Drop Letters are those
letters that were dropped off at a Post Office for the Addressee
to pick up at the same Post Office. In the 18th and 19th
centuries, everyone had to pick up their mail at the post office
unless it was delivered by a private courier. Drop letters were
never sent from one Post Office to another and they were
sometimes referred to as Box Letters.
(The system was similar to
The Postal Act of 1794
set the rate for Drop Letters at 1 cent per letter. There was no
additional fee by weight or number of sheets. The 1 cent charge
was a Fee paid directly to the Postmaster, rather
than a rate charge.
Drop letters were sent either prepaid
or collect until February 1861 when the Postal act of that year
required that they be prepaid.
Postal markings on Drop Letters are
often lacking or incomplete, since they were delivered and
picked up at the same Post Office; it wasn't felt necessary to
apply all of the postal marks and cancellations to insure proper
The customer or recipient of the Drop
Letter would go to the counter at the Post Office, give the
clerk his personal information and the clerk would sort through
the alphabetically filed letters to find the correct letter.
Between 1845 and 1851 the Drop
Rate was increased to 2 cents, but was
reduced to 1 cent again on July 1, 1851. During
the 50 percent rate increase of 1816, drop letters should not
have been affected as they were a fee and not a rate, however a
total of 9 Drop Letters have been
found with the 1 1/2 rate applied.