The Ubiquitous Mailbox

The Mailbox
We have all seen them and pay them little mind – my title “The Ubiquitous Mailbox” pretty much says it. Merriam-Webster defines ubiquitous as “existing or being everywhere at the same time : constantly encountered : widespread”. Ubiquitous comes to us from the noun ubiquity, meaning “presence everywhere or in many places simultaneously.” It is derived from the Latin word for “everywhere” which is ubique.

A while back I got one of Rusty Stumps mailbox .. the one that you see everywhere, the rectangular box with a round top – the ubiquitous one you see! I was looking at it and wondering if it could be used on my 1920’s era layout. The U.S. Postal Service calls them “Collection Boxes” .. but we civilians mostly just say Mailbox.

What follows is a journey through Shorpy and the U.S. Postal Service. This is a journey through the years. This style of mailbox remains much the same, varying in details but essentially ‘close nuff’ for modeling. The title of each photo montage is the one used on Shorpy. Clicking the photo will link you to the Shorpy page

Collection Box Colors
This PDF – Collection Box Colors – was found on the USPS website. I have pulled out the colors in the article and arranged them as shown below. This is great information for we modelers. The majority of the photos on Shorpy are black and white. With the color information we can bring them back to life, in color.

1850s – Street letter boxes introduced – unknown colors
1889 – (Boston) – Red, ‘most important’ visited every hour by the carriers and Green
1897 – Machen – posts green and boxes aluminum bronze
1903 – ‘years ago was Dark Green, afterwards vermilion red ..”
1909 – Green
1913 (February 27) – ‘either vermilion or coach-red’
1913 (May 10) – rescinded because fire departments, city councels, and the public complained about the confusion with red fire boxes and equipment. The boxes were repainted green.
1918-ish – Olive drab. War Department gave the Post Office Department a vast supply of olive drab paint
1955 – Red, White and Blue
1971 to present – Deep Blue. Postal Service logo.
1993 – new Postal Service logo, the “sonic eagle” in white

Multi-Modal: 1908
Philadelphia circa 1908. “Pennsylvania R.R. ferry terminal, Market Street.”

c. 1908 this would be vermilion red. I can see U.S. Mail in block letters on the front with writing above it also in white.

Sun City: 1910
The photo shows ladies on the boardwalk with the St. Charles and Rudolf Hotels in the background in Atlantic City, New Jersey. To one side .. our mailbox.

c.1910 this would have been green. Lettering in white and on at least the sides and front. There is a small white rectangle above the U.S. Mail on the front.

Ninth and G: 1919
Washington, D.C., circa 1919. “Ninth and G Streets.” With a view of the U.S. Patent Office.

c.1919 – should be Olive Drab in color. I don’t see any U.S. Mail printing on the box. There is also a separate smaller box hanging on the back.

Everything Must Go: 1925
Washington, D.C., circa 1925.

c.1925 – would be Olive Drab in color. I don’t see any U.S. Mail printing on the box. No real idea of what that post is it is leaning against unless it was to tie up a horse perhaps?

Jumpers: 1941
April 1941. Children jumping rope on the sidewalk of a South Side Chicago street.

1941 – would be Olive Drab in color. U.S. Mail is stamped on the side of the box. Says “For Letters” at top and “Postal Station” below the stamped U.S. Mail in larger letters. Has “Postal Station” on front..

College Modern II: 1965
August 1965. Cal Poly’s San Luis Obispo campus underwent a building boom in the early 1960s, still prime time for Mid-Century Modern architecture

1965 – Blue box with a Red top. Has U.S. Mail in block on lower front and middle of side.