Would you mail your child through UPS? In the early 20th century, there are recorded instances of people sending children through postal carriers. Here, we dive into the origin of these stories, debunk (or affirm!) the reported instances of families mailing children through postal services, and discuss what really happened when a child was sent away like a piece of mail.
The Origin. The idea of mailing a child through the post office arose when a 1913 law allowed residents to send packages of up to 11 pounds through the postal service like UPS and FedEx. Before then, there was no way to send heavier things through the post. The concept of sending larger packages planted the idea of families sending their small children and babies through the post over short distances when it would be inconvenient to transport the child themselves.
Before there were stricter regulations, it was common practice for people to send strange items through the post, including small children. However, as a correspondence from 1913 reports, only “bees and bugs” were allowed to be sent through the post, so the idea of sending small children through the post would likely involve some employees or the postman to cooperate and help the child travel. However, children who were mailed through the post actually did have stamps put on them, and their parents did pay to send them.
The Recorded Instances. The first man who officially accepted a child as an item of the post is Vernon O. Lytle, who was a mail carrier at the time. Lytle carried a baby boy who weighed 10 pounds and 0.75 ounces the distance of one mile from his parents to his grandmother. The boy’s parents paid 15 cents to send their child through the post.
Another instance reports that a two-year-old boy was sent home from his grandmother’s by parcel post over a distance of 25 miles. The boy wore an identifying tag around his neck, and he rode with the mail clerks who took care of him while he traveled. His grandmother paid 18 cents to send him this way.
The End. Instances like the one above continued to be reported, but it wasn’t legal for much longer. The postmaster at the time, a First Assistant Postmaster General Koons, stated that children are not classified as “harmless live animals which do not require food or water while in transit,” so it then became illegal to send children through parcel post.
Though there are photos depicting small children in parcel carrier’s bags, these photos are not actually real and should not be taken at face value. In truth, the idea of sending a child through the post was meant to be a convenient way for children to travel in a supervised manner over short distances.