Pneumatic Mail

Smithsonian's National Postal Museum

Smithsonian's National Postal Museum

Networks of pneumatic tubes speeded mail along under city streets beginning in the 1890s. Mail was enclosed in pneumatic tube canisters that could hold up to 600 letters. The canisters traveled at an average of 35 miles per hour. The first pneumatic tubes were introduced in 1893 in Philadelphia. Boston, Brooklyn, New York, Chicago and St. Louis also used the system. By 1915, these six cities had more than 56 miles of pneumatic tubes pulsing under the streets.

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  • Title: Pneumatic Mail
  • Subject Keywords: Pneumatic Mail
  • Transcript: In 1893 the Philadelphia post office tried a radically different and speedy way to transfer mail between post offices. They installed a network of underground pneumatic tubes. Cylinders like these carrying mail were pushed or pulled through the tubes by compressed air or vacuum suction. Cylinders flew through the tubes as fast as 35 miles per hour. Other cities followed the example. In New York City, a forty-minute male wagon route was covered by the tubes in seven minutes.
  • External Link: Pneumatic Tube Mail
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