“America’s mailing industry is quite possibly the most successful government–private sector partnership in our nation’s history,” said Allen Kane, director of the museum. “We are excited to tell this story, as most people don’t even know the industry exists.”


We often take for granted that important mail and, maybe, some not so important mail gets delivered to our door every day. On Sept. 13, the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum launched a new virtual exhibition, “America’s Mailing Industry,” telling the story of the partnership between the U.S. Postal Service and private industry, who together have helped American citizens and businesses communicate and conduct business for more than 200 years.


So who makes up the mailing industry? All those that communicate with customers and constituents through the U.S. Mail on a large scale—from direct marketers, to publishers, to nonprofits, to public entities—as well as all the businesses that help prepare mail, such as ad agencies, print shops, software vendors and transportation providers. Domtar is major supplier to those businesses that use paper-based communications as an important means of communication.


The partnership between the mailing industry and the postal system is a critical part of the American economy, as its total economic value exceeds $1 trillion and it employs almost 8 million people. At the heart of the mailing industry is the U.S. Postal Service, which has delivered for America for more than two centuries. An explosion of mail in the late 19th and early 20th centuries drove the Post Office Department (through post offices) and large-volume mailers to work together to begin to handle mail more efficiently. Mailers used new methods of paying for postage, which reduced mail handling by postal clerks and enabled the presorting of mail by destination, speeding dispatch and delivery. Mail volume continued to grow to such an extent that by the 1960s it threatened to overwhelm post offices when deposited in bulk by businesses at the end of each work day. This pushed the Post Office Department to embark on a concerted, nationwide campaign to enlist the aid of large mailers in leveling out the daily “mountains” of mail. So began a unique public–private partnership, unprecedented in scope and scale, which continues to this day.


In order to enhance this comprehensive story, the National Postal Museum invited companies like Domtar, and organizations that are part of America’s mailing industry to submit their stories. These stories provide additional resources to this important research project, allowing industry members to chronicle their histories to be viewed by National Postal Museum website visitors.


At the end of the day, there is always a bit of an element of surprise when you get your mail, and opening a nice envelope is surprisingly exciting.  To learn more visit www.paperbecause.com.