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Entries in mail delivery (2)

Friday
Jun172011

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!

Saturday
Apr232011

Fast Mail of To-morrow (1919)

Here at Paleofuture we often take a look at the most fantastical visions of the future: jetpacks, flying cars, meal pills, robot gigolos...

More rarely do we look at understated depictions of the future in history, simply because they tend to appear quite ordinary to modern eyes. This illustration by Harry Grant Dart -- a man who was no stranger to the cartoonish and the fantastical -- shows the U.S. airmail service in the not-too-distant future. The image appeared on the May 31, 1919 cover of Literary Digest and shows mail bags attached to parachutes, which are then dropped by airplane; all eyes of a small town fixated on this postal payload from the heavens.

While the first aerial mail service in the United State was tested in 1911, it wasn't until May 15, 1918 that the first mail route from New York to Washington D.C. was established. A few months later the U.S. Postal Service took over airmail duties from the U.S. Army, but regularly scheduled cross-country airmail didn't begin until 1924.

As one might expect, it took a long time to modernize airmail service, but Dart's image -- however quaint it appears today -- depicts one revolutionary step forward in making our world feel that much smaller.