‘I Sent a Letter...’
GOVERNMENT SERVICE—AND YOU
A close-up of the operation of the most widespread business in Canada
NORMAN REILLY RAINE
IF YOU have a friend in Dawson, or Aklavik, or Timbuctoo, and desire to wish him well, you write a letter, stamp it and drop it in the post. That is all. The further adventures of your letter, whether under the Aurora Borealis behind a steaming dog team, or aboard a swaying, grunting camel caravan over the Sahara Desert, do not cause you a thought. To get that letter to its proper destination is not your concern; it is the job of the Post Office people—and your mind does not harbor the slightest doubt that they will do it successfully. What has instilled in the public heart that sublime confidence in the Post Office? Service, twenty-four hours in the day, year in and year out, and, considering the magnitude of its operations, service with astonishingly few flaws.
We feel that we know more about the Post Office than any other department of the Federal Government, because it is closer to us. It is the courier of our hopes and joys and sorrows. It brings us news of dear friends. It helps us to transact our business. Other departments serve certain national spheres specifically and the Dominion generally. The Post Office serves every individual Canadian many times in the year. It is the biggest business in Canada, with 12,400 places of service, and 9,000,000 customer-shareholders. The manufacturer makes up his thousands of consignments, and under the Postal C.O.D. system the Post Office delivers them and collects the money. If Jimmie has gone West to the harvest and wants his spare work shirts sent on, the Post Office will get them to him. It is as general and as intimate as that.
TPO MANY people, what happens to a letter after it is dropped in a post box is a dark mystery. What occurs, however, is simple. It is collected and taken to the post office, where it is faced up—that is, the jumbled mass of letters is picked over and the addresses all faced one way, to facilitate sorting and stamp cancellation.
The sender who faces his own letters and ties them with string before they are posted has the jump on his competitor, for such mail will always receive first attention in any post office. Cancelling machines take the letters at the rate of hundreds per minute. When the stamps are cancelled the letters go to the primary
sorters who divide them according to country, province, city, and so on. Here again, you may save precious seconds, if your mail is considerable, by having it sorted in your office and tied in bundles on which is marked the province to which they are consigned—Manitoba, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island and so on, and with mail for the larger cities, such as Montreal, Saskatoon, Vancouver, Halifax and others also sorted. A train may be caught in a matter of seconds; it may also be missed by seconds—and a missed train sometimes means twenty-four hours delay and a disappointed customer. A little co-operation between your office and the Post Office would have obviated this.
This primary or rough sorting is continued, where necessary, on the railway mail cars as they speed across the country. There, a staff of clerks works to have the mail ready for all the stations en route, their sorting even
going to the length, on some routes, of separating the mail into individual mail carrier’s city routes, or ‘walks’ as they are known. By this means, precious hours are saved business, and the mail as it comes off the train goes right into the mailman’s bag and is delivered early in the morning instead of waiting until a later or even an afternoon delivery, as might otherwise be the case, if it had to go to the post office for final sorting.
Final sorters in the post offices separate the mail into the various city walks, ready for the carriers to take out. These sorters work at high speed, and are required to have accurate knowledge of the streets and numbers in the districts assigned to them. Sorters, primary and final, must stand yearly examinations, both practical and written, to hold their jobs. A primary sorter, according to the province he handles, may be required to be familiar with the names of more than three thousand post offices and unerringly and swiftly place letters in their proper pigeonholes in the ‘frame’. Some sorters of long experience know every post office, village, and town in two or three provinces. The final sorters are required to memorize the numbers at the various corners within the walks they sort, for confusion means delay and that is not tolerated in the Post Office service. Every sorter and post office supervisor must pass ninety per cent, in the annual distribution examination, and eighty-five per cent, in the written examination . on postal rules and regulations. Obviously, there is no room for guesswork.
Much of the good work of business firms in facing and sorting their mail is undone by careless office boys or other members of their staffs. One large concern which the Post Office knew, made a particular point of this form of co-operation, and whose daily outgoing mail was particularly heavy, was surprised to receive a telephone call from its local postmaster, which stated that the mail was being received in the utmost confusion, necessitating entire rehandling, facing and sorting. Enquiry revealed that the office boys, whose duty it was to take the mail to the post office, were unable to get the tied bundles into the mail box. So they broke the string and shuffled them in anyhow, thus completely defeating the purpose of their employers. This practice immediately was checked and efficiency re-established.
