three buildings. While
the carrier is delivering parcels, the truck driver does nothing but
haul mail to the storage rooms. There are two deliveries instead of
one as formerly, and this makes unnecessary the emergency trips
formerly made on Monday to handle accumulated week-end mail.
This arrangement, besides giving better and more frequent service,
reduces the number o f deliverymen from 68 to 56, eliminates 3 motor
cars, and reduces the amount of space required at the post office.
From the account so far given relating to the intricacy and the
magnitude of the problems of mail handling it is apparent that the
traditional type o f building, sometimes described as the monumental
type, is far from adequate for the present-day work of the postal
system. In addition to the requirements for the speedy and eco­



nomical ingress and egress of mail and for the handling of the
various types of mail through the several stages required for both
inbound and outbound mail, the special services of the post offices
(some of which, as, for instance, the postal-savings division, have
no immediate connection with handling the mails) have grown in
number and volume till they also call for highly specialized facilities
which are rarely available in the older types o f buildings.

Special Services of the Postal System
Originally the postal system was limited almost entirely to the
handling of letters. Now there are many special services in addition
to the handling of the various kinds of mail.
In 1908 (the first year which is included in the present study) there
were three special services, namely, registrations, money orders, and
special deliveries. The registering of letters was authorized in
1855; the money-order system was instituted in 1865; and 20 years
later came the beginning of the special’-delivery system.
Of the more recent special services, three—insurance of mail, the
collect-on-delivery arrangement, and special handling—are all con­
nected primarily with the Parcel Post System, which was inaugu­
rated at the beginning of 1913. Still another special service is the
handling o f private funds by the postal-savings division of the post
As will be seen later from the statistical portions of this study,
the special services have grown with great rapidity in recent years
until they constitute a considerable portion of the total services
rendered. Most of the special services are of such nature that there
can be only a very limited use of mechanical methods. The prin­
cipal technological changes, therefore, have been in the nature of
administrative rather than mechanical improvements. One of the
most important of these has been the reorganization of postal admin­
istration for coordinating the various forms of post-office work under
the two main divisions of mail handling and finance. This has
made possible a reduction of slack time and a relatively complete
utilization of the labor forces. To this end one of the more impor­
tant changes has consisted of a greater interchangeability of labor,
by which an employee is shifted from one class of work to another
as his qualifications make possible and as occasion may demand.

Mechanizing of the Money-Order Accounting System
A notable exception to the statement that the special services have
not been adapted to the use of mechanical methods is to be found
in the handling of money orders. It is true that in the writing of
money orders and in the final stage of cashing them there are no
significant mechanical arrangements, but in the money-order ac­
counting system there is a remarkable degree of mechanization. The
methods were developed during the past two decades by Government
auditors at Washington for the Post Office Department and were
.gradually extended to field offices. A clear account seems to call for
a description of the system in a typical field office, such as that of
Kansas City,



The Kansas City office audits in a preliminary manner the paid
money orders of an extensive area, including the third-class and
fourth-class offices of western Missouri—about 800 in all; and it
handles the index cards (to be explained later) of Denver, Omaha,
Topeka, and Oklahoma City, in addition to its own, but without
auditing the accounts of these offices.
The system of auditing paid money orders is by means of the
punched-card-index method. There is a key punch operated by
hand. Of this type there are about 20 in use in Kansas City. So
expert do the operators become that they can punch about 10 cards a
minute, and errors have been reduced to as low a ratio as 1 wrong
finger movement out of 340,000 movements. The average number
of finger movements in punching a single card is 17. These key
punches are operated electrically by means of a magnet on the prin­
ciple of the telegraphic circuit.
The cards contain printed figures for (1) the paying-office number;
(2) the year (the last digit only with the figures 0 to 9 ); (3) the
months, numbered 1 to 12; (4) the date paid; (5) the file number
(representing a bundle or file of about 200 orders cashed by a par­
ticular office or bank) ; (6) the issuing-office number; (7) the serial
number of the money order; (8) the month of issue of the money
order; (9) the amount; and (10) the fee.
The key punch operated by hand is used only for punching
numbers that are variable (items 6 to 10 in the list given above)
in a particular file of paid orders.
The cards of the file for which a balance is being sought (ordi­
narily about 200 orders) are then put through a gang punch. Every
money order in each file has the same paying-office number, year,
month, date of payment, and file number (items 1 to 5 above); the
gang punch is therefore set for these fixed numbers. The cards
representing the entire file are placed in position and a releasing
device automatically feeds the cards through the punch. The gang
punch has a capacity of 100 cards per minute, at least ten times that
of the key punches, and the two gang punches in use do as much as
20 to 25 key punches could do.
The cards are then placed in a printing and adding mechanism—a
tabulator. The punched cards pass over brushes, and through the
holes in the cards electrical contacts are established. The resulting
circuit in turn operates the armature of a magnet, and this sets in
motion a printing mechanism, which prints a tabulation or list
(a file run) of the money orders contained in the file. The machine
also has an adjustable adding device and the amount of the money
orders in a particular file is added and the sum printed on the
The tabulated list or file run thus becomes a balance sheet. I f
there is an error a check-up is made. This can be done by comparing
the items in the file with the items in the printed list (file run). I f
the file balance or file run is correct, the cards of the file have served
their purpose as far as balancing the file is concerned.
A great many files of money orders are thus put through for
establishing cash balances. Complaints and inquiries, however, are
received concerning particular money orders with no reference to
the file number, which is purely an auditing record, The problem



then is, how to locate a particular money order concerning which
inquiry is made, the inquiry perhaps naming only the date and office
of issue, serial number of money order, and amount.
In order to establish an index for making any money order in the
vast number of files accessible, all of the punched cards of a par­
ticular date for each of the larger paying offices (Kansas City,
Denver, Omaha, Topeka, and Oklahoma City) are put through
an electric sorting machine to arrange them numerically by the
numbers of issuing post offices (every post office being assigned a
number). The rate of sorting is about 400 per minute.
The cards of each paying office, thus sorted, are then put separately
through the same electric tabulator which is used to print the
balance sheets of the separate files. This second list is printed in
duplicate in the sequence of numbers of the issuing offices. One
copy is sent to Washington for use in final audit and for reference.
The printing mechanism has a keyboard which uses numbers cor­
responding to the numbers on the cards. As the cards are auto­
matically fed into the machine the numbers that are punched on the
cards set up electrical contacts which actuate the printing mechanism
(as in the case of the printing of the balance sheet) ; thus is printed
a record of all orders paid during a particular day in the numerical
sequence of the numbers assigned to the issuing offices. The sheets
(known as index files or runs) contain the numbers of the issuing
post offices and also the serial numbers of the money orders, month
of issue, amount paid on each order, and the number of the file
corresponding to the file numbers on the original balance sheet.
Each of these sheets lists about 200 money orders and the sheets
afford a consecutive record of the daily business of each office.
They are filed in numerical sequence of the issuing offices. Thus
in case of inquiry concerning a particular money order the number
of the office, the date of issue, the serial number of the money order,
and (a particularly important item) the original file number can
be readily located in the index file. Then, by referring back to the
appropriate file of canceled money orders, information is readily
available for answering inquiries.
Copies of the index files of orders paid at the larger offices (Denver,
Omaha, Topeka, and Oklahoma City) are sent to these offices for
similar use in enabling them to answer inquiries.
The portion of the money order containing the signature of the
payee goes to Washington. In order to avoid writing to Washington
in case of disputed payment, the Kansas City office developed a
method of having large firms and institutions mark the coupon (the
part of the money order retained at the post office) with the firm’s
ledger or file number in such way as to enable them by reference to
their record to satisfy themselves that they had received the money.
This reduced the number of requests for photostatic copies about 50
per cent, with a great saving of labor and time. This method has
been adopted for use in other post offices.
Money orders issued by a particular office (Wichita, Kans., for
example) are paid not only at Kansas City but at various other offices.
Kansas City’s preliminary audit covers only the orders paid in Kansas
City and the district subject to its accounting supervision. In order
that the Washington office may audit all offices and have a check on



both the issuing and the paying of money orders, the punched index
cards, the canceled money orders, and the index runs or lists are sent
to Washington. The lists are abstracts of the orders for which
Kansas City claims credit, and the paid orders themselves are the
vouchers. Thus the Kansas City office and the third-class and fourthclass offices in the Kansas City district are subjected at Washington
to a final audit of paid money orders; the same is true of all the paid
orders handled at all of the various electrical accounting offices in the
There remain the money orders for which cards are not punched
at the electrical accounting offices in the field. Many first-class and
second-class offices do not submit their paid orders to electrical
accounting offices in the field but send them direct to Washington.
There are also a few central accounting offices5 which handle the
general accounts of third-class and fourth-class offices, but which do
not have electrical accounting machinery for perforating cards.
Some of these send the paid money orders of their offices and of the
third-class and fourth-class offices in their accounting districts to
Washington and not to the electrical money-order accounting office
in the field. There is therefore still a considerable amount of card
punching at Washington. One type of key punch in use is equipped
with an automatic feeding device and an automatic stacker, which do
away with the handling of cards individually before and after
punching. The cards when punched are automatically fed into an
electrical tabulator which automatically sums up the amounts of
the orders. Thus the claims of the paying offices are verified or
Whether the cards are punched in field offices or in Washington,
the Washington authorities are able by means of the perforated
cards, the paid orders, and the abstracts or lists submitted by the
paying offices, to audit all paid orders with remarkable speed and
When the cards (whether punched in field offices or in Washing­
ton) have served their purpose for auditing paid orders they are
used for auditing the amounts charged by the issuing postmasters
who issued the orders and who received the money. For this addi­
tional audit the cards punched at Washington and the cards sent in
from field offices are assembled and again put through the sorting
machine and sorted by post offices of issue in numerical sequence.
The cards are then sent to the electrical tabulators for audit in a
manner similar to the method used for auditing the accounts of
paying offices.
The electrical money-order accounting machinery has also been
adapted to the auditing of delayed-payment money orders, terri­
torial and (in part) international money orders, and postmaster’s
drafts. In connection with delayed-payment orders the system is
particularly serviceable in finding whether or not duplicate orders
have been issued and in avoiding a second payment.
Some system of checking up on orders is essential for discovering
alterations, forgeries, attempts at second collections on duplicate
orders, and other forms of fraud. The amount of labor involved in
6 See p. 8.



any nonmechanical method of indexing and auditing would be in­
calculably greater than the amount now necessary. The electrical
accounting method not only is rapid and economical but offers an
almost perfect proof that all money orders have been accounted for
at the issuing and paying offices in the amounts intended by the

Measuring Output
Mail Handling
Any business enterprise that is conducted according to prevailing
economic standards finds it necessary to devise methods for measur­
ing its output. In the case of the post offices, such measurement is
essential for sound accounting, budgeting, fixing of rates, assignment
of revenues and expenditures, and testing of efficiency alike of labor
and of the physical plant. For the purpose of the present study,
the measurement of output is essential for ascertaining changes m
the productivity of labor and in the number of employment oppor­
tunities afforded by the Postal Service.
The period chosen for the study of changes in the output of the
postal system has been determined by several factors. A practical
consideration is the availability of essential data. It was found that
the years immediately preceding the introduction of the Parcel Post
System were marked by successful efforts on the part of the Post
Office Department to measure the productivity of the system as a
whole. This is particularly true of the years 1908, 1910, and 1912.
Then followed a long interval characterized by the extension of the
Parcel Post System, beginning in 1913, and by the war years and
the period of reconstruction, when the methods of measurement
worked out earlier were no longer applicable and when the urgency
of war-time demands presumably prevented the development of new
methods. As a result of the work of the Commission on Postal
Service authorized by Congress in 1920, the Division of Cost Ascer­
tainment was organized in 1923. Since 1926 this branch of the Postal
Service has functioned regularly and comprehensively in a remark­
ably successful measurement of the output of the entire system.
Changes in the productivity of labor are obviously affected most
vitally by technological changes, either mechanical or administrative.
The most significant technological changes in the postal system have
occurred since the beginning, in 1908, of dependable measurement of
the output of the postal system. The Joint Commission of Congress
on Business Methods of the Post Office Department stated in its
preliminary report, published in 1908, that “ there is a lamentable
lack of labor-saving devices practically throughout the whole Postal
Service.” 6
This commission was appointed in the first place for the purpose
of studying the problem of improving administrative methods. Its
investigation revealed the fact that not only was the Postal Service
poorly equipped with respect to mechanical devices but that the
•United States. Congress. Joint Commission on Business Methods of the Post Office
Department. Preliminary report, 1908, p. 77. (60th Cong., 1st sess., Senate Report No.





