Postal Age: The Emergence of Modern Communications in Nineteenth-Century America

Postal Age: The Emergence of Modern Communications in Nineteenth-Century America

by David M. Henkin
     
 

ISBN-10: 0226327213

ISBN-13: 9780226327211

Pub. Date: 09/15/2007

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Americans commonly recognize television, e-mail, and instant messaging as agents of pervasive cultural change. But many of us may not realize that what we now call snail mail was once just as revolutionary. As David M. Henkin argues in The Postal Age, a burgeoning postal network initiated major cultural shifts during the nineteenth century, laying the

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Overview

Americans commonly recognize television, e-mail, and instant messaging as agents of pervasive cultural change. But many of us may not realize that what we now call snail mail was once just as revolutionary. As David M. Henkin argues in The Postal Age, a burgeoning postal network initiated major cultural shifts during the nineteenth century, laying the foundation for the interconnectedness that now defines our ever-evolving world of telecommunications. 

This fascinating history traces these shifts from their beginnings in the mid-1800s, when cheaper postage, mass literacy, and migration combined to make the long-established postal service a more integral and viable part of everyday life. With such dramatic events as the Civil War and the gold rush underscoring the importance and necessity of the post, a surprisingly broad range of Americans—male and female, black and white, native-born and immigrant—joined this postal network, regularly interacting with distant locales before the existence of telephones or even the widespread use of telegraphy. Drawing on original letters and diaries from the period, as well as public discussions of the expanding postal system, Henkin tells the story of how these Americans adjusted to a new world of long-distance correspondence, crowded post offices, junk mail, valentines, and dead letters.

The Postal Age paints a vibrant picture of a society where possibilities proliferated for the kinds of personal and impersonal communications that we often associate with more recent historical periods. In doing so, it significantly increases our understanding of both antebellum America and our own chapter in the history of communications.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226327211
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
09/15/2007
Pages:
238
Sales rank:
305,528
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)

Table of Contents

Contents Preface....................ix
Acknowledgments....................xiii
Introduction....................1
PART ONE JOINING A NETWORK One Becoming Postal A COMMUNICATIONS REVOLUTION IN ANTEBELLUM AMERICA....................15
Two Mailable Matters FROM NEWS TO MAIL....................42
Three Playing Post Office MAIL IN URBAN SPACE....................63
PART TWO POSTAL INTIMACY Four Embracing Opportunities THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE PERSONAL LETTER....................93
Five Precious as Gold MOBILITY AND FAMILY IN THE GOLD RUSH AND CIVIL WAR....................119
Six Mass Mailings VALENTINES, JUNK MAIL, AND DEAD LETTERS....................148
Epilogue....................172
Notes....................177
Index....................219

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