A U.S. Mail Delivery Story

mailster_smithsonian(Image: Smithsonian)

Here’s a fun and unusual story in time for the Holidays. Beginning around 1950 the United States Postal Service began testing three-wheeled vehicles for delivering mail. These vehicles were called “Mailsters”, or “West Coast Mailsters”. They were unique because at least seven different companies manufactured them.

With the sprawling growth of suburbs across America, and the increased use in mail volume and packages, U.S. Postal officials reasoned that these inexpensive vehicles were just the answer to getting postal carriers off of their feet on a delivery route for their daily rounds. This made delivering the mail faster and easier. Seven years later Miami, Florida became the launch city for the “Mailsters”, followed by Georgia, Washington, D.C., New Jersey, Kansas and other Midwest cities.

The “Mailsters” were powered by a 7.5 horsepower motor located under the driver’s seat. Top speed was 25 miles per hour, but the vehicles carried around five hundred pounds of mail and packages.

Common problems encountered by mailmen ranged from large dogs jumping into the vehicles, becoming immobilized in just a few inches of snow, broken front axles, clutch failures and broken gear shift levers.

USPS officials had approximately 8,400 “Mailsters” in operation by 1961, with more units on order. In response to the mechanical problems, modifications were ordered. Sliding doors that replaced curtain doors. Handle bars were replaced by steering wheels. The rear of the vehicle retained two doors that opened from the center-outward.  As the 1960s drew to a close, USPS officials began replacing the “Mailsters” with four wheeled Jeeps, and later Chrysler vans.

mailster_2(Photo: Author)




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