There is a keen spirit of responsibility among Post Office employes regarding the safe-keeping and speedy delivery of mail, which might be envied by many a commercial house. Occasionally great hardship is endured, and courage of a high order demonstrated.
One day last October, Mail Courier Jack Eaton was driving his mail-laden motor car between Bentley and Rimbey, in Alberta. As he was crossing the Blindman River, the car mechanism broke and the car plunged through the rail at the side of the bridge carrying the courier, a passenger and the mails into the river below.
The waters were high and swift, but the mail courier and his passenger made their escape through the hroken wind-shield. Eaton’s first thought, on freeing himself, was to secure the mails which were in danger of being carried away by the swift current. By diving several times into the icy stream he managed to salvage all but one bag which, as it happened, contained registered mail. Of this he could find no trace, so continued his rounds and delivered the mail he had saved. In the meantime the assistant postmaster at Rimbey, H. Browne, secured a boat and continued the search for the missing mail bag. It was located at length a mile below the bridge, and he sat up all night and ‘baked’ it, so that it would be in condition to be delivered first thing the following day.
Instances are numerous, where muddy roads or deep snow drifts prevent rural mail carriers using cars or horse rigs. They will not be beaten, however, but shoulder their bags and walk over their routes, one man, H. Govier, of Auburn, Ontario, packing his load for fourteen miles over well-night impassable roads for two days in succession. As an exhibition of esprit de corps, this appears to ring the bell.
The loneliest post office in Canada is on Bache Peninsula, far up in the Arctic Circle and only about 700 miles from the Pole. The total population of this desolate dot in the frozen wastes consists of a priest, a trapper or two, a post of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, one of whom is postmaster, and a few wandering Eskimos. Mail is delivered once a year by the government steamer which takes up food and supplies, and the only reason for occupying the place is that it might one day be a base for air mail proceeding from Europe across the top of the world to Asia.
The north shore of the St. Lawrence Gulf, extending along the Labrador coast is another mail route that gives
a lot of trouble, and many a lonely epic is enacted as the mail couriers drive their mail-laden dog sleighs through 800 miles of ice and storm and blizzard, on the regular winter trips. This stretch, from Hamilton Cove to Lourdes du Blanc Sablón, because of the nature of the country traversed and climatic conditions encountered, entails more of hardship than any other mail route in Canada, although the delivery from Edmonton north to Aklavik by way of Lake Athabaska, the Peace River, Great Slave Lake, Mackenzie, Arctic Red and Peel Rivers to the Arctic Ocean runs it a close second.
Here again dog teams are called into play, when the snow flies; and canoes, portages, punts,
Red River carts and Indian pack carriers further the mail in warmer weather. Mail ser-
vice to this far distant point is constant the year round, except for the months of April and September, when the ice breaks and forms, and no man’s life is safe. Inspection trips to these far outposts of Canada’s mail service are made periodically, to guarantee that, so far as is humanly possible, the mail will be delivered to those desolate souls to whom it means more perhaps than cold print can convey.
Lost, Stolen, Or Strayed
OT so long ago the Postmaster General received a letter from a woman in the United States which read: ‘Dear Sir: Can you tell me if there is two young ladies that came there from Belfast, England, about two years ago.’ The names of the young ladies were not given, you will notice, but later were supplied at the request of the postal authorities. A short time later, the Postmaster-General was able to write to the person concerned and -tell her that details of the ladies’ whereabouts could be obtained from the Salvation Army in Toronto. Two immigrants located in all Canada on such meager information! Once the names were supplied the rest was easy. A note to the Immigration Department from the Post Office soon ascertained that the two named ladies had landed from Ireland about the time stated, together with their subsequent disposal. Quite simple—when you know how.
