Post office

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A post office building in Edithburgh, Australia EdithburghPostOffice.JPG
A post office building in Edithburgh, Australia
The West Toledo Branch Post Office in Toledo, Ohio, in 1912 West Toledo Branch Post Office - DPLA - f9d1fcc75d881e6c52ad57b947479502 (page 1).jpg
The West Toledo Branch Post Office in Toledo, Ohio, in 1912

A post office is a public facility and a retailer that provides mail services, such as accepting letters and parcels, providing post office boxes, and selling postage stamps, packaging, and stationery. Post offices may offer additional services, which vary by country. These include providing and accepting government forms (such as passport applications), and processing government services and fees (such as road tax, postal savings, or bank fees). [1] The chief administrator of a post office is called a postmaster.


Before the advent of postal codes and the post office, postal systems would route items to a specific post office for receipt or delivery. During the 19th century in the United States, this often led to smaller communities being renamed after their post offices, particularly after the Post Office Department began to require that post office names not be duplicated within a state. [2]


Postal facility interior.JPG
A Canadian sorting office in 2006

The term "post-office" [3] has been in use since the 1650s, [4] shortly after the legalisation of private mail services in England in 1635. [5] In early modern England, post ridersmounted couriers—were placed, or "posted", [6] every few hours along post roads at posting houses (also known as post houses) between major cities, or "post towns". These stables or inns permitted important correspondence to travel without delay. In early America, post offices were also known as stations. This term, as well as the term "post house", fell from use as horse and coach services were replaced by railways, aircraft, and automobiles.

The Surathkal Post Office in Surathkal, India Surathkal Post Office,India.jpg
The Surathkal Post Office in Surathkal, India

The term "post office" usually refers to government postal facilities providing customer service. "General Post Office" is sometimes used for the national headquarters of a postal service, even if the building does not provide customer service. A postal facility that is used exclusively for processing mail is instead known as a sorting office or delivery office, which may have a large central area known as a sorting or postal hall. Integrated facilities combining mail processing with railway stations or airports are known as mail exchanges.

In India, post offices are found in almost every village having panchayat (a "village council"), towns, cities, and throughout the geographical area of India. India's postal system changed its name to India Post after the advent of private courier companies in the 1990s. It is run by the Indian government's Department of Posts. [7] India Post accepts and delivers inland letters, postcards, parcels, postal stamps, and money orders (money transfers). Few post offices in India offer speed post (fast delivery) and payments or bank savings services. It is also uncommon for Indian post offices to sell insurance policies or accept payment for electricity, landline telephone, or gas bills. Until the 2000 A.D., post offices would collect fees for radio licenses, recruitment for government jobs, and the operation of public call telephone (PCO) booths. Postmen would deliver letters, money orders, and parcels to places that are within the assigned area of a particular post office. Each Indian post office is assigned a unique six-digit code called the Postal Index Number, or PIN. Each post office is identified by its PIN. Post offices coming under Department of Posts, Ministry of Communication, Government of India have a history of one hundred fifty years. [8]

Private courier and delivery services often have offices as well, although these are usually not called "post offices", except in the case of Germany, which has fully privatised its national postal system.[ citation needed ]

As abbreviation PO is used, together with GPO for General Post Office and LPO for Licensed Post Office.


Postal clerks in an 1840 Penny Penates postcard World's oldest postcard.jpg
Postal clerks in an 1840 Penny Penates postcard
The Old Post Office in Toompea in Tallinn, Estonia Tallinn post office.jpg
The Old Post Office in Toompea in Tallinn, Estonia

There is evidence of corps of royal couriers disseminating the decrees of Egyptian pharaohs as early as 2400 BCE, and it is possible that the service greatly precedes that date. Similarly, there may be ancient organised systems of post houses providing mounted courier service, although sources vary as to precisely who initiated the practice. [9]

In the Persian Empire, a Chapar Khaneh system existed along the Royal Road. Similar postage systems were established in India and China by the Mauryan and Han dynasties in the 2nd century BCE.

