Starting 2021-07-16, Scope of Work’s Reading group is reading Paper Trails: The US Post and the Making of the American West - Cameron Blevins’ history of the USPS. From the book’s excellent companion website:
By 1848, the United States laid claim to territory that stretched from coast to coast. In reality, the western half of the country remained Indigenous land, a vast expanse of territory that the US Government did not actually control. Over the coming decades the West was utterly transformed. The United States waged war against western tribes, forcing them off their land and onto reservations. Millions of Americans swarmed across this plundered territory, building towns and homesteads, mines and mills, dams and railroads. How did this happen so quickly, in the span of a single generation? The answer lies, in part, with an unlikely source: the US Post. Between 1848 and 1895 the federal government wove together a “gossamer network” across the West, a sprawling and fast-moving web of post offices and mail routes that connected the region’s far-flung settlements into a national system of communications. The US Post was the underlying circuitry of western expansion. Read on to learn more about the spread of this network and the ways in which it wove the region together.