management of labor, the measurement of efficiency, and the business
methods in general afforded opportunities for extensive improve­
The period chosen for studying the output of the postal system
begins, therefore, with the years immediately preceding the intro­
duction of the Parcel Post System, when relatively few technological
improvements had affected the productivity of labor and when the
measurement of output was first put on a dependable basis. The
years from 1913 to 1925 are omitted because of the complications of
the rapidly extending Parcel Post System and of the war and re­
construction periods when dependable measurement is impossible.
The years 1926 to 1931 are included by virtue of the successful work
of the Division of Cost Ascertainment in making possible measure­
ment on a basis comparable to the years immediately preceding the
introduction of the Parcel Post System.
Obviously the principal output of the postal system consists of
the various kinds of mail. The classification adopted for the fiscal
year 1907-8, and still used by the Division of Cost Ascertainment,
includes first-class mail (chiefly letters), second-class mail (periodi­
cals), third-class mail (predominantly circulars), fourth-class mail
(now parcel post), franked mail, and penalty mail. One additional
classification now used is called “ f ree-for-the-blind.”
The Penrose-Overstreet Commission on Second-Class Mail Matter
reported to Congress in January of 190T that “ the Post Office De­
partment is not now able and has never been able to furnish
statistics as to the cost of various classes of mail.” 7
As a result of the commission’s recommendations, arrangements
were made for a special weighing of the mails during the six months’
period from July 1 to December 31, 1907, and also for special counts
of the number of pieces by classes and subclasses of mail. Various
other records were secured for the fiscal year 1907-8. For succeeding
years additional information was secured from time to time. As a
result of these investigations it was possible for the first time to
arrive at a reasonably accurate estimate of the number of pieces of
mail by classes. For 1910 and 1912 the results based on the special
weighings and counts of 1907-8 were utilized, corrections being made
where possible.
With the introduction of the Parcel Post System in 1913, it is,
however, obvious that the ratios used during the years immediately
preceding were no longer valid. Not until 1923 was any consider­
able effort made to measure the output of the system. In that year
investigations by the post-office committees of the two houses of
Congress and the joint commission on postal service (the Hughes
Commission) culminated in the undertaking of a comprehensive sur­
vey by the Post Office Department for the purpose of ascertaining
the cost of carrying on the various activities of the postal system.
The first report was for the year 1923. During the next two years
the work was allowed to lapse, but in 1926 and in each succeeding
year surveys similar to that of 1923 were carried on and detailed
7 United States. Congress. Postal Commission on Second-Class Mail Matter.
(1907), pp. xlv-1. (59th Cong., 2d sess., H. Doc. 608.)




reports were issued. The method used is indicated in a general way
by the following quotation from the report for 1931 (p. 2) :
The theory of this cost ascertainment has been to credit as accurately as
possible to each of the classes of mail matter, and to each of the special services,
its earned proportion of revenue from each of the several general sources, and
to charge against each the computed proportion of the expenditures made from
the several sums appropriated by the Congress for the maintenance of the Post
Office Department and the Postal Service by allocating to each class, where the
classes are handled separately, and to each service, the direct cost for labor and
transportation. Where two or more classes are handled jointly a division of
such cost is made by processes of apportionment, based upon ratios established
by elaborate tests involving time, number of pieces, weight, volume, and
average haul of mail. * * *
Incidental to the accomplishment of the above object it was essential that
there be computed and taken into consideration the number of pieces, the
weight, the volume, and the average haul of each of the classes of mail matter
and the number of transactions in each of the special services. It being wholly
impracticable to count, weigh, and compute the volume and haul of each of
26,000,000,000 pieces of mail matter and to maintain records in such form as
to charge directly to each of the classes of mail matter and special services its
exact share of the expenditures from each of the 71 appropriations made for
the conduct of the Postal Service, it was necessary to employ methods of ratio
and apportionment based upon tests.

The periods for collecting statistics on which the reports are based
are illustrated by the fiscal year ending June 30,1931. For this year
statistics were taken during seven consecutive days in four separate
periods as follows: September 15 to 21,1930; December 8 to 14,1930;
March 23 to 29, 1931; and June 1 to 7, 1931. The periods chosen
are in recognition of the seasonal variations in the movement of
mails, and they form as nearly as possible a complete cycle of the
days of the month.
On the basis of the methods thus briefly described, the Post Office
Department has been able to analyze with a considerable degree of
accuracy the amount of mail handled by classes during the fiscal
years ending June 30,1908,1910,1912, and 1926 to 1931. The results
are incorporated in Table 1.
T a b le

1.—Estimated number of pieces of domestic1 mail handled, by classes
of mail, in specified fiscal years
Fiscal year




1908 2............................... .................
1910 <
1912 o.................................................





1926 7
............................... .................
1927 7
______ ____________________
1928 7
.................... ..................... .......
1929 7
______ _________ ___________
1930?....... -_____________________






1Foreign mail is omitted because there is no adequate basis for comparing the earlier and later periods.
The amount is relatively small, and the ratio of change in the quantity of foreign mail is probably not
radically different from that of domestic mail.
2United States Post Office Department. Cost of transporting and handling the several classes of mail
matter. Washington, 1910, p. 5.
*United States Post Office Department. Second-class matter, by J. J. Britt. Washington, 1911, pp. 3,4.
6United States Post Office Department. Annual report, 1912. Washington, 1912, p. 307.
7Data are from the annual eost-ascertainment report of the Post Office Department.

T able


1.— Estimated number of pieces o f domestic mail hcmdled, bp classes
of mail, in specified fiscal years—Continued
Fiscal year

“ Free-forPenalty matter Franked matter blind” mail

1908 2.
1910 *.
1912 8



1926 7
1927 7
1928 7
1929 7
1930 7







2 United States Post Office Department. Cost of transporting and handling the several classes of mail
matter. Washington, 1910, p. 5.
8No separate estimate made.
* United States Post Office Department. Second-class matter, by J. J. Britt. Washington, 1911, pp. 3,4.
» Included under penalty matter.
« United States Post Office Department. Annual report, 1912. Washington, 1912, p. 307.
i Data are from the annual cost-ascertainment report of the Post Office Department.

Most of the classes of mail increased in number of pieces up to 1929
and since that date the number has somewhat declined. Since 1908
the number of pieces of first-class mail have considerably more than
doubled, increasing from slightly more than 7,100,000,000 in that year
to almost 17,170,000,000 in 1929, and declined to about 15,900,000,000
in 1931. The number of pieces of second-class mail increased much
less rapidly, from approximately 3,800,000,000 in 1908 to more than
4,850,000,000 in 1931. The outstanding fact regarding second-class
mail is the comparatively slight difference in volume in 1912 and
1926 to 1931. This is due mainly to changes in rates and regulations,
notably in 1918 and 1919.8 The increase in the amount of thirdclass mail was from about 1,721,000,000 in 1908 to somewhat more
than 4,100,000,000 in 1931.
In the case of fourth-class mail, consisting mainly of merchandise,
the introduction of the Parcel Post System in 1913 led to a tremen­
dous expansion in number of parcels, from 145,306,026 in 1908 to
765,661,536 in 1931. But even more significant than the increase in
number of pieces was the increase in the size and in the variety of
articles. In the case of penalty matter (consisting largely of depart­
mental mail) and franked matter (made up in the main of con­
gressional mail) the combined increase corresponds quite closely to
the rate of increase o f first-class and third-class mail, although the
quantity is of course relatively slight—about 240,000,000 pieces in
1908 and 550,000,000 pieces in 1931.
It is apparent that from the point of view of the amount of work
necessary for the handling of mail there are great differences between
the various classes of mail. I f these different classes are to be com­
bined into a total volume of mail handled, it is necessary in com­
paring changes in volume of output with changes in volume of labor
to weight the classes of output by means of labor-weighting factors.
Particularly is this true of fourth-class mail. I f the classes of mail
increased in the same ratio and if the average size and weight per
piece (or other qualities affecting the amount of labor required for
8 United States Post Office Department.
pp. 17-22.

Annual report, 1919.

Washington, 1919.



handling) remained approximately the same throughout the years
included in the present study, the weighting would not be so essential
because the derived ratios would remain relatively constant. In the
case of second-class and third-class mail and of franked and penalty
mail the changes in the number of pieces and in the average weight
and bulk per piece have not been so great as in the case of fourthclass mail, although when these classes of mail are not weighted the
result, from the point of view of the amount of labor required, is an
underestimate of the combined volume of output.
The principal problem of weighting is in connection with fourthclass mail. Because of the introduction of the Parcel Post System
there was a great change not only in the number of parcels but also
in the average size and weight per piece. Even in the years 1908,
1910, and 1912, before the introduction of the Parcel Post System,
the handling of fourth-class mail required considerably more labor
per piece than did the handling o f first-class mail per piece. Fortu­
nately, a weighting factor is available. On the basis of extensive
tests made by the Post Office Department it was reported in 1909 that
“ ordinary letters and circulars can be handled in about one-third the
time required for newspapers and packages.” 9
From this investigation it is apparent that a considerably larger
amount of time was required for handling periodicals as well as
parcels than for handling letters. The present problem, however, is
the weighting of fourth-class mail. On the basis of the authority
quoted above, it appears desirable to multiply the number of pieces
of fourth-class mail by three as a labor-weighting factor for the
years 1908, 1910, and 1912.
After tne introduction of the Parcel Post System in 1913, this
weighting factor was no longer applicable because of the great
increase in the size and weight of parcels. For the more recent
period there is available the information secured by extensive surveys
carried on by post-office inspectors. Careful records were kept of
the number of pieces handled, the number of man-hours, and the
average number of pieces handled per hour, in the letter section and
in the parcel-post section of the mailing division of large offices
throughout the country. The records covered a variety of conditions.
The number of pieces handled in the mailing division of typical
offices was totaled for first-class mail (348,664,195 pieces) and for
parcels (14,168,406 pieces) ; and the amount of time required was
also totaled. By dividing the total amount of time for handling the
first-class mail by the total number of pieces of first-class mail, the
average amount of time per piece was derived. In the same way,
the average time per piece for parcel-post mail was computed. A
comparison of the average time per piece results in a ratio of 1 for
first-class mail to 8.2 for parcel-post mail. The basic data are
admittedly far from comprehensive; but there is evidence that the
ratio of 1 to 8.2 is a conservative estimate of the difference in amount
of time per piece required for handling the two classes of mail.
The change in the estimated ratio of 1 to 3 in 1908 to 1 to 8.2 at
present is explained by the great increase in the size and weight of
9 United States Post Office Department. Cost of transporting and handling the several
classes of mail matter and of conducting the registry, money-order, and special-delivery
services. Washington, 1910, p. 13.



parcels. During the years 1908, 1910, and 1912 the limit of weight
for ordinary parcels was 4 pounds. After March 15, 1918, the limit
of weight for zones 1 to 3 was 70 pounds, and for zones 4 to 8, 50
pounds. The combined length and girth of parcels might be 84
inches. In 1908 the average weight per parcel of fourth-class mail
was 6.5 ounces; in 1926, 85.8 ounces; and in 1931,79.3 ounces.
The results of applying the above weighting factors to fourth-class
mail are indicated in Table 2.
T a b l e j 2 . —Changes

in number of pieces of domestic mml handled in specified
fiscal years with fourth-class nrnil weighted on basis of relative amount of
labor required
Fourth-class mail

Fiscal year

Weighted on basis of
relative labor re­
quired i
Number of
pieces un­

Number of

1908. ................
1910......... ..............
1912...____ ______



1926...... ........ ........



Number of
pieces of all
other classes


Index num­
Total number
bers of
of pieces (in­ change in
cluding fourth- volume
class weighted)

100.0 12,869,977,099 13,305,895,177
117.0 14,941,599,756 15,451,623,906
165.2 16,623,444,072 17,343,391,011




1Weights used were 3 for 1908, 1910, and 1912; and 8.2 for 1926 to 1931.

