First United States Postmaster Benjamin Franklin

Title

First United States Postmaster Benjamin Franklin

Description

Franklin was appointed postmaster of Philadelphia by the British Crown Post in 1737. Newspaper publishers often served as postmasters, which helped them to gather and distribute news. Postmasters decided which newspapers could travel free in the mail — or in the mail at all.

Postmaster General Elliott Benger added to Franklin’s duties by making him comptroller, with financial oversight for nearby Post Offices. Franklin lobbied the British to succeed Benger when his health failed and, with Virginia’s William Hunter, was named joint postmaster general for the Crown on August 10, 1753.

Franklin surveyed post roads and Post Offices, introduced a simple accounting method for postmasters, and had riders carry mail both night and day. He encouraged postmasters to establish the penny post where letters not called for at the Post Office were delivered for a penny. Remembering his experience with the Gazette, Franklin mandated delivery of all newspapers for a small fee. His efforts contributed to the Crown’s first North American profit in 1760.

In 1757, while serving as joint postmaster general, Franklin went to London to represent Pennsylvania’s government. In 1763, back in the colonies, he traveled 1,600 miles surveying post roads and Post Offices from Virginia to New England. In 1764, Franklin returned to London, where he represented the interests of several colonial governments. In 1774, judged too sympathetic to the colonies, he was dismissed as joint postmaster general.

Back on American soil in 1775, Franklin served as a member of the Second Continental Congress, which appointed him Postmaster General on July 26 of that year. With an annual salary of $1,000 and $340 for a secretary and comptroller, Franklin was responsible for all Post Offices from Massachusetts to Georgia and had authority to hire postmasters as necessary.

Creator

Joseph-Siffred Duplessis

Date

ca. 1778

Source

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin, first Postmaster General of the United States (and Continental Congress).

Source: USPS. (n.d.). Benjamin franklin first postmaster general. Retrieved Oct 22, 2012, from http://1.usa.gov/QwarWG

Rights

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Publisher

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Contributor

Joseph-Siffred Duplessis

Format

Medium: Painting

Language

English

Type

Figures

Identifier

Postal

Coverage

Historic

Files

Benjamin_Franklin_by_Joseph-Siffred_Duplessis.jpg

Reference

Joseph-Siffred Duplessis, First United States Postmaster Benjamin Franklin, Metropolitan Museum of Art, ca. 1778

Cite As

Joseph-Siffred Duplessis, “First United States Postmaster Benjamin Franklin,” Virtual Museum of Public Service, accessed August 20, 2022, https://vmps.omeka.net/items/show/77.