Wednesday, April 23, 2008

1870 Post Office Directory

I love geography. I briefly considered being a geography major in college, before settling on political science and international affairs. Genealogy, however, has taught me a lot about geography and its important place alongside history, sociology, and geopolitics in defining who we are and where we come from.

Recently, I've come across a few things that have served my geographical curiosity and my curiosity about curiosities. The first thing is the 1870 edition of the U.S. Post Office Directory. It's subtitled "List of Post Offices in the United States Arranged Alphabetically and Giving the Salaries of the Postmasters. Also an Appendix Containing the Names of Post Offices Arranged by States and Counties, with Money-Order Offices, and Other Postal Information." I found this on Google Books as I was looking for something else. For genealogists, geographers, historians and trivia freaks, this is a must-have. Did you know that in 1870, the postmaster of Boston, Massachusetts had a salary of $4,000 a year, while the postmaster of Boston, Kentucky, made a whopping $30 a year?!

The volume also has some information about the organization of the Post Office Department (which then was part of the President's Cabinet) along with some names of Post Office officials. The directory is 415 PDF pages.

Another curiosity about the directory is a mark on the cover indicating that the digitized copy was given to the Boston Public Library in 1919 by a Mrs. C.W. Ernst. Below that are the words, "The Ernst Postal Library." Who were the Ernsts?

Carl Wilhelm Ernst was born in Germany in 1845 and came to Boston in the latter part of the 1800's. He seems to have lived the life of a public intellectual, being described once as one of Boston's leading philologists (New York Times, May 16, 1899). He apparently was keenly interested in Massachusetts history. And he served for awhile as Boston's postmaster. In this latter capacity, Ernst apparently crossed paths and perhaps wits, with Lysander Spooner. Spooner was one of the stranger characters of the 19th century, who tried to open a company to compete with the Post Office. This gives an idea of what Ernst thought of Spooner.

1 comment:

Lori Thornton said...

My great grandfather's salary as postmaster of Oak Grove, Illinois is listed as $41; however, a scanning or printing error makes it impossible to find his name as postmaster. The page enumeration skips from 252 to 255 then to 254 and back to 255. Page 253, the page with McLean County, Illinois, is missing.