It will be seen from Table 2 that, weighted as described above, the
number of units of fourth-class mail increased from 435,918,078 in
1908 to 6,278,424,595 in 1931. All other classes of mail are included
without weighting, although it is apparent that the handling of
periodicals, especially the more bulky journals, and of a consider­
able portion of third-class mail, which includes merchandise up to 8
ounces and “ flats ” or larger circulars and printed matter not coming
under the parcel-post classification, requires much more work per
piece than does the handling of letter mail per piece. There is also
a considerable portion of franked and penalty mail that has much
bulk and weight. Mail classed as “ free-for-the-blind” is also rela­
tively very bulky, but the number of pieces is not large. That there
has been an increase in the average amount of labor per piece re­
quired for handling second-class mail is indicated by the increase in
the average weight per piece. In 1908 it was only 3.3 ounces per
piece; while for the years 1926 to 1931 the average weight per piece
was more than 5 ounces.
The total number of pieces of mail, including fourth-class mail
weighted and other classes unweighted, increased from about 13,300,000,000 in 1908 to about 33,562,000,000 in 1930, and declined in 1931
to about 31,699,000,000. The index of change in volume ran from a



base of 100.0 in 1908 to 252.2 in 1930 and 238.2 in 1931. This esti­
mate of the change in the volume of mail matter, although decidedly
conservative because of the inclusion of all classes except fourth-class
mail without weighting, is nevertheless as close an approximation
of the change as available weighting factors make possible*
Special Services
Since 1912 the special services rendered by the Post Office Depart­
ment have increased rapidly in variety and in the number of trans­
actions. The special services were long confined to registrations,
money orders, and special deliveries. After 1912, all of these in­
creased rapidly in number of transactions. The first year in which
statistics relating to postal-savings accounts appear was 1912. After
1912 the collect-on-delivery system and the insuring of parcels rap­
idly swelled the volume of special transactions.
Table 3 shows the growth of the special services during the years
covered in Tables 1 and 2 (1908,1910,1912, and 1926 to 1931). There
was a doubling of the number of registrations between the years 1908
and 1931, in spite of the considerable decline during the year 1931.
The number in 1908 was 40,151,797, and in 1931, 80,740,703. The
number of money orders issued increased considerably more, from
68,576,210 in 1908 to 205,263,380 in 1930, from which high point the
number declined to 192,584,774 in 1931. The number of specialdelivery transactions increased still more rapidly, from 13,734,514 in
1908 to more than 100,000,000 in 1930, with a decline during 1931 to
Due to changes in postal regulations and to recent business condi­
tions, the number of collect-on-delivery transactions (one of the serv­
ices introduced after 1912) declined from 51,083,653 in 1926 to 40,555,435 in 1931. The number of insurance transactions also shows a
decline. The number in 1926 was 137,857,693; in 1930, 126,673,256;
and in 1931,112,312,231. In regard to the Postal Savings System, it
is impossible to include the number of transactions (that is, the num­
ber of deposits and withdrawals), but it is likely that for a period of
years the average number of deposits and withdrawals per depositor
remained approximately constant. The number of depositors in
1912 was 243,801. The prevailing confidence in the Postal Savings
System during a period of bank failures led to a large increase in
the number of depositors. The number in 1931 was 770,841.
Table 3 also includes the results of the use of labor-weighting fac­
tors in connection with special-service transactions. The method used
for deriving these labor-weighting factors is indicated by Table 4.



T a b l e 3 . —Changes

m number of special-service transactions, unweighted, and
weighted on basis of approximate differences in amount of labor involved,1
Postal Service, in specified fiscal years
Registrations, paid and

Money orders

Special-delivery transac­

Fiscal year

Weighted 2




Weighted *















C. O. D. transac­

Insurance transac­

accounts (number
of depositors)

Fiscal year

weighted Weighted1 weight­ Weighted


1929193019311See Table 4.

Total num­ bers of
(weighted) change

51,083,653 638,545,663 137,857,693 716,860,004
49,820,640 622,758,000 133,378,223 693,566,760
49,297,283 616,216,038 132,034,024 686,576,925
49,600,219 620,002,738 130,939,891 680,887,433
46,187,859 577,348,238 126,673,256 658,700,931
40,555,435 506,942,938 112,312,231 584,023,601

2 Weight used was 15.3.



339,305 52,931,580
411,394 64,177,464
412,250 64,311,000
413,990 64,582,440
463,827 72,357,012
770,841 120,251,196





3Weight used was 8.1. 5Weight used was 12.5. 7Weight used was 156.0.
4Weight used was 6.7. 6 Weight used was 5.2.

It is apparent that the amount of labor per transaction varies
greatly with the different classes of special services and that the
amount of labor required for the special-service transactions is not
the same as for the handling of mail. Tables 1 and 2 show the
results of an effort to reduce the different classes of mail to a common
denominator in terms of the average amount of labor per piece for
handling first-class mail. In order to reduce the special-service
transactions to the same common denominator, it is necessary to com­
pare them with first-class mail in respect to the amount of labor
There has been no adequate record of the amount of time required
per transaction and it is therefore necessary to approach the problem
indirectly. This can be done on the basis of the studies made by the
Division of Cost Ascertainment, the results of which are expressed
in terms of expense, rather than in terms of amount of labor, but in
regard to first-class mail and the several special services the predomi­
nant element of cost is labor. This is true particularly of the special
services, for with them the element of transportation plays virtually
no part as compared with the handling of first-class mail. Because
of the great importance of transportation as an element of cost in the



handling of classes of mail other than letter mail, the cost of handling
can not be used as a labor-weighting factor for the different classes
of mail. In respect to first-class mail and the special services, the
costs other than labor are slight and tend to cancel out, with the
exception of cost of transportation, which applies to the handling of
letters but not to the special-services transactions. The method,
therefore, is a conservative one and in all probability gives an
underestimate of the total weighted volume of output.
Table 4 gives the average expense per piece for first-class mail and
per transaction for the several special services for the years 1926 to
1931, the cost ranging from 1.68 cents per piece of first-class mail
to 262.65 cents per depositor in the Postal Savings System. Ex­
pressed in the form of an index with the cost per piece for first-class
mail being represented by 1, the cost per transaction of the special
services ranges from 5.2 for insurance transactions to 156.0 for each
depositor in the Postal Savings System. It is this index that is used
for weighting the several special-services transactions and reducing
them to a common denominator with the various classes of mail.
T a b le

4 . —Comparative

expense per piece of first-class mail and per trans­
action, special services, in the Postal Service, 1926-19311
Average expense,

Average expense,
Kind of service

Kind of service
Amount number
First-class mail......................
Registrations............. ...........
Money orders_______ ___
Special-delivery transactions




Amount number
C. O. D. transactions...........
Insurance transactions...........
Postal-savings accounts (cost
per depositor)..................__






* Based on data in appendix to the annual cost-ascertainment report of the U. S. Post Office Department
for fiscal years 1926 to 1931.

The total volume of services rendered, including the several classes
of mail and the several kinds of special services, weighted as already
indicated, is presented in Table 5.
The volume of mail handled (weighted) increased from about
13,306,000,000 in 1908 to almost 33,562,000,000 in 1930, and declined
to about 31,699,000,000 in 1931. The volume of special-service trans­
actions (weighted) increased from 1,262,000,000 in 1908 to 5,071,000,000 in 1930, and declined to 4,637,000,000 in 1931. The total
volume of output (weighted) increased from 14,568,000,000 in 1908
to 38,633,000,000 in 1930, and declined to 36,366,000,000 in 1931.
The index of change runs from a base of 100.0 in 1908 to 265.2 in
1930, and to 249.4 in 1931.
It is apparent that the figures are approximations only. Fortu­
nately, however, there is available a method of checking the validity
of the weighting factors used. On the basis of its extensive studies
of the entire postal system, the Division of Cost Ascertainment has
been able to compute the approximate proportion of time of all
postal employees devoted to the handling of first-class mail.



T a b l e 5 . —Changes

in estimated number of units of output of the Postal Serv­
ice in specified fiscal years weighted on basis of estimated differences in
amount of labor required
Total units of output
Fiscal year

Number of
pieces of mail

Number of


of change

1908 ................................................ .
1910......................... — ........................ 15,451,623,906
1912...................... -..................... ........ 1 17,343,391,011








1926 ______ ____ _________________
1927_______ ______________________
1928................ ............... .....................
1929___________________ ___ ______
1930................ ............... ........... ..........
1931...........— _______ _____ _______
i See Tables 1 and 2.

2See Tables 3 and 4.

Table 6 indicates that during the years 1926 to 1931 the per cent
of time of all postal employees devoted to first-class mail ranged
from 42.401 in 1926 to 43.773 in 1928. These figures are of course
approximations, but are based on remarkably detailed and compre­
hensive data, projected by carefully tested methods of ratio and
The number of pieces of first-class mail handled in 1926 was 15,265,624,116. The per cent of time of postal employees devoted to the
handling of first-class mail was 42.401. On the basis of the amount
of time devoted to all other services of the postal system (57.599
per cent), all other forms of output of postal employees, equated in
terms of first-class mail, amount to 20,737,357,184 units. This means
a total of 36,002,981,300 units of output. Reference to Table 5, which
is based on the methods of weighting used in this study and pre­
viously described, shows 35,558,568,500 units for the same year (1926).
A further comparison of Tables 5 and 6 shows a remarkably close
correspondence of figures. The labor-weighting factors used herein
give a somewhat smaller output for each of the years 1926 to 1931,
and this fact bears out the statement made above that the factors used
might be expected to give conservative results.



T able 6 .— Changes

in number of units of output of the Postal Service, fiscal
years 1926 to 1931, estimated on basis of per cent of time of postal employees
devoted to first-class mail1
First-class mail
Fiscal year
Number of

1926........... ...........................1927.................................. .......
1929-_-_____ _______________
1930__________ _____ _______
1931..... .................. ........... ..


Per cent of
total time
of postal

Other classes of mail and
special-service transac­
Total number
Number of of units of out­
Per cent of units of output
total time (calculated on
of postal basis of per cent
employees of time re­



1Compare Table 5. The per cent of total time of postal employees devoted to first-class mail was derived
by the Division of Cost Ascertainment from basic data collected during its quarterly surveys of the postal

The use of the amount of labor required per piece and per trans­
action as weighting factors may be criticized on the ground that the
amount of labor varies with technological changes and that one of
the objects in view was the measurement of the effects of technological
changes on volume of labor. As to this, it may be said that the
inclusion of the various classes of mail and special-service transac­
tions without weighting would give results so extremely inaccurate
as to be misleading. Since it may be safely assumed that techno­
logical changes have tended to reduce the amount of time required
per unit of output, there is additional basis for the statement that the
estimates of output are conservative. While it is desirable to have
as accurate an estimate as possible of the effects of technological
changes on volume of employment, it seems desirable to underesti­
mate rather than to overestimate the effects.
One reason, then, for considering that the weighted estimates of the
increase in output are conservative is the nature of the laborweighting factors already discussed. Another reason is the fact
that the estimates of output do not include various intangible ele­
ments of output. These elements include, for instance, extensions of
the direct delivery of mail in place of requiring patrons to come
to the post office to secure their mail. This is illustrated both by
the city delivery service and the rural delivery service. In 1907 the
number of city delivery offices was 1,240 and the number of regular
carriers was 24,577; and in 1931 the figures were 3,098 and 53,387,
respectively. In 1907 the number of regular rural delivery carriers
was 37,582, and the number in 1931 was only 42,412; but the estimated
number of miles traveled by rural delivery carriers increased from
268,569,000 in 1907 to 412,382,000 in 1931. The Postmaster General
reported in 1926 that since March 4, 1921, the rural delivery service
had been extended over 130,439 miles of road, and that such extension,
together with the increase of frequency of service from three to six
times per week on many routes, “ brought new and improved service
to 982,158 families, or approximately 3,339,000 individuals.”



