Postal Posture

Visitors to historic #Charleston often remark about the colorful letter boxes that grace the city, where the tradition of leaving outgoing envelopes dangling from the mail slit is still very popular even in this age of e-mail. The first boxes for home mail delivery did not appear until the 20th century. In the early days of the colonial city and continuing well in the 1800’s, local newspapers would publish lists of letters addressed to Charleston people, who would then be obligated to go to differing postal locations to retrieve letters and packages. The early “post offices” where typically taverns and newspaper offices, such as Shepheard’s Tavern and The Charleston Gazette office, both on Broad Street. Postage stamps did not appear until the 1850’s, an before that, postage was calculated by weight and distance traveled. But stamps did play a big role in Charleston in 1765, when the British Parliament passed a law requiring that stamps be affixed to any paper product sold in America, including playing cards. Stamps were sent in huge numbers to each of the 13 colonies for distribution by stamp royally-appointed stamp inspectors from postal offices, causing a great outrage over the lack of representation in this new form of taxation. Here in Charleston, people learned that the incoming inspector, George Saxby, would be living on Tradd Street near a shop used for posting letters, and the assumption was that location was where the stamps were coming. A raucous crowd ransacked the residence and the shop in October, 1765, although neither Saxby nor the stamps had actually arrived yet by ship. The Stamp Act was summarily repealed and the two buildings on Tradd restored, and stand there now. But it is a fitting reminder of a time when Charleston “went postal”. <img.src=”Charleston History” alt=”Postal History”

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