Washington on stagecoaches

Herrero, Mythical Town with Stagecoach (Click for larger image in a new window)Doing research on the rise of the stagecoach along the Eastern seaboard, I ran into an interesting quote from none other than George Washington.

In 1788, the Father of Our Country was waiting impatiently for news to arrive in Mount Vernon, regarding formation of the Constitution. Washington was irked enough to write a letter to John Jay, lamenting new rules put into place by Postmaster General Ebenezer Hazard, which had delayed the arrival of newspapers.

After some prior experimentation, Hazard doubted the suitability of using stagecoaches to carry mail, and had placed it on horseback instead. Since riders were being paid to carry mail, and stages were carrying newspapers as a free service, the riders would not carry the newspapers unless they were paid extra to do so. Washington wrote:

It is to be extremely lamented, that a new arrangement in the post-office, unfavorable to the circulation of intelligence, should have taken place at the instant when the momentous question of a general government was to come before the people. … I am sorry to learn that the line of stages is at present interrupted in some parts of New England, and totally discontinued at the southward.

Suffice to say that Hazard’s days were numbered as Postmaster General. He made the mistake of trying to run the business of the Post Office as a profit center, when the actual need of communication facilities was more important to the nation at that time.

Stagecoach in Waitsfield, Vermont (Click for larger image in a new window)For 60 years after Hazard, the stagecoach was the principal carrier of the United States mail on the nation’s leading post roads.

The ascendancy of Washington as our first president on August 30th, 1789 ushered in, among many things, a period of great expansion for the new stagecoach industry.

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