Another element of output not included in the estimates consists
of special-handling facilities of various kinds to promote safety and
speed. Special handling was authorized by law in 1925. The in­
crease in the variety, size, and shape of mailable articles constitutes
a further intangible extension of service. Improved collection facili­
ties have been inaugurated in the form, for instance, of additional
branch offices and safer and more convenient boxes. There has been
a remarkable speeding up of the service by means of motor vehicles;
air mail; improved arrangements by the Railway Mail Service for
transfer and routing of mail; speedier distribution and dispatch of
mail by detailing postal clerks for such work in publishing houses
and mail-order houses, and sending the mail of such establishments
direct from their offices to» trains; and the use of metered postage,
which provides economies alike for the Government and the user
of postal facilities.
In brief, the mathematical statement of increased output is a
conservative computation, and omits entirely many improvements
and extensions wnich add to the quality of service but which can not
be reduced to quantitative terms permitting inclusion in the mathe­
matical estimate of changes in volume of output (Table 5). This
fact must be remembered in connection with the problem of com­
paring changes in volume of labor with changes in volume of output.
Quality O output is not measurable in terms of quantity of output
and is therefore omitted from Table 5; but the amount of labor
devoted to improving the quality of service can not be separated
from the amount of labor utilized for increasing the quantity of
output and must therefore be included in estimates of changes in the
volume of labor. The result is an unavoidable underestimate of
changes in volume of output as compared with changes in volume
of labor.

Classes of Labor and Volume of Employment
It has been seen that the problem of measuring the output of the
postal system entails many difficulties. Measuring the changes in the
volume of labor is a problem no less difficult. The vastness of the
system, with its ramifications throughout the country; the use both
of direct Government employees and of workers under various con­
tractual arrangements; the use of permanent and full-time employees,
and also of temporary and part-time labor; and the great variety
of types and classes of work—these are some of the conditions which
complicate the problem of the exact measurement of changes in the
volume of labor.
The main groups of postal employees are the following: Post­
masters and assistant postmasters; clerks and supervisory force in
first-class and second-class offices; city carriers; rural carriers; watch­
men, messengers, and laborers in first-class and second-class offices;
railway mail clerks; and departmental employees, mainly in Wash­
ington. There are various lesser groups and groups of an irregular
nature, together with workers who are on a contractual basis.
Among these may be mentioned star-route carriers, mail messengers,
clerks in third-class and fourth-class offices, motor-vehicle personnel,
village carriers, and clerks in contract stations.



Changes in the number of employees in the principal groups
during the fiscal years 1908,1910,1912, and 1926 to 1931 are indicated
in Table 7.
T a b l e 7 . —Changes

in number of employees in the Postal Service, in specified
fiscal years, by principal groups classified as regular and temporary and
equated on a full-time, annual man-power basis


tal employ­
Clerks and supervisory ees, inspec­ Railway Mail Service em­
Postmasters postmasters force, first and second tors, and
clerks at
class offices
Index Num­ Index
Num­ Index Num­ Index
num­ ber num­
ber num­ ber num­ Regu­ Tem­
bers Regu­ Tem­ Total bers
lar rary
lar porary Total


60,704 100.0 1,862 100.0 28,211
59,580 98.1 2,096 112.5 31,825
58,729 96.7 2,329 125.1 33,714

1926 ..
1927 -1928




City carriers



365 28,576 100.0 1,741 100.0 15,29^* 0)
444 32,269 112.9 1,729 99.3 16,7 £ 0)
471 34,185 119.6 1,733 99.5 17,071 0>
7,027 74,098 259.3 2,067 118.7 20,411L 1,994[
7,754 76,462 267.6 2,088 119.9 20,55() 2,04!)
8,315 78,133 273.4 2,090 120.0 20,8541 2,041
10,012 80,999 283.5 2,111 121.3 21,225) 2,1 €
10,429 82,444 288.5 2,112 121.3 21,18*> 2,127f
9,762 81,383 284.8 2,143 123.1 220,94^; 2,1 C

Rural carriers

Watchmen, messengers,
and laborers, first and
second class offices

15,295 100.0
16,795 109.8
17,075 111.6


Grand total

Index Num­ Index
‘ Indes
num­ ber num­
Regu­ Tem­ Total bers Regu­ Tem­ Total bers Regu­ Tem­ Total bers (equat­ bers
lar rary
lar rary
lar rary

26,352 1,388 27,7 C 100. C 39,142\ 1,336 40,479 100.0 1,072
28,715 1,440 30,1 £ 108.7r 41,075I 1,497 42,576 105.2 1,200
29,962 1,379 31,34] 113. C 42,191) 1,559 43,758 108.1 1,330 0)
1926 . 48,238 6,724 54,962 198.1. 45,31f» 2,245 47,560 117.5 4,071 473
1927 . 50,117 7,163 57,28C 206. f> 44,73C 2,218 46,948 116.0 4,312 613
1928 . 51,293 7,735 59,028 212.81 44,288 2,247 46,535 115.0 4,536 637
52,719 8,884 61,603 222.1. 43,8 C 2,398 46,238 114.2 4,741 705
53,762 9,357 63, U 227.1> 43,278 2,268 45,546 112.5 4,890 747
53,387 9,131 62,518 225.4I 42,415 2,260 44,672 110.4 4,876 743
1908 ...

1,072 100.0 177,469 100.0
1,200 111.9 186,399 105.0
1,330 124.1 190,480 107.3




1 No data available. Work now done by temporary employees was then handled largely by regular
employees by means of longer hours, overtime, and Sunday work without extra compensation.
* Not including 989 appointed as a result of the 44-hour work week law effective July 1,1931.

As may be seen from Table 7, the number of postmasters decreased
considerably, from 60,704 in 1908 to 48,733 in 1931, the index of
change dropping from a base of 100.0 in 1908 to 80.3 in 1931. This
decline in the number of postmasters corresponds, of course, to the
decline in the number of post offices, which in turn has been largely
the result of the extension of Rural Delivery Service, combined with
the improvement of transportation facilities and the readier main­
tenance of contacts by country people with towns. The number of



assistant postmasters increased approximately 50 per cent, from
1,862 in 1908 to 2,782 in 1931.
Clerks in third-class and fourth-class offices are not employees of
the Government and are not ordinarily on a full-time basis. Clerks
and supervisory employees in first-class and second-class offices are
classified in Table 7 as regular and temporary employees. The num­
ber of temporary employees actually on the pay rolls is considerably
larger than the number shown in the table. In order to put them on
a basis comparable with that of regular employees it is necessary
to ascertain the total amount of time worked by temporary employees
and to divide this total by the normal number of man-hours worked
by regular full-time employees. This can be done because of the
fact that temporary employees are paid at regular statutory rates
of pay and the total amounts paid to temporary employees of the
different classes and wage-rate groups are matters of record. The
number of regular clerks and supervisory employees in first-class
and second-class offices increased from 28,211 in 1908 to 71,621 in
1931. The number of temporary employees computed on an equiva­
lent full-time annual basis increased from 365 in 1908 to 9,762 in
1931. The index of change for both groups combined ran from
a base of 100.0 in 1908 to 288.5 in 1930, with a slight decline in 1931.
The increase was mainly due to the expansion of the special services
and of parcel-post mail. (See Tables 2 and 3.) For all groups in
which there is an appreciable amount of temporary employment the
number has been reduced to an equivalent full-time annual basis.
The group of departmental employees, inspectors, and clerks at
headquarters includes in general the employees at Washington and
certain field agents with headquarters at Washington. The number
of temporary employees has been negligible. The total number
increased from 1,741 m 1908 to 2,143 in 1931, with an index of 100.0
in 1908 and 123.1 in 1931.
The Railway Mail Service, which in general has charge of the
interoffice transfer, handling, and transportation of mail, employs
principally the classes known as railway-mail clerks and transfer
clerks. In this general group also there are no records of the num­
ber of temporary employees during the years 1908, 1910, and 1912.
The total number of employees increased from 15,295 in 1908 to
23,065 in 1931, with the index changing from a base of 100.0 in 1908
to 150.8 in 1931.
City carriers increased, as indicated by Table 7, from 26,352
regular and 1,388 temporary, or a total of 27,740 carriers, to 53,387
regular and 9,131 temporary, or a total of 62,518 carriers in 1931. In
this group, as in most others, there is a slight decline in 1931 from the
number in 1930. The index of change rose from 100.0 in 1908 to
225.4 in 1931.
The number of rural carriers increased from 39,143 regular and
1,336 temporary, or a total of 40.479 carriers, to 42,412 regular and
2,260 temporary, or a total of 44,672 carriers in 1931. The index of
change rose from 100.0 in 1908 to 110.4 in 1931.
In regard to watchmen, messengers, and laborers in first-class and
second-class offices, official records fail to reveal the number of tempo­
rary employees during the years 1908 to 1912. The number was
probably negligible because of the fact that work now done by



temporary employees was then done largely by regular employees
by means of longer hours and overtime and Sunday work, without
extra compensation. The total number of watchmen, messengers,
and laborers in first-class and second-class offices (including tempo­
rary employees on an equivalent annual basis from 1926 to 1931)
increased from 1,072 in 1908 to 5,619 in 1931, the index of change
rising from 100.0 in 1908 to 524.2 in 1931. This exceptionally large
increase is due in part to the fact already mentioned, namely, the
employment of temporary laborers to handle the work formerly
done by means of longer hours, overtime, and Sunday work. An­
other reason for the increase is the fact that the Parcel Post System
requires a relatively large amount of work which falls under the
general classification of ordinary manual labor.
The grand total of these various groups of employees, including
the temporary employees on an equated basis, increased from 177,469
in 1908 to 274,014 in 1930, from which high point it declined to
270.915 in 1931, the index o f change being 100.0 in 1908 and 152.7

in *931:
The increase in the number of employees in the groups included
in Table 7 is unavoidably overestimated. During the years 1908,
1910, and 1912 most of the groups included in Table 7 put in much
overtime and Sunday work; and since they were not given extra
compensation for overtime and Sunday work, there is no means of
computing the amount of extra time. On the basis of laws in opera­
tion during 1926 to 1931, much temporary labor was used and paid
for at regular statutory rates, and, as stated above, it is therefore
possible to calculate the temporary hire during these years on an
equivalent full-time basis.
The effects of the laws mentioned are indicated by a statement
made in the annual report of the United States Post Office Depart­
ment for 1908: “ City carriers are limited by law to 8 hours daily
duty for the 6 working-days of the week and such number of hours on
Sunday, not exceeding 8, as the exigencies of the service require. In
the case of clerks, however, there is no statutory provision as to their
hours of labor, and * * * it is not possible to fix an absolute
8-hour schedule for them without increasing the allQwance for clerk
hire far in excess of the needs of the office.”
The reduction in the amount of Sunday work was initiated in 1910
at Detroit and gradually other offices, even without statutory sanc­
tion, followed the example of Detroit. In 1912 Congress passed a
law, effective March 4,1913, providing for a reduction in the amount
of Sunday work and for compensatory time off duty for employees
who were required to work on Sunday. The same law provided for
8 hours in 10 and no overtime except in case of emergency or if the
needs of the service required it ; and when overtime was exacted of
employees, they were to receive extra compensation. The Post­
master General reported in 1913 that the readjustment of schedules
necessitated by this law led to the use o f a considerable amount of
temporary labor. Later extensions and applications of the law mate­
rially increased the amount of temporary labor. It is apparent,
therefore, that if the volume of employment in the form of overtime
and Sunday work of the years 1908, 1910, and 1912 could be calcu­
lated on the same basis as has been done for the volume of auxiliary,



substitute, and other forms of temporary labor of the years 1926
to 1981, the estimate of the number of labor units for the earlier
years would be considerably increased.
Incidentally, it may be said that during the years 1908, 1910, and
1912, when overtime and Sunday work were required without extra
pay, there was probably a tendency on the part of the employees to
speed up their work in order to reduce, as far as possible, the amount
of Sunday and overtime work. This factor, although intangible and
not subject to computation, probably accentuates the underestimate
of the number of labor units for the years 1908, 1910, and 1912.
The various other groups of workers, both direct employees and
those on a contractual basis, can not be reduced to an equivalent
annual basis in terms of man-hours, but in respect to most of these
groups the evidence indicates that there has been either a decline or
a relatively small increase in number since 1908.
One of the largest of these irregular groups consists of clerks in
third-class and fourth-class offices. The decline in the number of
smaller post offices has been accompanied by a decline in the amount
of clerical assistance required. The work formerly done by clerks
in these offices is now done in part by employees in the groups in­
cluded in Table 7, especially by rural carriers and by clerks in
larger offices from which rural carriers operate.
Another group of employees not appearing in Table 7 is composed
of clerks in contract stations. Contract stations are branches of post
offices and are usually located in department stores and other private
establishments. The clerical force of a contract station is employed
by the contractor. In 1908 there were 3,814 contract stations; in
1931, 5,783.
The amount of labor required for the transporting of mails is
not included in Table 7 for the obvious reason that such labor is
incidental in most cases to the general transportation of goods and
The local transfer or carriage of mails is usually a distinct opera­
tion handled by workers who confine their attention to this work
while they are actually in charge of the mails, but the amount of
time required per employee ranges from a few minutes per day to
full-time employment. In 1908 the work was done almost entirely
by employees of public carriers having mail contracts (especially
the railroads) or by special contractors—mail messengers, screenwagon contractors, regulation-wagon contractors, etc. In larger
cities the transfer of mails was in part by pneumatic tubes operated
on a contractual basis. In 1909 there were pneumatic-tube routes in
New York and Brooklyn, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, and St.
Louis. The total mileage was 64.6086. Star-route contractors
formed a clearly distinct group, to be discussed later.
Recently, and especially since 1920, when a ruling by the Inter­
state Commerce Commission reinterpreted the obligations of public
carriers, there has been a marked increase in the number of mail
messengers. There has also been a tendency toward the employment
of operators of Government-owned motor vehicles to take the place
of employees of public carriers for the local handling of mails,
” 1 1
post offices and their branches and in the delivery