Eight years ago a man lived in Ottawa for a few weeks then moved on. Recently a letter arrived for him, the envelope giving only his name and the general address, ‘Ottawa’. A few days later, the letter was delivered in Winnipeg to the proper recipient, now resident in that city, and it proved of the greatest importance to him.
How^vas he traced after eight years? The letter was shown successively to the Ottawa carriers in the hope that someone would recollect the name. One did, but could not remember the forwarding address, and there was no record. He happened to remember a business associate of the bird-of-passage, however, and in that way the man was traced.
A number of strange requests
are received by the Post Office, particularly with respect to tracing missing persons. A New Zealand woman wrote: “My uncle, James
Johnson, left County Antrim thirty years ago for Canada.
What is his present address, please?” Another plaint from Tennessee said: “I am trying to locate my father, John Anderson. Do you know anyone of that name?” Obviously, nothing can be done in such cases, but wherever success is possible an effort is made.
An Eastern Canadian sought news of a brother who . went to Saskatchewan in 1910, but after moving from place to place dropped from sight. After sixteen years, the department was able not only to tell a questioner that the man had died in the United States two years previously, but to give a detailed account
of his movements before death, name the fatal disease, place of burial and state many other particulars of interest to his relatives. Foreigners moving from place to place have been successfully located. One foreigner was traced who had changed his name and then moved. But he was found in a Western city, through enquiry, by the letter carrier among his fellow-countrymen.
One of the most annoying problems faced by the Post Office is that of deciphering bad handwriting and supplying deficiencies in mail inadequately addressed. Most of the addresses which are difficult to decipher are from foreign countries addressed to foreigners here, but a surprisingly large number of our. own people are offenders also, and will drop mail in the box addressed only with the name and street—not even the town or province being included. In case after case, these letters are correctly delivered, but only after arduous search through endless directories of street names, in cities and towns of the Dominion.
In every town and city post office, are men whose sole duty consists in looking up inadequate addresses, and making good the carelessness of thoughtless senders. Slovenliness seems to increase at ■Christmas time—the most inconvenient season of course— but the constant educational publicity issued by the department is having its effect; and •despite the constantly increasing use of the mails the ratio of letters which go to the Dead Letter Office is decreasing yearly. The proportion of mail reaching the Dead Letter Office to-day is one in 764. The average during the previous ten years was one in 428—a decrease of forty-two per cent. But, at that, nearly two million pieces ■of mail were sent to the D.L.O. last year.
It is curious that people will be so careless about addressing and return-addressing, even when money and . valuable articles are involved. The cash contained in dead letters last year was $19,451.07, of which it was possible to return $17,701.22 to the owners. Only $1,749.85 could not be traced, and this was deposited to the credit of the Receiver General.
The resumption of ‘penny postage’, while of tremendous benefit to the public of Canada was a temporary ‘twixt wind-and-weather’ shot at the good ship Postal Finance. Two cent postage means a saving to our citizens •of $5,000,000 annually, but the first year of its operation will, it is estimated, change a profit estimated at $3,000,O00, on the operation of the Post Office Department, to a $2,000,000 deficit. Like all big business, however, it is building on the future, following that sound business principle which reduces price to increase turnover. The effect already is seen, for many large concerns which, when three cent postage for letter mail was in force, solicited business through circulars, now are taking advantage of the two cent letter rate and increasing the quantity of their appeals.
Canadian business and the Post Office are so interdependent and interlocking that the activity of the one is a fair indication of the progress of the other. Imagine
what would happen to business if all postal communication suddenly shut down. There would be swift chaos and disaster. Likewise, the organization of the department on its present scale is supported mainly by the volume of material which passes through its hands from various business houses. It is natural, therefore, that a great share of the activity of the Post Office should be bent toward the facilitation of business affairs and the stimulation of trade.