The Roman historian Suetonius credited Augustus with regularising the Roman transportation and courier network, the Cursus Publicus . Local officials were obliged to provide couriers who would be responsible for their message's entire course. Locally maintained post houses (Latin : stationes ) privately owned rest houses (Latin : mansiones ) and were obliged or honored to care for couriers along their way. The Roman emperor Diocletian later established two parallel systems: one providing fresh horses or mules for urgent correspondence and the other providing sturdy oxen for bulk shipments. The Byzantine historian Procopius, though not unbiased, records the Cursus Publicus system remained largely intact until it was dismantled in the Byzantine empire by the emperor Justinian in the 6th century.

The Princely House of Thurn and Taxis family initiated regular mail service from Brussels in the 16th century, directing the Imperial Post of the Holy Roman Empire. The British Postal Museum claims that the oldest functioning post office in the world is on High Street in Sanquhar, Scotland. The post office has functioned continuously since 1712, during which horses and stagecoaches were used to carry mail.

Rural parts of Canada in the 19th century utilised the way office system. Villagers could leave their letters at the way office which were then taken to the nearest post office, as well as pick up their mail from the way office. [10]

In parts of Europe, special postal censorship offices existed[ when? ] to intercept and censor mail. In France, such offices were known as cabinets noirs.

Unstaffed postal facilities

Students attend an unstaffed postal facility Mailroom in University.jpg
Students attend an unstaffed postal facility
The Inland Letter Office of the GPO in London in 1844 GPO - The Inland letter office ILN 1844.jpg
The Inland Letter Office of the GPO in London in 1844

In many jurisdictions, mailboxes and post office boxes have long been in widespread use for drop-off and pickup (respectively) of mail and small packages outside post offices or when offices are closed. Germany's national postage system Deutsche Post introduced the Pack-Station for package delivery, including both drop-off and pickup, in 2001. In the 2000s, the United States Postal Service began to install Automated Postal Centers (APCs) in many locations in both post offices, for when they are closed or busy, and retail locations. [11] APCs can print postage and accept mail and small packages.

Notable post offices




See also

Related Research Articles

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Royal Mail</span> Postal service company in the United Kingdom

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Australia Post</span> Australian postal service

Australia Post, formally known as the Australian Postal Corporation, is a Commonwealth government-owned corporation that provides postal services throughout Australia. Australia Post's head office is located on Bourke Street, Melbourne, above the Bourke Street Post Office.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">India Post</span> Statutory Body of India

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Afghan Post</span>

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Turkmenpost, is the national postal operator of Turkmenistan. The company is responsible for the delivery of mail and issuing postage stamps. It has been a member of the Universal Postal Union since January 26, 1993. Turkmenpost employs about 2,000 people and has over 146 post offices, with its headquarters in Ashgabat.


  1. "Canada Postal Guide - Glossary". Canada Post. Archived from the original on January 18, 2006. Retrieved 2006-10-08.
  2. United States Postal Service. "What's in a (Post Office) Name? Archived 2013-03-30 at the Wayback Machine " August 2008. Accessed 2 October 2013.
  3. Webster, Noah. American Dictionary of the English Language, "post-house Archived 2013-10-04 at the Wayback Machine ". Accessed 2 October 2013.
  4. Harper, Douglas. Online Etymology Dictionary, "post office Archived 2013-10-04 at the Wayback Machine ". 2013. Accessed 2 October 2013.
  5. The British Postal Museum and Archive. "The Secret Room Archived 2012-08-31 at the Wayback Machine ". 2011. Accessed 2 October 2013.
  6. Harper (2013), "post Archived 2013-09-30 at the Wayback Machine ". Accessed 2 October 2013.
  7. "About Us" . Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  8. India Post. "About us" . Retrieved 30 March 2023.
  9. Xenophon credits Cyrus the Great of Persia, others credit his successor Darius I or the earlier Babylonian king Hammurabi or the Assyrian king Sargon II.
  10. "A Chronology of Canadian Postal History". Canadian Museum of History.
  11. "Derry store's postal kiosk a 1st in New England". Union Leader . December 11, 2011.