As early as 1907 an experimental collection service by automo­
biles was established in Milwaukee, and it was reported that twice
as many collections were made as could be done by horse-drawn
vehicles. Experiments were also made in other cities, the motorvehicle operators being on a contractual basis, as were operators of
wagons. In 1911 it was reported by the Postmaster General that
mail was being collected by automobiles in 15 cities, “ and in prac­
tically every instance one carrier with an automobile will do the
work of two carriers with horse-drawn vehicles.” Government
owned and operated motor-vehicle service was authorized in 1914
and was first established in Washington in the same year. By Janu­
ary 1,1918, the service had been extended to New York and Brooklyn,
Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Boston, St. Louis, Pittsburgh,
Indianapolis, Buffalo, and Nashville.
The local carriage of mails is thus a function performed in part
by mail messengers and other special contractors, in part by em­
ployees of public carriers having mail contracts, and in part by
Government employees operating motor vehicles. The relative num­
bers of the three classes have changed from time to time, but the
ratio of amount of labor required for performing this particular
postal function to the total amount of labor represented in Table 7
may be assumed to have remained comparatively constant. The
validity of Table 7 for the purpose of the present study is, therefore,
not affected by the omission of mail messengers, operators of Gov­
ernment motor vehicles, and other workers connected with the local
carriage and transfer of mails.
An interesting group long connected with the Postal Service is the
group known as star-route carriers. These are almost entirely on
a contractual basis. In 1908 there were 14,032 such routes, and the
total mileage was 182,287. In 1931 there were 12,089 routes, with
a total mileage of 226,370. It is apparent, therefore, that the starroute service has tended to decline, so far as the number of carriers
is concerned. There is no means of knowing the average amount
of time spent by star-route contractors, but the decline in the number
of routes, combined with improved roads and methods of transpor­
tation, indicates clearly a decrease in the total amount of labor by
star-route carriers. The decline has been accompanied by a transfer
of their work to rural delivery carriers, who are included in Table 7.
In 1931, for example, the work of 25 star routes was transferred to
rural delivery carriers.
There is one other group of employees not included in Table 7—
village delivery carriers. Village delivery service was not inaugu­
rated until 1913. The number of carriers increased from 101 in
1913 to 859 in 1926y and thereafter tended to decline. This group
of employees is not included in Table 7, because their work repre­
sents an added service not rendered by the Post Office Department
during the years 1908,1910, and 1912. Since the service rendered by
these employees does not appear in the computation of output for
these years, obviously the labor units represented by village carriers
should not be included in the estimate of volume of employment.
So large an organization as the Postal Service requires a vast
amount of work by persons who are not in the direct employ of,



nor in a direct contractual relationship to, the Post Office Depart­
ment. Such workers are generally, for obvious reasons, beyond the
scope of the present study. There is in this general classification,
however, one group which must be mentioned, although not included
in the statistical analysis. This group consists of the employees of
the post-office division of the General Accounting Office, an inde­
pendent establishment. Its post-office division now does substan­
tially the same work as was formerly done by the office of the
Treasury Department’s auditor for the Post Office Department.
In 1908 the office of the auditor for the Post Office Department
had 756 employees. There was a gradual decline in number until in
1931 the post-office division of the General Accounting Office had
only 452 employees. This reduction was caused in part by the trans­
fer of some of the work (especially the punching of cards in field
offices in connection with the electrical money-order accounting
system).1 Certain other work has similarly been transferred to
employees of the Post Office Department. This means that the esti­
mated number of employees, as shown in Table 7 (p. 55), includes
for the later years certain postal employees whose work was for­
merly done outside of the Post Office Department and who there­
fore do not appear in the estimated number of employees for the
earlier years. There is added reason, therefore, for the statements
previously made,1 to the effect that the change in the volume of labor
since 1908 has been appreciably smaller than is indicated by the
figures in Table 7.
A more significant cause of the decline in the number of employees
engaged in the final audit of the finances of the Post Office Depart­
ment is to be found in the use of labor-saving devices such as the
electrical-accounting machinery connected with the money-order
accounting system.1
We are now in a position to compare the change in the volume of
output with the change in the volume of employment during the fiscal
years 1908, 1910, 1912, and 1926-1931. When reduced to an index
basis, the volume of output rose from the base of 100.0 in 1908 to
265.2 in 1930, and dropped to 249.4 in 1931. (See Table 5.) Volume
of employment, on an index basis, increased from 100.0 in 1908 to
154.4 in 1930, and decreased to 152.7 in 1931. (Table 7.)
As has been stated,1 the change in the volume of output is under­
estimated because of the difficulty of adequate weighting o f certain
elements of output and because of the addition, during the period
under study, of various intangible elements of output which can not
be included in the computations. On the other hand, the change in
the volume of labor is overestimated, as has already been explained.1
In the first place, overtime and Sunday work (without extra com­
pensation and therefore not subject to computation) formerly took
the place of temporary work, which has been reduced for the years
1926 to 1931 to an equivalent full-time basis. In the second place,
the change in the volume of employment has been less than is in­
dicated by Table 7 because of the tendency to dispense with irregular
1 See pp. 39-43.

1 See pp. 57, 58, and 60.

1 See pp. 49-54.



and contractual work (for example, the clerks in third-class and
fourth-class offices, star-route contractors, etc.), and to transfer the
work of these groups to the classes of employees which are included
in Table 7.

Changes in Number of Employment Opportunities
It is desirable to ascertain the changes in productivity and in num­
ber of employment opportunities for each of the several groups of
postal employees. However, when a particular group (e. g., the city*carrier group) is considered, it is found that a number of circum­
stances make impracticable a satisfactory analysis of changes in
productivity or of changes in number of employment opportunities
for the group. It is true that extensive studies and tests have been
carried on for measuring the efficiency of different groups, as, for
instance, of city carriers. The work of this group is carefully super­
vised. Each route is inspected regularly by a foreman or the assist­
ant superintendent of mails, or,, in smaller offices, by the assistant
postmaster or postmaster. The time spent by carriers in performing
their various tasks is carefully checked and reported. The super­
visors make every effort to ascertain the amount of time needed for
sorting different classes of mail, withdrawing mail from distribu­
tion cases, strapping mail in bundles and placing bundles in satch­
els, marking changes of address, handling collect-on-delivery
parcels, obtaining postage due, and for the various other items of
the carrier’s daily routine. Careful checks are made for ascer­
taining the average number of letters handled and the average
volume of work under each of the items of the daily routine. Thus
the work is standardized as far as possible in accordance with the
generally accepted principles of “ scientific management.”
On the basis of such studies routes are rearranged in such manner
as to give to each carrier approximately the amount of work that can
be done within the statutory 8-hour day.
Since conditions vary widely at different offices and on different
routes in the area of a single office, there is no uniformly applicable
standard. Each office, indeed each route, becomes, to a certain extent,
a case study. In regard to a particular office, and especially a par­
ticular route, there are records indicating changes in productivity,
but these records do not suffice for a comprehensive computation for
the entire system over a period of years.
There are several difficulties in the way of a comprehensive study
of changes in productivity and in number of employment oppor­
tunities for a particular group. Mail handling involves contribu­
tions from practically all groups. Particular processes undergo
changes. For example, the primary separation of mail matter is
not consistently the same in different offices and at different times in
the same office. Records of particular processes, except for a limited
period of time for purposes of standardization and of increasing the
output per man-hour, are not available. The special services also
involve contributions from several groups. A money order, for



example, includes issuing, filing, paying, and auditing, and the sev­
eral items of work connected with a money-order transaction involve
many employees of different classes in widely separated post offices.
The general adoption of interchangeability of labor for the purpose
of reducing slack time has meant that a single employee may devote
part of. his time within a single day to the handling of more than
one class of mail and to sharing the work of a number of specialservice transactions.
For the entire postal system, however, it has been possible to
estimate the total number of units of labor and the total number of
units of output. These estimates, embodied in the preceding tables,
are summarized in Table 8.
T a b l e 8 . —Changes

in estimated volume of output and number of employees,
Poistal Service, in specified fiscal years
Units of output

Fiscal year


(on equiva­
lent full­
time basis 2

1908________ ___ ______ ____ ________ _____ 14,567,706,216
1910___ ___ ___________ ___________ ______ 16,857,974,685
1912— ...... ....................................................



105. a





1926— ...... ......................... ............... ........ .......
1927__________________ __________________
1928------ ----------------- ------— .......— ...............
1930..............----------- ------------------------------1931_____________________________________

1Computed on basis of comparative time required for different kinds of output; see Tables 1-5.
2See Table 7.

Table 8 indicates a change in number of units of output (com­
puted on the basis of the comparative time required for different
kinds of output) from approximately 14,568,000,000 in 1908 to
38,633,000,000 in 1930 and 36,336,000,000 for 1931. The index of
change shows an increase from 100.0 in 1908 to 265.2 in 1930, but a
drop to 249.4 in 1931. The number of employees, placed on a com­
parable basis as far as possible for the earlier and later periods and
reduced to an equivalent full-time annual basis, increased from
177,469 in 1908 to 274,014 in 1930, but fell to 270,915 in 1931. The
index of change runs from 100.0 in 1908 to 154.4 in 1930, and to 152.7
in 1931. On the basis of these estimates a computation has been made
of changes in productivity of employees for the years 1908, 1910,
1912, and 1926-1931. The results are shown in Table 9.



T a b l e 9 . —Changes

in productivity of postal employees in specified fiscal years,
measured by the volume of mail handled and of special-service transactions

Pieces of mail



Total output

Index Number of
bers (weighted)

Employees 3

Average out­
put per em­

Index equiva­ Index Number Index
of units
num­ lent full­ num­ (weight­ num­
bers time bers


13,305,895,177 100.0 1,261,811,039 100.0 14,567,706,216 100.0 177,469 100.0
15,451,623,906 116.1 1,406,350,779 111.5 16,857,974,685 115.7 186,399 105.0
17,343,391,011 130.3 1,528,143,921 121.1 18,871,534,932 129.5 190,480 107.3





1See Tables 1 and 2.



3See Tables 3 and 4.




82,086 100.0
90,440 110.2
99,074 120.7


3See Table 7.

