Rhode Island Rural Free Delivery Covers
Woonsocket RFD Covers
(Scroll Down for History & Background of RFD)

The letter and postcard above were both sent from the same RFD address in Woonsocket, Rhode Island to Mrs. John E. Bruso in Worcester, Massachusetts. The letter in 1903 and the postcard in 1905. They were both postmarked on Rural Route Two as indicated by the "2" in the killer cancel. The postmarks are typical RFD cancels of the period.

The 1903 letter is franked with the 2-cent Washington (Carmine-Rose Scott #301) issued on January 17, 1903 and the 1905 postcard is franked with the 1-cent Franklin (Gray-Green Scott #300) issued in February 1903.


Prior to the commencement of Rural Free Delivery Mail (RFD), Farmers and other folk living in rural or country settings had to hitch up the old buggy and travel into the nearest town with a post office; then hand-deliver or pick up their letters and mail. At the turn of the 20th century, this task could take as much as an entire day and was usually accomplished just once a week or less. After the advent of RFD, many of these small village post offices were closed.

The RFD carrier was in himself, a small mobile post office. He delivered and picked-up mail, sold money orders and stamps, and could register letters. The first of the self-inking pocket hand-stamps, like those used to cancel the covers above were issued to RFD carriers on August 1, 1900.

The first experimental Rural Free Delivery system was tried by Postmaster General John Wanamaker in 1891. In 1896 Congress passed an appropriation to begin RFD service and by 1897, RFD delivery had been established in 29 states and over 44 routes

The first RFD markings were from Carroll County, Maryland in April 1899 and included the words, "Wagon" and "RFD" in the cancellation. On August 1, 1900 it was ordered by the Post Office that, "stamps were to be canceled on all mail collected for later delivery along the same RFD routes."  The use of RFD postal marks was officially discontinued in July 1905. After July 1905 mail picked up along RFD routes was canceled with indelible pencils, (which had to be moistened to produce an indelible cancel.

The postcard above was canceled on June 5, 1905, just one month before these handstamped cancels were discontinued. There are undoubtedly covers and cards existing with handstamped cancellations after July 1905. Although the Post Office discontinued the use of the handstamps and quit issuing them, they did not forbid the use of existing handstamps.

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