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(man) Let's proceed to the main exhibit hall and look at some of the actual vehicles that have played a prominent role in speeding up mail delivery. Consider how long it used to take to send a letter across a relatively short distance. Back in the 1600's it took two weeks on horseback to get a letter from Boston to New York, a distance of about 260 miles. Crossing a river was also a challenge. Ferry service was so irregular that a carrier would sometimes wait hours just to catch a ferry. For journeys inland, there was always the stagecoach, but the ride was by no means comfortable because it had to be shared with other passengers. The post office was pretty ingenious about some routes. In the nineteenth century, in the Southwestern desert, for instance, camels were brought in to help get the mail through. In Alaska, reindeer were used. This practice was discontinued because of the disagreeable temperament of these animals.

We'll stop here a minute so that you can enter this replica of a railway mail car. It was during the Age of the Iron Horse that delivery really started to pick up. In fact, the United States transported most bulk mail by train for nearly 100 years. The first airmail service didn't start until 1918.

Please take a few moments to look around. I hope you'll enjoy your tour. And as you continue on your own, may I suggest you visit our impressive philatelic collection. Not only can you look at some of the more unusual stamps issues, but there is an interesting exhibit on how stamps are made.

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