The estimated number of units of output (weighted) for 1908 is
14,567,706.216, and of employees (on equivalent full-time basis) is
177,469. The average number of units of output per employee for
1908 is therefore 82,086. The average output per employee by 1912
had grown to 99,074 units. As stated previously, it is not possible to
measure in a satisfactory manner the output after 1912 and before
the establishment of the work of the Division of Cost Ascertainment
of the Post Office Department. It is known, however, that in the
interval many changes, both in methods of management and in
mechanical equipment, were introduced. These changes, which have
already been described, account for the increase in average output
per employee from 99,074 in 1912 to 137,313 in 1926. From 1926 to
1930 there was a relatively small increase in average output, the fig­
ure for the latter year being 140,988. Business conditions, of course,
account for the decline to 134,122 units in 1931. The change in
average output per employee is more easily visualized by the index
figures in the last column of Table 9. The index rises from 100.0 in
1908 to 120.7 in 1912, to 167.3 in 1926, to 171.8 in 1930, and drops to
163.4 in 1931.
The relatively slight change in average output per employee since
1926 is due mainly to three facts. (1) The extensive and continuous
efforts of congressional committees and commissions and of postoffice officials to increase the efficiency of postal employees had
already resulted in a remarkable increase of productivity for so vast
and varied an enterprise as the postal system. (2) The output of the
postal system had become relatively stabilized by 1926, probably on
account of the development of telegraphic and telephonic communi­
cations and of private motor-vehicle trucking, and, therefore, an
increase in productivity per employee was not stimulated by a rapid
expansion of business. Then came the downward trend of output
in 1931, and an increased average output per employee could be had
only at the expense of material reductions in the number o f postal
employees. (3) The period since 1926 has been marked by the inau­



guration of far-reaching and highly significant improvements in
the management, and particularly in the physical plant, of the postal
system. But these changes, with rare exceptions, have not as yet
been completed, and have, therefore, not found expression in the
statistics of average output per employee. On the contrary, the
extensive work of construction and of transition probably retarded
average productivity in terms of final output.
On the basis of the statistical data embodied in the preceding
tables, it is possible to make an estimate of the technological displace­
ment of labor and of the effects on the number of employment oppor­
tunities for the entire postal system for the fiscal years 1908, 1910,
1912, and 1926 to 1931. Such a computation is embodied in Table 10.
1 0 .—Actual changes in number of employees, Postal Service, in specified
fiscal years as compared with the numbers necessary on basis of output per
employee in 1908

T a b le

[Based on changes in the productivity of labor as measured by amount of mail handled and volume of
special-service transactions]

Fiscal year

Productivity of
of em­
Total units of (on equiv­
output i
alent full­ Average Index
output num­
employee (1908=

Decrease of
Number opportunities
of em­
(1908 base)
on basis
of out­
put in Number cent

1908....................................... 14,667,706,216
1910........................................ 16,857,974,685
1912____ ________ _______- 18,871,534,932














1926__________ -..................
1927........................ ...............
1928......... ........ .....................
1929_____________ ________
1930................... ................ .
1931____________________ -

1Weighted number of pieces of mail handled plus weighted number of special-service transactions
(shown in Table 9).
2See Table 7.

The average output per employee for the year 1908 was 82,086
units This figure was derived by dividing 14,567,706,216, the total
number of units of output, by 177,469, the total number of em­
ployees (part-time employees being reduced to an equivalent full­
time annual basis). I f this average output per employee for 1908
(82,086 units) had continued to be the average output per employee
for the succeeding years included in Table 10, with the total output
increasing as is indicated, it will be seen that the number of em­
ployees during these succeeding years would have been much greater.
By dividing the total number of units of output for each succeeding
year by the average output per employee in 1908, we derive, for each
succeeding year, the number of employees which would have been
necessary if the average output per employee for each succeeding
year had remained the same as in 1908. On the basis of this assump­
tion the number of employees would have increased from 177,469 in
1908 to 229,900 in 1912, 433,187 in 1926, and 470,637 in 1930, from
which high point the number would have declined to 442,654 in 1931.



In other words, these numbers of employees, based on the average
productivity per employee in 1908, are estimates of the number of
employment opportunities which would have been available on the
basis of the average output per employee in 1908.
By subtracting from these numbers based on the average output
in 1908 the number of employees actually in the service of the postal
system during each succeeding year included in the table, we arrive
at estimates of technological displacement, or of the changes in the
number of employment opportunities resulting from the various
technological changes, which have been the principal causes of in­
creased average output per employee. With the exception of the
years 1928 and 1931, there has been a decline in potential employ­
ment opportunities as compared with each preceding year included
in Table 10.
These figures of decrease in the number of employment oppor­
tunities are presented in the form of per cents or decrease in the
last column of Table 10. The decrease, which is in reality the extent
of technological displacement, amounted to 9.2 per cent in 1910, as
compared with 1908; to 17.1 per cent in 1912; and to 40.2 per cent
in 1926. From this point the per cent of decrease rose to 41.8 per
cent in 1930 and declined to 38.8 per cent in 1931,1908 being the base
For reasons already indicated,1 and consisting essentially of the
fact that the change in the volume of output is unavoidably under­
estimated and the change in the volume of labor overestimated,
these estimates of the increase in the average output per employee
and of technological displacement are conservative and do not indi­
cate the full extent of the changes in question.
The estimates of displacement in Table 10 are based on the assump­
tion that the services rendered by the postal system from 1908 to
1931 would have expanded substantially as indicated, even if the
average output per employee had not materially increased. It is
probable that in the case of the parcel-post business, expansion would
have been somewhat smaller without an accompanying increase in
the average output per employee. Without such an increase other
agencies would probably have been able to absorb a portion of the
parcel-post business. The extent to which the increased output of the
postal system has depended on the increased productivity of labor
is a problem which, unfortunately, resists solution in exact statistical
form. It seems likely, however, that this factor is substantially
counteracted by the decidedly conservative nature of the estimates
in Table 10, due to the underestimate of increase in output and the
overestimate of increase of labor units.

Communication Versus Other Postal Services
It is desirable for more than one reason to distinguish between the
work of the postal system in furnishing facilities for communication
and its various other activities. Communication was the original,
and is still the principal, work of the Postal Service. Economic ac­
tivities, when viewed functionally, fall into main headings of such a
1 See pp. 49-54, 57, 58, and 60.



nature as are related to the satisfying of certain outstanding human
needs. One of these needs is connected with communication. The
postal system, however, is not the only agency which serves to meet
the need for communication. It is desirable to bring together as far
as possible related information regarding the functioning of the
various agencies which satisfy this basic need for communication.
In order to facilitate the ascertaining of the general trends of
productivity and of employment in the field of communication gen­
erally, an effort has been made to differentiate the communications
activities of the postal system from its other functions. The basis
of this differentiation, as far as output is concerned, is found in the
classification of mail matter. The handling of first-class mail is
almost exclusively the handling of communications. The handling
of most of the mail of the other classes can hardly be classed under
the heading of communication. To be sure the differentiation de­
pends in a measure on the definition of the term “ communication.”
For practical purposes of classifying economic activities, a com­
munication is a message; and nearly all messages which are handled
commercially consist of letters and post cards, telegrams, telephone
conversations, and radiograms. It may be said with substantial
accuracy that the communication function of the Postal Service con­
sists of the handling of first-class mail.
The basis of differentiation between communication and other
functions, as far as labor is concerned, is complicated by the fact
that the work of relatively few postal employees is limited to the
handling of first-class mail. It is obviously impossible, therefore,
to segregate postal employees who handle first-class mail from those
who perform other postal functions. Fortunately, however, the ex­
tensive tests and records of the Division of Cost Ascertainment of
the Post Office Department in recent years have made it possible to
assign to first-class mail the approximate per cent of the total time
of all postal employees given by them to this form of postal service.
In Table 11 appear estimates of the number of units of first-class
mail and of other forms of output of the Postal Service; and also
estimates, based on data collected by the Division of Cost Ascertain­
ment, of the the per cent of the total time of postal employees devoted
to first-class mail and to all other forms of postal service.
1 1 .—Comparative amount of time of postal employees devoted to com­
munication or message handling ( first-class mail) and to other principal
forms of output, fiscal years 1926 to 1931

T a b le i

First-class mail
Fiscal year

1929........................ ..............

Number of


Other output of Postal Service

Per Per cent of
cent of total time Number of
of postal
output employees1



Per Per cent of
cent of total time
of postal
output employees

i Based on data collected by Division of Cost Ascertainment, U. S. Post Office Department.
* See Tables 1-4.




It will be seen that for the years 1926-1931 first-class mail ranged
in per cent of the total output from 42.9 to 45.4, while the per cent
of total time of postal employees given to first-class mail varied
somewhat more slightly, ranging from 42.401 to 48.773. The esti­
mates of output other than the handling of first-class mail are based
on the labor-weighting factors previously discussed. Using the data
contained in Table 11 as a point of departure, it is possible to esti­
mate the effects of technological changes on the number of employ­
ment opportunities afforded by the communications work or message
handling of the postal system as embodied in the handling of firstclass mail. The results are incorporated in Table 12.
T a b l e 1 2 . —Estimated

change m number of employment opportunities afforded
by the communications work or message handling (first-class mail) m speci­
fied fiscal years
Message handling (firstclass mail)

Fiscal year
Total units 1

Number of
1908........................ 14,667,706,216
1910........................ 16,867,974,685
1912........................ 18,871,634,932
1927...... ........... .
1928...... .................
1929...... ........ ........
1930............ ...........



Total required
for firstPer cent number2 class
of total

Decrease in employ­
ment opportunities
displace­ Number
(on basis cable to
of output first-class
per em­
ployee in mail3













1See Tables 1-4.
2See Table 7.
? Approximate; based on per cent first-class mail forms of total output.
4See Table 10.

In 1908 the total number of units of output of the Postal Service
was 14,567,706,216. The number of pieces of first-class mail was
7,102,704,806, or 48.8 per cent of the whole. In the same year the
total number of employees was 177,469. The approximate number of
employees required for the handling of first-class mail, based on the
per cent of total output included in first-class mail (48.8 per cent),
was 86,605. By a similar process estimates are derived regarding the
number of employees required for the handling of first-class mail for
the years 1910, 1912, and 1926 to 1931. Carrying out the ratios,
Table 12 assigns to the handling of first-class mail (communications)
the appropriate proportions of the total displacement.
Of course, it can hardly be shown that the changes in methods of
handling first-class mail have had exactly the same effect on average
output per employee as have changes in methods of handling other
forms of postal service. It seems likely, however, that for the period
included in Table 12 the changes have had a sufficiently close approxi­
mation to make valid the use of the results found in the table as an
indication of the general trend. There seems to be some reason for



believing that the changes in the handling of letters have led to a
relatively large increase in the average output per employee. Letter
handling lends itself to mechanized and standardized mass-handling
methods. Projected changes in postal methods probably apply most
significantly to the handling of first-class mail.

