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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Parcel Post: 1914

Parcel Post: 1914

Washington, D.C., 1914. "Post Office Department -- parcel post." A scene outside the post office on Pennsylvania Avenue in its final year of operations before it moved and the building became known as the Old Post Office. View full size.

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Speedy Delivery

Washington Post, March 2, 1913.

Five Kissel cars, bought by the government for parcel post in the city of Washington, D.C., have been placed in service after a thorough inspection by Postmaster General Hitchcock and Postmaster Merritt, of Washington. They are 30-horsepower wagons of 1,500 pounds carrying capacity, and are painted a brilliant red. On its initial run one of the cars made 152 stops between 8:30 a.m. and 12 noon.

Brilliant red was not what I was picturing for this vehicle when first looking at the photo. I had thought a more institutional green or dark blue, but with enough squinting I can begin to imagine red, perhaps a color chosen to express speed and priority.

Believe it or not

In the early years of the auto business the lights were optional. I suppose driving after dark was pretty dicey even with the improved illumination provided by acetylene. For a business that normally operated during daylight hours I imagine that the expense and hassle of the lights was not worthwhile.

Two possibilities

The headlamps are, being actual brass lanterns, probably on a bench getting cleaned and filled (or re-carboned). No reason to rattle around with them on the truck all day long. Or maybe they just don't drive this truck at night.

[Many if most trucks of the era didn't have headlights. The brass fixture illustrated below is an acetylene gas lamp. - Dave]

KisselKar truck

This is a 1913 KisselKar truck, made by the Kissel Motor Car Company of Hartford, Wisconsin.


In July 1913, to prepare for the domestic Parcel Post delivery service that tterrace mentioned, the United States Post Office Department's Committee of Award accepted a bid by the White Company for 20 vehicles rated at 3/4 ton capacity. They cost $2,060 each and had to be equipped with either pneumatic or cushion tires, depending on what the Post Office decided. The Post Office also ordered 21 Wagenhals Motor Car Company three-wheeled vehicles that had 800 pounds capacity. Powered by a 20 hp water-cooled four-cylinder engine, they cost $625 each (visually similar to the less expensive electric version below). Located in Detroit, the Wagenhals Motor Car Company would reorganize just a month later as simply the Wagenhals Motor Company. Both the Whites and the Wagenhals had to be delivered to Cleveland, Ohio within sixty days.

Wagenhals 3a

A year later the Post Office was advertising for bids for spare parts for these vehicles, which included: "Transmission and cup grease, horn bulbs, cylinder and heavy oil, blow out and tube patches, pressure gauges, cushion and pneumatic tires, inner tubes, tire tape, valve parts and tools, vulcanizing rubber, etc."

The winner of the bid had to supply each individual post office named in the contract, and the parts just couldn't be dumped in front—the bid proposal stipulated that "All the supplies must be delivered at and within the doors of the post offices."

The bid proposal noted that the Whites and Wagenhals had been dispersed as follows:

Atlanta, Ga., 2 Whites; Baltimore, 3 Whites; Brooklyn, 3 Whites, Buffalo, 2 Whites; Columbia, S. C, 1 Wagenhals; Columbus, O., 2 Wagenhals; Detroit, 2 Wagenhals; Louisville, 2 Whites; Memphis, 3 Wagenhals; Minneapolis, 4 Whites; Nashville, 3 Wagenhals; Norfolk, Va., 2 Wagenhals; Philadelphia, 6 Whites, Richmond, Va., 2 Wagenhals.

U-shaped brackets

Nice truck! I'd love to have it in that condition right now. My question is, what are those big u-shaped brackets in front of the radiator? Maybe for headlights? If so, what are the smaller lights mounted on either side of the dashboard? Oh, and of course, what make and year is the truck?

[The small lamps are running or parking lights. - Dave]


Right hand drive? Was that common in those days?

[Still the case for mail delivery vehicles. -tterrace]

Dark of Night

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds". I think the "gloom of night" might stay this one.

"Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow"

Only darkness will stop them from their appointed rounds. Notice the headlights seem to be missing from the bracket holders.

Parcel Post service

This was the year after the Post Office Department began domestic Parcel Post service. Originally, a series of special stamps was issued.

In the Dark

Where are the headlights?

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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