A local sportsman by the name of L.L. Bean started his business in September 1912 in Freeport, ME, by mailing out 1,000 three-page flyers advertising his distinctive rubber-bottomed boots to out-of-state sportsmen applying for hunting licenses in Maine.
By 1919, the Freeport post office was the busiest one in the state. With an expanded product line, Mr. Bean located his store above the post office and had chutes installed to send packed boxes straight down to the PO, ensuring same-day processing. Over 100 years later, L.L. Bean continues to mail a paper catalog as part of its marketing campaigns and remains one of the largest catalog mailers in the country.
This is just one of many stories about the unique partnership between the U.S. Postal Service and private industry that the National Postal Museum is telling in its virtual exhibition, “America’s Mailing Industry.” The exhibition celebrates the partnership between the USPS and the $1.4 trillion mailing industry that has helped citizens and businesses communicate and conduct business through the mail for over 200 years.
The virtual exhibition is rich with interesting tales of how mail helps people communicate, shop, ship, deliver, conduct transactions, build relationships, and foster citizenship. To gather material, the museum partnered with researchers and experts from the Postal Service, mailing-industry associations, and private companies.
Other accounts feature some of the biggest names in printing, envelopes, publishing, financial services, and nonprofit organizations. The museum has divided the industry into a series of 14 categories, but as it notes in the exhibition, no one section can really stand on its own: “Reading through these, you will discover that aspects of the industry overlap. ‘Catalogs and Mail Order’ is not a complete story without ‘Fulfillment and Parcel Shippers’ or ‘Direct Marketing.’”
This history of the Postal Service is deeply entwined with the history of this nation. The National Postal Museum knows this story better than anyone – it tells it every single day. Now, the museum has fleshed out even more chapters of the long narrative with this new virtual exhibition on the complex and gigantic world that is the mailing industry.
Share with us a story you have about this partnership. How does your organization use mail? Did any of the stories on the National Postal Museum’s America’s Mailing Industry exhibit surprise you?