So we dove back into the mailroom to roundup another five stories of brilliant bizarity. Here they are.
There’s a website called Improbable Research that conducts research into improbable things. (They are especially well branded.) A few years ago they decided to put the United States Postal Service (USPS) under the microscope.
They tested USPS’s service with a lot of things, including inflated footballs, wooden postcards, a molar tooth, a rose, a small bottle of spring water, a brick, a coconut and an inflated helium balloon. Some got through, some didn’t.
Where it got interesting was when Improbable Research turned the focus of their experiment to the psychology of the mail workers. The experimenters took a $20 bill, slid it inside a see-through envelope, attached it to a postcard and popped it in a postbox.
And did greed overcome the moral fortitude of the USPS postie? Of course not! It took four days but the postcard and the money arrived safely at their destination. USPS obviously hire only the most morally upstanding of workers.
In 1916, William H. Coltharp decided he would build a bank in Vernal, Utah. Despite its small population, Vernal was a well-to-do town and was determined to keep up its bourgeois appearance. That meant building with ‘upscale’ bricks. Just one problem: the nearest suitable brick works was based 170 miles away in Salt Lake City.
Commercially shipping the bricks was costed at over four times the purchase price. Coltharp wasn’t one for paying four times over the odds and when he heard about the cheap postage offered by United States Mail (USM), he sensed an opportunity.
Instead of paying for delivery of all 80,000 bricks in one go, Coltharp arranged to send packages of bricks via the postal service. Regulations meant that each crate could weigh no more than 50 pounds. That meant hundreds of individual packages.
The post office was utterly overwhelmed but they persisted and eventually worked through the backlog of bricks until the whole building has been shipped. In the aftermath, Postmaster General Burleson implemented a daily shipping limit to avoid future building deliveries. He wrote: “It is not the intent of the United States Postal Service that buildings be shipped through the mail.”
A Tree Stump
Ripley’s Believe It or Not ran a competition to discover what was the strangest thing they could receive through the mail. (Really we should have just hired them to write this article for us.) In a little over four months, they had a accrued 198 submissions from five countries.
Runners up included a giant (terrifying) Raggedy Anne doll, a deer skull with the address written directly on the bone and a large inflatable palm tree.
So what took the top spot? A tree stump. No ordinary tree stump, though. This one had a horseshoe embedded in it. The stamps and address went straight onto the wood, too. No packaging, no questions, just quality stump delivery.
A tie is not a particularly interesting thing to have sent through the mail. I know that. What is interesting is that there are numerous tie subscription services that will mail you a month’s worth of ties at a time. Think Love Film but for daily attire.
A courier company based down in England was recently recounting their strangest deliveries. They’d had quite the eventful few years with specialist deliveries of wedding dresses, canoes and ashes. However, the delivery of a large, living fish was easily the best of their stories.
Because the plan was to keep it alive, their van had to be kitted out with its own giant fish tank and aeration system. Smooth and careful driving was obviously the focus of the trip. Take a corner too fast and you’ll have an angry fish flapping about in the back.