The distribution of printed matter by direct mail is a method of securing business which increasingly is being practised, and an efficient mailing list is
the keynote of this distribution. But, aside from the larger cities where directories are available, the compiling of mailing lists is an expensive proceeding, far beyond the purse of smaller concerns, with more or less local organizations. The Post Office, by utilizing its wide-spread facilities in the gathering of names and compiling of lists of users of the mails has achieved two objects; it has filled a longneeded want in the business world and saved itself the burden of handling the large amount of inadequately addressed mail which came back to it as a result of faulty mailing lists, and had to go through the Dead Letter Office. The mailing lists prepared by the Post Office give the names and occupations of householders and boxholders in places other than cities. The system is complete and efficient, and if a New Brunswick or Nova Scotia merchant or manufacturer wishes to canvass a certain part of British Columbia, or Alberta or any other part of the Dominion he has only to ask his local postmaster for a list of the required district, from which he makes up his individual mailing list.
The data prepared by the Post Office are arranged according to electoral districts, each volume containing about 5,000 names, and as occupations are included, it is easy for business houses to prepare strictly classified lists; doctors, farmers, garage proprietors, and other occupations being separated as required. For the convenience of manufacturers and others wishing to send mail or circulars in blocks, addressed simply ‘Householder’ or ‘Boxholder’, additional ‘number’ lists are available. These give the number of householders and boxholders receiving mail at individual post offices and the numbers of patrons on each of the rural mail routes. The circular mail destined for these places is sent out in bundles with the postage prepaid. For example, if one hundred circulars are being sent to a certain small office at the rate of one cent each, a one dollar stamp may be placed on the label fastened to the bundle. The postmaster to whom they are sent simply checks the postage with the contents and distributes to his patrons, the only address Continued on page 78
Continued from page 20
on the circulars being ‘Householder’.
The post card as a business-getter is well recognized, and in order to allow it wider scope the Post Office Department inaugurated the one-half cent business reply card, to be sent out with advertising matter. This entails a great saving to business, for a considerable proportion of such cards inevitably falls on dead ground. The one-half cent rate also was extended to circulars for local distribution, soliciting business and marked simply ‘Householder’ or ‘Boxholder’. The idea behind this policy, of course, is increased trade, but it is also sound from an economic standpoint, a considerable saving being made in time and labor which otherwise would have to be put into sorting individually addressed circulars.
The growth and popularity of parcel post is apparent in the amount of
this business done since its inception in 1914. In a country of wide areas and sparse population, such as Canada, the cheap conveyance of parcels is a necessity as well as a comfort. The system was introduced primarily to assist in the building up of inter-provincial business and to knit more closely the fabric of our trade; and with that object in view its operation would be justified even if run at a financial loss. Fortunately, the rates charged, while reasonable, are sufficient to provide an efficient, self-supporting service, second to none in the world, which, in addition to more settled points, serves one and one-half million of our citizens away from railways, who have no other means of obtaining goods from outside points.
As methods progress so must the Continued on page 81
Continued from page 78 details of those methods. A practical demonstration of this was afforded in wholesale fashion last Christmas, when thousands of Canadians went to the various post offices with their Christmas bundles and parcels, anticipating the wearisome wait at the wicket that they had known in other years. They were agreeably surprised. Instead of each parcel being weighed and the necessary postage laboriously affixed, the parcels were shot through the window and on the scale. The weighman called the amount, a clerk at a special postal cash register punched the keys, a gummed label with the correct sum stamped on it appeared and was affixed to the parcel, the amount for the full number of parcels automatically was totalled and a dozen packages taken care of in less than the time formerly required for one. Christmas congestion at post office wickets is a thing of the past.
The big business brother of the parcel post is tbe Post Office C.O.D. system, a service which from small beginnings has grown 2,689 per cent, in four years. In October, 1922, the first month of operation, 4,700 C.O.D. articles were mailed. In October, 1926, more than 126,000 articles were sent C.O.D.! The C.O.D. service is a safeguard both to business and the public, and although it met with bitter opposition when it was first put into operation objections have been ironed out, and trade generally has benefited. It has been the means of stimulating the business of the small local merchant who previously stood in fear of the great mail order houses. The retailer who does not issue a catalogue is able to advertise that he will send goods by Post Office C.O.D., and in doing so may have considerable advantage over firms a distance away because of low local zone rates. He does not have to take a chance on being paid, for if payment is not made the parcel is not delivered, and likewise the customer takes no risk in sending money to unknown firms, for he pays only when the goods arrive. Mail order houses as a rule require that cash shall accompany the order so the C.O.D. service performs a useful duty and harms no one.