Trend of Employment
Several conditions have recently retarded the upturn of the pro­
ductivity curve. With the growth of the Parcel Post System and of
some of the special services, the lack of building facilities adapted to
the use of improved methods has become increasingly restrictive of
the efficiency of postal employees. The general decline of business
has been accompanied by a large reduction in the amount of business
handled by the post offices. This would have meant a decline in the
average output per employee, even with a reduction of the labor
force to a minimum. In many private enterprises there has been a
curtailment of employment approximating the decline of output.
The Post Office Department has, however, consistently avoided reduc­
ing its labor force to a minimum. The amount of part-time employ­
ment has been reduced and vacancies have rarely been filled, but the
regular employees of the Post Office Department and of the individual
post offices have enjoyed a relative security of tenure. This is based
on generally accepted public policies of conserving the human assets
as well as the physical plant and of maintaining a trained personnel
regardless of temporary fluctuations in output. The policy,, how­
ever, has of course adversely affected the average output per
Assuming a return to business activity approximating that of the
years immediately preceding 1929, there are several factors which
indicate a decided upward trend of the curve of productivity and a
corresponding downward trend of the curve of employment oppor­
tunities, as measured by productivity, when output returns to normal.
One of these factors is the new building program which is in an
advanced stage and which will soon provide the principal cities of
the country with facilities of the best available type. Equipment
that has proved to be most efficient and most productive will be
extended throughout the larger post offices of the country and will
be operated in buildings especially designed for the use of such
Another factor operating in the same direction consists of the
recent intensive study of labor management and administrative
organization and methods. Surveys carried on between October,
1929, and April, 1931, in 55 of the largest offices of the country afford
an outstanding illustration of the trend. The annual report of the
Post Office Department for 1931 states that these surveys “ indicate
that an estimated annual saving of $4,500,000 will be effected when
the ascertained surplus man power can be absorbed through the
policy of absorbing vacancies occurring in the service due to normal
casualties such as deaths, retirements, resignations, or removals.5
I f a revival of business restores to the postal system a large and
growing volume of output, the curve of average output per employee



may be expected to rise rapidly. In other words, on the basis of
production facilities afforded by the reconstructed physical plant
and by the administrative reorganization of the system, the Post
Office Department will be able to handle not only its former maxi­
mum production but a much larger output with a smaller volume of
labor than has previously been required.
I f the smaller total output of 1931 should prove to be permanent
or long continued, the curve of average output per employee will
naturally rise less rapidly and will depend on the relatively slow
working out of the department’s policy of allowing vacancies to
remain unfilled and of taking up the slack by interior readjustments.
In either case (whether or not total output returns to its earlier
high level) indications point to a resumption of the upward trend
o f the curve of output per employee ; to a further decline of oppor­
tunities for employment in proportion to volume of output; and to a
further increase in the volume of surplus man power attending the
completion of the contemporary programs o f construction and


The following is a list of all bulletins of the Bureau of Labor Statistics published since
July, 1912, except that in the case of bulletins giving the results of periodic surveys of the
bureau only the latest bulletin on any one subject is here listed
A complete list of the reports and bulletins issued prior to July, 1912, as well as the bulle­
tins published since that date, will be furnished on application Bulletins marked thus (* )
are out of print.



Conciliation and arbitration (including strikes and lockouts).
♦No. 124. Conciliation and arbitration in the building trades of Greater New York.
♦No. 133. Report of the industrial council of the British Board of Trade on its inquiry
into industrial agreements. [1913.]
♦No. 139. Michigan copper district strike. [1914.]
♦No. 144. Industrial court of the cloak, suit, and skirt industry of New York City.
♦No. 145. Conciliation, arbitration, and sanitation in the dress and waist industry of
New York City. [1914.]
No. 191. Collective bargaining in the anthracite coal industry. [1916.]
♦No. 198. Collective agreements in the men’s clothing industry. [1916.]
No. 233. Operation of the industrial disputes investigation act of Canada. [1918.]
No. 255. Joint industrial councils in Great Britain. [1919.]
No. 283. History of the Shipbuilding Labor Adjustment Board, 1917 to 1919.
No. 287. National War Labor Board: History of its formation, activities, etc.
♦No. 303. Use of Federal power in settlement of railway labor disputes. [1922.]
No. 341. Trade agreement in the silk-ribbon industry of New York City. [1923.]
No. 402. Collective bargaining by actors. [1926.]
No. 468. Trade agreements, 1927.
No. 481. Joint industrial control in the book and job printing industry. [1928.]
No. 313. Consumers* cooperative societies in the United States in 1920.
No. 314. Cooperative credit societies (credit unions) in America and in foreign
countries. [1922.]
No. 437. Cooperative movement in the United States in 1925 (other than agricul­
No. 531. Consumers’, credit, and productive cooperative societies, 1929.
Employment and unemployment.
♦No. 109. Statistics of unemployment and the work of employment offices in the
United States. [1913.]
♦No. 172. Unemployment in New York City, N. Y. [1915.]
♦No. 183. Regularity of employment in the women’s ready-to-wear garment industries.
♦No. 195. Unemployment in the United States. [1916.]
♦No. 196. Proceedings of Employment Managers’ Conference, held at Minneapolis,
Minn., January 19 and 20, 1916.
♦No. 202. Proceedings of the conference of Employment Managers’ Association o f
Boston, Mass., held May 10, 1916.
No. 206. The British system of labor exchanges. [1916.]
♦No. 227. Proceedings of Employment Managers’ Conference, Philadelphia, Pa., April
2 and 3, 1917.
♦No. 235. Employment system of the Lake Carriers’ Association. [1918.]
♦No. 241. Public employment offices in the United States. [1918.]
♦No. 247. Proceedings of Employment Managers’ Conference, Rochester, N. Y., May
9— 1918.
♦No. 310. Industrial unemployment: A statistical study of its extent and causes.


Employment and unemployment— Continued.

No. 409. Unemployment in Columbus, Ohio, 1921 to 1925.
No. 542. Report of the Advisory Committee on Employment Statistics. [1931.]
No. 544. Unemployment-benefit plans in the United States and unemployment insur­
ance in foreign countries. [1931.]
♦No. 553. Fluctuation in employment in Ohio, 1914 to 1929.
No. 555. Social and economic character of unemployment in Philadelphia, April,
Foreign labor laws.

♦No. 142. Administration of labor laws and factory inspection in certain European
countries. [1914.]
No. 494. Labor legislation of Uruguay. [1929.]
No. 510. Labor legislation of Argentina. [1930.]
No. 529. Workmen’s compensation legislation of the Latin American countries.
No. 549. Labor legislation of Venezuela. [1931.]
No. 554. Labor legislation of Paraguay. [1931.]
No. 559. Labor legislation of Ecuador. [1931.]
No. 569. Labor legislation of Mexico. [1932.]
♦No. 158. Government aid to home owning and housing of working people in foreign
countries. [1914.]
No. 263. Housing by employers in the United States. [1920.]
No. 295. Building operations in representative cities in 1920.
No. 545. Building operations in the principal cities of the United States in [1921 to]
Industrial accidents and hygiene.
♦No. 104. Lead poisoning in potteries, tile works, and porcelain-enameled sanitary
ware factories. [1912.]
No. 120. Hygiene of painters* trade. [1913.]
♦No. 127. Dangers to workers from dusts and fumes, and methods of protection.
♦No. 141. Lead poisoning in the smelting and refining of lead. [1914.]
♦No. 157. Industrial accident statistics. [1915.]
♦No. 165. Lead poisoning in the manufacture of storage batteries. [1914.]
♦No. 179. Industrial poisons used in the rubber industry. [1915.]
No. 188. Report of British departmental committee on the danger in the use of lead
in the painting of buildings. [1916.]
♦No. 201. Report of the committee on statistics and compensation insurance cost of
the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commis­
sions. [1916.]
♦No. 209. Hygiene of the printing trade. [1917.]
♦No. 219. Industrial poisons used or produced in the manufacture of explosives.
No. 221. Hours, fatigue, and health in British munition factories. [1917.]
No. 230. Industrial efficiency and fatigue in British munition factories. [1917.]
♦No. 231. Mortality from respiratory diseases in dusty trades (inorganic dusts).
♦No. 234. The safety movement in the iron and steel industry, 1907 to 1917.
No. 236. Effects of the air hammer on the hands of stonecutters. [1918.]
♦No. 249. Industrial health and efficiency. Final report of British Health of Munition
Workers’ Committee. [1919.]
♦No. 251. Preventable death in the cotton-manufacturing industry. [1919.]
No. 256. Accidents and accident prevention in machine building. [1919.]
No. 267. Anthrax as an occupational disease. [1920.]
No. 276. Standardization of industrial accident statistics. [1920.]
♦No. 280. Industrial poisoning in making coal-tar dyes and dye intermediates.
♦No. 291. Carbon monoxide poisoning. [1921.]
No. 293. The problem of dust phthisis in the granite-stone industry. [1922.]
No. 298. Causesi and prevention of accidents in the iron and steel industry, 19101919.
No. 306. Occupation hazards and diagnostic signs: A guide to impairments to be
looked for in hazardous occupations. [1922.]
No. 392. Survey of hygienic conditions in the printing trades. [1925.]

(H )

Industrial accidents and hygiene— Continued.

No. 405. Phosphorus necrosis in the manufacture of fireworks and in the prepara­
tion of phosphorous. [1928.]
No. 427. Health survey of the printing trades, 1922 to 1925.
No. 428. Proceedings of the Industrial Accident Prevention Conference, held at
Washington, D. C., July 14-16, 1926.
No. 460. A new test for industrial lead poisoning. [1928.]
No. 466. Settlement for accidents to American seamen. [1928.]
No. 488. Deaths from lead poisoning, 1925-1927.
No. 490. Statistics of industrial accidents in the United States to the end of 1927.
No. 507. Causes of death, by occupation. [1929.]
Industrial relations and labor conditions.

No. 237.
♦No. 340.
No. 349.
♦No. 361.
No. 380.
No. 383.
No. 384.
No. 399.

Industrial unrest in Great Britain. [1917.]
Chinese migrations, with special reference to labor conditions. [1923.]
Industrial relations in the West Coast lumber industry. [1923.]
Labor relations in the Fairmont (W. Ya.) bituminous-coal field. [1924.]
Postwar labor conditions in Germany. [1925.]
Works council movement in Germany. [1925.]
Labor conditions in the shoe industry in Massachusetts, 1920-1924.
Labor relations in the lace and lace-curtain industries in the United States.
No. 534. Labor conditions in the Territory of Hawaii, 1929-1930.

Labor laws of the United States (including’ decisions of courts relating to labor).

♦No. 211. Labor laws and their administration in the Pacific States. [1917.]
No. 229. Wage payment legislation in the United States. [1917.]
No. 285. Minimum wage laws of the United States: Construction and operation.
No. 321. Labor laws that have been declared unconstitutional. [1922.]
No. 322. Kansas Court of Industrial Relations. [1923.]
No. 343. Laws providing for bureaus of labor statistics, etc. [1923.]
No. 370. Labor laws of the United States, with decisions of courts relating thereto.
No. 408. Laws relating to payment of wages. [1926.]
No. 548. Decisions of courts and opinions affecting labor, 1929-1930.
No. 552. Labor legislation, 1930.
Proceedings of annual conventions of the Association of Governmental Officials in Industry
of the United States and Canada. (Name changed in 1928 from Association of Governmental
Labor Officials of the United States and Canada.)

♦No. 266.
No. 307.
♦No. 323.
♦No. 352.
♦No. 389.
♦No. 411.
♦No. 429.
♦No. 455.
♦No. 480.
No. *508.
No. 530.
No. 563.

Seventh, Seattle, Wash., July 12r-15, 1920.
Eighth, New Orleans, La., May 2-6, 1921.
Ninth, Harrisburg, Pa., May 22-26, 1922.
Tenth, Richmond, Ya., May 1-4, 1923.
Eleventh, Chicago, 111., May 19-23, 1924.
Twelfth, Salt Lake City, Utah, August 13-15, 1925.
Thirteenth, Columbus, Ohio, June 7-10, 1926.
Fourteenth, Paterson, N. J., May 31 to June 3, 1927.
Fifteenth, New Orleans, La., May 21-24, 1928.
Sixteenth, Toronto, Canada, Jun-e 4-7, 1929.
Seventeenth, Louisville, Ky., May 20-23, 1930.
Eighteenth, Boston, Mass., May 18-22, 1931.

Proceedings of annual meetings of the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards
and Commissions.

No. 210.
No. 248.
No. 264.
♦No. 273.
No. 281.
No. 304.
No. 333.
♦No. 359.
No. 385.
No. 395.
No. 406.
No. 432.

Third, Columbus, Ohio, April 25-28, 1916.
Fourth, Boston, Mass., August 21-25, 1917.
Fifth, Madison, Wis., September 24-27, 1918.
Sixth, Toronto, Canada, September 23-26, 1919.
Seventh, San Francisco, Calif., September 20-24, 1920.
Eighth, Chicago, 111., September 19-23, 1921.
Ninth, Baltimore, Md., October 9-13, 1922.
Tenth, St. Paul, Minn., September 24-26, 1923.
Eleventh, Halifax, Nova Scotia, August 26-28, 1924.
Index to proceedings, 1914-1924.
Twelfth, Salt Lake City, Utah, August 17-20, 1925.
Thirteenth, Hartford, Conn., September 14-17, 1926.

(m )

proceedings of annual meeting of the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards
and Commissions.— Continued.

•No. 456.
No. 485.
No. 511.
No. 536.
No. 564.

