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Jetpack Mailmen (1958)

I had to buy stamps recently. It was the worst.

Nothing pushes me into full curmudgeon hack mode quite like standing in line at the post office. We're talking Andy Rooney/ Dave Barry lovechild super-curmudgeon. And don't even get me started on FedEx. Standing in line is so 20th century.

That being said, there's something charming about our antiquated postal service. People literally take letters and packages from one physical place and deliver them to another place. It's pretty darn cute.

In 1960 the future of electronic mail was still envisioned as an analog experiment. Arthur Radebaugh's Closer Than We Think ran a panel on December 25, 1960 in which physical letters would be opened, scanned, beamed to space, returned to earth and reproduced where they would then be delivered to their final destination in the form of a small capsule. It was difficult for people to imagine a world without the postal service delivering some form of physical media, dead tree or otherwise.

The October 4, 1958 edition of Radebaugh's syndicated strip imagined jetpack mailmen of the future leaping from door to door in Suburbatopia, U.S.A. The strip explains that because of its super-secret government technology they can't go into detail on how such a rocket pack might work, but rest assured, it'll make every mail carrier in town a regular Buck Rogers.

Uncle Sam's mailmen can look forward to going faster, getting farther, and doing so with less effort than ever before. All it will take will be a device like the recently prefected "rocket assists" which were originally developed to help infantrymen leap like grasshoppers.

Just how such equipment works is still a military secret. The designer, Reaction Motors, Inc., is not permitted to say how large the device is, or how long it fires, or what kind of fuel it uses. But best guess is that the rocket fires intermittently, so that the wearer can bound from spot to spot as he wishes, with no more energy then it takes to walk. Also the mechanism is believed to be of small size, simply constructed and low-priced. What a boon for mailmen and others whose work takes them from door to door!

 Many thanks to Tom Z. for the color version of this amazing panel from Closer Than We Think!

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Reader Comments (10)

There's a mail strike/lockout on now in Canada. It's been less than 1 week since the mail stopped. The government is planning to pass a law to force an end to the strike. I have no idea why. For most of us your comment

"That being said, there's something charming about our antiquated postal service. People literally take letters and packages from one physical place and deliver them to another place. It's pretty darn cute."

is pretty much the state of things. If they were gone forever, I'm not sure I'd care.

June 18, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWayne Johnston

Nice article, thanks for the information.

June 18, 2011 | Unregistered Commentersewa mobil

Perhaps you were being facetious, but you don't have to stand in line at the post office to buy stamps. Most grocery stores sell stamps, and most post offices have ATM-like machines which sell stamps. Of course, if you want something other than whatever bland stamps you can buy through those venues, you may have to stand in line.

June 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLurker

Agree with Lurker, kinda scary you were standing in line when you can buy from a machine, buy at major grocery stores, buy online (with your own pictures!), etc.

As for the jet-pack mailman (or -person!) -- talk about a worker's comp claim waiting to happen. And I'm sure Betty next door loves to hear the WHOOOSHHHH! every day as the mailman comes and goes...

June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWutzke

The postman always WOOOOSHes twice?

June 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHephaestus

As a postman I find this idea of jetpack deliveries not even that far fetched, considering all the other technological gimmicks that have been tried in the real world in the recent years to boost efficiency.

On the other hand the writer's gross disrespect towards the postal service seems to fall under the category of utopian futurism just as much as a rocketpack mailman. Apparently "literally taking packages from one physical place to another" is now antiquated and "cute". I'm not even going to ask what "literally" delivering packages (as opposed to figurative delivery, perhaps?) means in this context, I'm more interested in hearing how the hell else the writer plans to receive his packages to his doorstep. Teleportation? Robots?

Not everything in this world works by e-mail, you know.

July 4, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterShok Teenik

@Shok @Lurker This post was intended to be facetious.

July 4, 2011 | Registered CommenterMatt Novak

What a great find. The postie could easily escape the dreaded rabid mutt with a rocket pack.

Cannot really see it 'taking off' though. Sorry.

July 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRocket Postman

Thanks for this. Have commented on it from a historical point of view on the Wellcome Library blog, at

Best wishes, William Schupbach, Wellcome Library, London

September 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWm Schupbach

"What a boon for mailmen and others whose work takes them from door to door!"

A little jet-pack panache might boost the number of Mormon and Jehovah's Witness conversions.

September 27, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie Paulk

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