The mailman always delivers.

Rural carrier Lloyd Mortice created this unusual vehicle for use on his snow-bound New England route. Mortice fitted his 1926 Model-T with a steel track on the rear drive shaft, enabling him to drop either wheels or skis into place in front, depending on weather conditions. The company that sold Mortice the steel track later produced a similar vehicle based on the carrier’s idea.

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Unidentified rural letter carrier with modified Model-T Ford, 1926.

An unidentified rural letter carrier poses next to a Model-T Ford vehicle with a snowmobile attachment. The vehicle is fitted with a kit advertised as the “Mailman’s Special” from the manufacturer, Farm Specialty Manufacturing Company of New Holstein, Wisconsin. It included skis that replaced the front tires and caterpillar treads that wrapped around the back tires. Rural carriers are responsible for providing their own transportation. At a time when automobiles were not yet equal to the demands of icy or snowy roads, the skis and tread kit saved carriers the expense of purchasing and maintaining a horse and sled for winter deliveries.

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Rural carrier in automobile at mailbox, 1905.

An unidentified, enterprising Rural Free Delivery (RFD) carrier tries out a car on his snowy route to show off for a Post Office Department photographer. The Department hoped to encourage carriers to replace their horses and wagons with the latest in transportation technology. Few carriers did so. Vehicles at the time were not yet adequate replacements for horses, wagons, and sleds on rural roads.

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Rural Free Delivery, 1910.

Postal officials encouraged Rural Free Delivery (RFD) carriers to replace their horses and wagons with the latest in transportation technology. This unidentified carrier painted his early electric-motored vehicle in the same paint and identification scheme as the RFD wagons of the era. He is, no doubt, only able to complete his wintertime rounds thanks to a snow-plowed road. Automobiles were not yet adequate replacements for horses, wagons, and sleds on rural roads.

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Stagecoach with mail en route to Deadwood City, South Dakota, 1889.

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Parcel Post Truck and Carrier, 1950.

City carrier delivering packages in the snow. The carrier’s vehicle was designated to carry parcels only, not letter mail. By 1949, the post-World War II boom pushed mail volumes to unprecedented heights. A large part of the increase was in parcels, as growing families looked to mail order catalogs for more and more of their household goods. Before city carriers were assigned vehicles to carry both parcel and letter mail at the same time, parcel post deliveries were made separately.

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Mail van in the snow, 1953.

A letter carrier drives one of the Department’s new right-hand drive vans on the snowy streets of an unidentified city. The Department ordered thousands of new postal vehicles in the early 1950s as part of its post-war modernization plan. A variety of vehicles were ordered, including right-hand drive step vans such as this. Many of the new vehicles performed adequately, but few of the dozens of different styles ordered were re-ordered in large quantities.

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US mail leaving Seward for Anchorage, Alaska, 1918.

An unidentified mail contractor with his dog team posed in front of the Brown & Hawkins store in Seward, Alaska on this photographic postcard. As the title indicates, the contractor is preparing to leave Seward with the Anchorage mail. Dog sleds transported mail in some areas of the northern United States and the Alaskan Territory during winter months. Contract carriers used these sleds across Alaska from the late nineteenth century into the early 1920s. Isolated for much of the year, remote populations sometimes relied on dog sleds for contact with the outside world. Because weight was a critical factor for the dogs, mail traveling on sleds was usually restricted to first-class pieces unless room was available for newspapers, magazines, and packages. These items were otherwise left behind until spring, when they might be transported by steamboat or wagon. National Postal Museum, Curatorial Photographic Collection Photographer: Hettel.

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Photograph of postcard with mail team leaving Circle City for Ft. Gibson, Alaska, 1900.

Photograph from postcard was published by the Lowman & Hanford Stationery and Printing Company of Seattle, Washington. The postcard, #2063 in this particular series, shows contract mail carriers preparing their dogsled team to carry mail through the snow from Circle City to Ft. Gibson, in the Alaskan Territory.

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Finally, a couple that didn’t deliver:

Image of wrecked Curtiss JN-4H Jenny airmail plane. Army pilot Lt. Webb is visible climbing up the underbelly of his crashed plane, 1918.

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Mail truck tries to climb tree. Comm. Ave. Boston, 1927 .

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