Fourteenth, Atlanta, Ga., September 27-29, 1927.
Fifteenth, Paterson, N. J., September 11-14, 1928.
Sixteenth, Buffalo, N. Y., October 8-11, 1929.
Seventeenth, Wilmington, Del., September 22-26, 1930.
Eighteenth, Richmond, Va., October 5-8, 1931.

Proceedings of annual meetings of the International Association of Public Employment Services.

No. 192. First, Chicago, December 19 and 20, 1913; second, Indianapolis, September
24 and 25, 1914; third, Detroit, July 1 and 2, 1915.
♦No. 220. Fourth, Buffalo, N. Y., July 20 and 21, 1916.
No. 311. Ninth, Buffalo, N. Y., September 7-9, 1921.
No. 337. Tenth, Washington, D. C., September 11-13, 1922.
No. 355. Eleventh, Toronto, Canada, September 4-7, 1923.
No. 400. Twelfth, Chicago, 111., May 19-23, 1924.
No. 414. Thirteenth, Rochester, N. Y., September 15-17, 1925.
No. 478. Fifteenth, Detroit, Mich., October 25-28, 1927.
No. 501. Sixteenth, Cleveland, Ohio, September 18-21, 1928.
No. 538. Seventeenth, Philadelphia, September 24-27, 1929; Eighteenth, Toronto,
Canada, September 9-12, 1930.
Productivity of labor.

No. 356. Productivity costs in the common-brick industry. [1924.]
No. 360. Time and labor costs in manufacturing 100 pairs of shoes, 1923.
No. 407. Labor cost of production and wages and hours of labor in the paper boxboard industry. [1926.]
*No. 412. Wages, hours, and productivity in the pottery industry, 1925.
No. 441. Productivity of labor in the glass industry. [1927.]
No. 474. Productivity of labor in merchant blast furnaces. [1928.]
No. 475. Productivity of labor in newspaper printing. [1929.]
No. 550. Cargo handling and longshore labor conditions. [1932.]
Retail prices and cost of living.

♦No. 121.
*No. 130.
*No. 164.
*No. 170.
No. 357.
No. 369.
No. 495.

Sugar prices, from refiner to consumer. [1913.]
Wheat and flour prices, from farmer to consumer. [1913.]
Butter prices, from producer to consumer. [1914.]
Foreign food prices as affected by the war. [1915.]
Cost of living in the United States. [1924.]
The use of cost-of-living figures in wage adjustments. [1925.]
Retail prices, 1890 to 1928.

Safety codes.

No. 336.
No. 350.
♦No. 351.
No. 375.
No. 382.
No. 410.
♦No. 430.
No. 447.
No. 451.
No. 463.
No. 509.
No. 512.
No. 519.

Safety code for the protection of industrial workers in foundries.
Rules governing the approval of headlighting devices for motor vehicles.
Safety code for the construction, care, and use of ladders.
Safety code for laundry machinery and operations.
Code of lighting school buildings.
Safety code for paper and pulp mills.
Safety code for power presses and foot and hand presses.
Safety code for rubber mills and calenders.
Safety code for forging and hot-metal stamping.
Safety code for mechanical power-transmission apparatus—first revision.
Textile safety code.
Code for identification of gas-mask canisters.
Safety code for woodworking plants, as revised 1930.

No. 527. Safety code for* the use, care, and protection of abrasive wheels.
No. 556. Code of lighting: Factories, mills, and other work places.
No. 562. Safety codes for the prevention of dust explosions.

(Revision of

Vocational and workers* education.

♦No.159. Shor/t-unit courses for wage earners, and a factory school experiment.
♦No. 162. Vocational education survey of Richmond, Va. [1915.]
♦No. 199 Vocational education survey of Minneapolis, Minn. [1917.]
No. 271. Adult working-class education in Great Britain and the United States.
No. 459. Apprenticeship in building construction. [1928.]


Wages and hours of labor.

♦No. 146. Wages and regularity of employment and standardization of piece rates in
the dress and waist industry of New York City. [1914.]
♦No. 147. Wages and regularity of employment in the cloak, suit, and skirt industry.
No. 161. Wages and hours of labor in the clothing and cigar industries, 1911 to
♦No. 163. Wages and hours of labor in the building and repairing of steam railroad
cars, 1907 to 1913.
♦No. 190. Wages and hours of labor in the cotton, woolen, and silk industries, 1907
to 1914.
No. 204. Street-railway employment in the United States. [1917.]
No. 218. Wages and hours of labor in the iron and steel industry, 1907 to 1915:
With a glossary of occupations.
♦No. 225. Wages and hours of labor in the lumber, millwork, and furniture industries,
No. 265. Industrial survey in selected industries in the United States, 1919.
No. 297. Wages and hours of labor in the petroleum industry, 1920.
No. 356. Productivity costs in the common-brick industry. [1924.]
No. 358. Wages and hours of labor in the automobile-tire industry, 1923.
No. 360. Time and labor costs in manufacturing 100 pairs of shoes, 1923.
No. 365. Wages and hours of labor in the paper and pulp industry, 1923.
No. 407. Labor cost of production and wages and hours of labor in the paper boxboard industry. [1926.]
♦No. 412. Wages, hours, and productivity in the pottery industry, 1925.
No. 416. Hours and earnings in anthracite and bituminous-coal mining, 1922 and
No. 484. Wages and hours of labor of common street laborers, 1928.
No. 499. History of wages in the United States from colonial times to 1928.
No. 502. Wages and hours of labor in the motor-vehicle industry, 1928.
No. 504. Wages and hours of labor in the hosiery and underwear industries, 1907 to
No. 513. Wages and hours of labor in the iron and steel industry, 1929.
No. 514. Pennsylvania Railroad wage data. From Report of Joint Fact Finding
Committee in wage negotiations in 1927.
No. 516. Hours and earnings in bituminous-coal mining, 1929.
No. 523. Wages and hours in the manufacture of airplanes and aircraft engines,
No. 525. Wages and hours of labor in the Portland cement industry, 1929.
No. 532. Wages and hours of labor in the cigarette-manufacturing industry, 1930.
No. 533. Wages and hours of labor in woolen and worsted goods manufacturing,
1910 to 1930.
No. 534. Labor conditions in the Territory of Hawaii, 1929-1930.
No. 535. Wages and hours of labor in the slaughtering and meat-packing industry,
No. 537. Wages and hours of labor in the dyeing and finishing of textiles, 1930.
No. 539. Wages and hours of labor in cotton-goods manufacturing, 1910 to 1930.
No. 546. Wages and hours in rayon and other synthetic manufacturing, 1930.
No. 547. Wages and hours of labor in the cane-sugar refining industry, 1930.
No. 551. Wages and hours of labor in the boot and shoe industry, 1910 to 1930.
No. 577. Wages and hours of labor in the men’s clothing industry, 1911 to 1930.
No. 560. Wages and hours of labor in the lumber industry in the United States.
No. 566. Union scales of wages and hours of labor, May 15, 1931.
No. 567. Wages and hours of labor in the hosiery and underwear industries, 1907 to
No. 568. Wages and hours of labor in the manufacture of silk and rayon goods,
No. 570. Wages and hours of labor in foundry and machine shops, 1931. (In
No. 571. Wages and hours of labor in the furniture industry, 1910 to 1931.
No. 573. Wages and hours of labor in metalliferous mines, 1924 to 1931. (In
Welfare work.
♦No. 123. Employers’ welfare work. [1913.]
No. 222. Welfare work in British munition factories.

143467°—32----- 6



Welfare work— Continued.

♦No. 250. Welfare work for employees in industrial establishments in the United
States. [1919.]
No. 458. Health and recreation activities in industrial establishments, 1926.
Wholesale prices.
♦No. 284. Index numbers of wholesale prices in the United States and foreign coun­
tries. [1921.]
No. 453. Revised index numbers of wholesale prices, 1923 to July, 1927.
No. 572. Wholesale prices, 1931. (In press.)
Women and children in industry.
♦No. 116. Hours, earnings, and duration of employment of wage-earning women in
selected industries in the District of Columbia. [1913.]
♦No. 117. Prohibition of night work of young persons. [1913.]
♦No. 118. Ten-hour maximum working-day for women and young persons. [1913.]
No. 119. Working hours of women in the pea canneries of Wisconsin. [1913.]
♦No. 122. Employment of women in power laundries in Milwaukee. [1913.]
♦No. 160. Hours, earnings, and conditions of labor of women in Indiana mercantile
establishments and garment factories. [1914.]
♦No. 167. Minimum-wage legislation in the United States and foreign countries.
♦No. 175. Summary of the report on condition of woman and child wage earners in
the United States. [1915.]
♦No. 176. Effect of minimum-wage determinations in Oregon. [1915.]
♦No. 180. The boot and shoe industry in Massachusetts as a vocation for women.
♦No. 182. Unemployment among women in department and other retail stares of
Boston, Mass. [1916.]
No. 193. Dressmaking as a trade for women in Massachusetts. [1916.]
No. 215. Industrial experience of trade-school girls in Massachusetts. [1917.]
♦No. 217.. Effect of workmen’s compensation laws in diminishing the necessity of
industrial employment of women and children. [1918.]
♦No. 223. Employment of women and juveniles in Great Britain during the war.
No. 253. Women in the lead industries. [1919.]
No. 467. Minimum-wage legislation in various countries. [1928.]
No. 558. Labor conditions of women and children in Japan. [1931.]
Workmen’s insurance and compensation (including laws relating thereto).
♦No. 101. Care of tuberculous wage earners in Germany. [1912.]
♦No. 102. British national insurance act, 1911.
No. 103. Sickness and accident insurance law in Switzerland. [1912.]
No. 107. Law relating to insurance of salaried employees in Germany. [1913.]
♦No. 155. Compensation for accidents to employees of the United States. [1914.]
No. 212. Proceedings of the conference on social insurance called by the Interna­
tional Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions,
Washington, D. C., December 5-9, 1916.
♦No. 243. Workmen’s compensation legislation in the United States and foreign coun­
tries, 1917 and 1918.
No. 301. Comparison of workmen’s compensation insurance and administration.
No. 312. National health insurance in Great Britain, 1911 to 1921.
♦No. 379. Comparison of workmen’s compensation laws of the United States as of
January 1, 1925.
No. 477. Public-service retirement systems, United States and Europe. [1929.]
No. 496. Workmen’s compensation legislation of the United States and Canada as of
January 1, 1929. (With text of legislation enacted in 1927 and 1928.)
No. 529. Workmen’s compensation legislation of the Latin American countries.
Miscellaneous series.
♦No. 174. Subject index of the publications of the United States Bureau of Labor
Statistics up to May 1, 1915.
No. 208. Profit sharing in the United States. [1916.]
No. 242. Food situation in central Europe, 1917.
No. 254. International labor legislation and the society of nations. [1919.]
No. 268. Historical survey of international action affecting labor. [1920.]
No. 282. Mutual relief associations among Government employees in Washington,
D. C. [1921.]


Miscellaneous series— Continued.
No. 319. The Bureau of Labor Statistics: Its history, activities, and organization.

No. 326. Methods of procuring and computing statistical information of the Bureau
of Labor Statistics. [1923.]
No. 342. International Seamen’s Union of America: A study of its history and
problems. [1923.]
No. 346. Humanity in government. [1923.]
No. 372. Convict labor in 1923.
No. 386. Cost of American almshouses. [1925.]
No. 398. Growth of legal-aid work in the United States. [1926.]
No. 401. Family allowances in foreign countries. [1926.]
No. 461. Labor organizations in Chile. [1928.]
No. 465. Beneficial activities of American trade-unions. [1928.]
No. 479. Activities and functions of a State department of labor. [1928.]
No. 483. Conditions in the shoe industry in Haverhill, Mass., 1928.
No. 489. Care of aged persons in United States. [1929.]
No. 505. Directory of homes for the aged in the United States. [1929.]
No. 506. Handbook of American trade-unions, 1929 edition.
No. 518. Personnel research agencies, 1930 edition.
No. 541. Handbook of labor statistics, 1931 edition.
No. 558. Labor conditions of women and children in Japan. [1931.]
No. 561. Public old-age pensions and insurance in the United States and in foreign
countries. [1932.]
No. 565. Park recreation areas in the United States, 1930.