What is the United States Postal Service?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Benjamin Franklin was the first official postmaster general in the US.
Benjamin Franklin was the first official postmaster general in the US.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is an independent agency under the executive branch of the United States government that is responsible for delivering mail. It is one of the oldest government agencies in America, and it also holds a monopoly on certain aspects of mail delivery. This monopoly is interpreted as part of the Postal Service mission, written into the United States Constitution. Through this agency, citizens can send mail and parcels almost anywhere in the world, usually at reasonable prices.

The United States Postal Service was established in 1775.
The United States Postal Service was established in 1775.

In 1775, the United States Postal Service was established, with Benjamin Franklin as the Postmaster General. Franklin was directed to establish a series of branches and to set up reliable mail delivery along the Eastern seaboard. As the nation expanded, so did the Post Office, and it is now the third largest employer in the United States, with one of the largest civilian truck fleets in the world.

The US Postal Services holds a monopoly on certain aspects of mail delivery due to aspects of its mission that are written into the US Constitution.
The US Postal Services holds a monopoly on certain aspects of mail delivery due to aspects of its mission that are written into the US Constitution.

The status of the Postal Service can be confusing. The organization is an independent agency in the US government, but its employees are all civilian. It is managed by a board of governors appointed by the president. This board is responsible for setting postal policies, including the price of stamps. Because it is a government agency, the Post Office enjoys certain privileges, such as the right to negotiate diplomatic terms related to the mails directly with other nations and the monopoly on the nation's mail. All non-urgent first class mail must be sent through the Post Office, although urgent deliveries can be sent through private carriers and couriers, and packages may be handled by other companies. The Postal Service is also the only organization that may legally place material into mailboxes.

Post office boxes are offered for rent by the United States Postal Service.
Post office boxes are offered for rent by the United States Postal Service.

In addition to the United States Postal Service itself, there are also two inspection services linked with the agency. The Inspector General is supposed to be responsible for maintaining the integrity of the Postal Service and its mails, and also assembles financial accountability reports and other related documentation. The Postal Inspection Service is a law enforcement agency that monitors mail fraud and threats against the agency. Both organizations work to keep the United States mail safe and secure.

Mail may be inspected for hazardous materials.
Mail may be inspected for hazardous materials.

Anyone can use the services of the Post Office for the fee of a stamp. Since the organization is government controlled and it has a monopoly on mail delivery, it can keep prices low, making them affordable for all. Citizens can purchase stamps or precise postage in branch offices, and they can drop their mail into any one of millions of postal drop boxes around the United States. The agency also offers services like insurance, delivery confirmation, and expedited mail.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon15109

The statement "The Postal Service is also the only organization which may place material into mailboxes," which appears on your page titled "What is the United States Postal Service," is a statement that I have heard on and off over the last fifty-years, however, a lawyer once told me that there is no law prohibiting such action. Would someone tell me where it is written, law and/or otherwise, that this action is forbidden.

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    • Benjamin Franklin was the first official postmaster general in the US.
      Benjamin Franklin was the first official postmaster general in the US.
    • The United States Postal Service was established in 1775.
      The United States Postal Service was established in 1775.
    • The US Postal Services holds a monopoly on certain aspects of mail delivery due to aspects of its mission that are written into the US Constitution.
      The US Postal Services holds a monopoly on certain aspects of mail delivery due to aspects of its mission that are written into the US Constitution.
    • Post office boxes are offered for rent by the United States Postal Service.
      Post office boxes are offered for rent by the United States Postal Service.
    • Mail may be inspected for hazardous materials.
      Mail may be inspected for hazardous materials.
    • Sending letters and written correspondence is one of the primary functions of the United States Postal Service.
      Sending letters and written correspondence is one of the primary functions of the United States Postal Service.
    • The US Postal Service began delivering mail in 1775.
      The US Postal Service began delivering mail in 1775.