Repair firms, particularly, take advantage of the C.O.D. service. Repair and spare part jobs generally are ‘rush’ ones and it is not always possible to estimate the cost until the job is done. The Postal C.O.D. eliminates guesswork and saves correspondence and time. Farmers use the service extensively during their rush season, ordering spare and replace parts for agricultural machinery. They telephone the supply firm and the part is on the way by return mail. Some manufacturers sell direct, and use the service the same as retailers. Others use it in despatching small orders to retailers and jobbers. One firm, which specializes in ball bearings for machines of all kinds, uses the service exclusively. Nearly all the orders of this firm are rush ones, and they find that this service best answers their requirements. At present, the business world of Canada is utilizing the Postal C.O.D. to the extent of more than 1,200,000 articles yearly—and is growing fast.
Registration affords the maximum of protection to valuable letters, in that every transaction in which such letters have a part is covered by two signatures —that of the individual from whose care it is passing and that of the person next taking it in charge. If a registered letter disappears, therefore, it is possible at once to bracket and localize the place of disappearance and identify the person in whose hands it was at the time, thus making tracing an easy matter. The registration fee of ten cents on letters for delivery in Canada now carries with it a guarantee of indemnity up to twenty-five dollars, with corresponding indemnity up to one hundred dollars on payment of additional fees. If you wish an ‘Acknowledgment of
Receipt’ upon delivery of the letter you may have it for an additional ten cents, if you ask for it at the time the letter is posted.
This is of valué when dealing with strangers or unscrupulous persons. If the ‘Acknowledgment of Receipt’ is requested after the letter is posted, the fee will be twenty cents—this in addition to the postage and registration costs, of course. For your own protection register all letters of value. Why? Because last year, despite the most rigid watchfulness, a number of letters ‘or their contents, were abstracted, and ninety-two persons were arrested charged with stealing from the mails.
The P.O. Junk-Shop
1P\0WN in the basement of the headquarters of the Post Office^Department at Ottawa, is a store house that, to a second hand junk dealer, would be paradise indeed. Here are kept all the flotsam and jetsam of the Dead Letter Office; an accumulation of articles unclaimed, unwanted, and impossible to sell. In the queer pile are boxes and bottles of drugs, medical and dental supplies, patent medicines, bibles, false teeth, books of all description including a Chinese dictionary, bicycle wheels, cog wheels, iron castings that look as though they might be useful somewhere, a broken mandolin, old clothing, food colorings, cod liver oil, twine holders destined for some country store, photographs, framed in red plush, of Uncle Ephraim and Aunt Sarah taken after the Battle of Lundy’s Lane, a dinged suitcase, skis, pieces of harness and one sample box of shoes—ladies shoes in excellent style and condition—but all for the same foot. This job lot of refuse is the answer to the question of what happens when you don’t address your parcels properly and neglect to put on a return address.
Quite another kind of salvage is that maintained by the Equipment and Supply branch of the Post Office Department. This branch is to the Post Office what the Quartermaster’s department is to the Army. It estimates, purchases, receives, stocks and issues all the supplies required by the Post Office, including letter carrier’s uniforms and equipment, salvages what is useful in old or wornout goods, and puts the saving into service again. Antiquated forms, posters and the like, which changing conditions have scrapped or new regulations rendered void, are not thrown away or destroyed. After a visit to the stationery manufacturers they take a new lease on life, as inter-departmental envelopes. There is printing on the inside, but nobody minds that, for they do . not go out of the department, and money is saved the tax payer. Whatever is usable on the canvas in worn-out mail bags is saved and sent to Kingston Penitentiary, Stony Mountain and Dorchester where the bags are repaired by convict labor. A number of old, weather-beaten army tents, were bought from the Department of Militia and Defence, and the material used in the mailbags, at a saving to the Dominion of about $8,000. Buttons from worn-out uniforms are reburnished, re-lacquered and used again on new equipment. Packing cases, in which are received the material from which uniforms are made, are sold again and bring from thirty to sixty cents each. When mail boxes are brought in, their days of usefulness done, they are stripped of coat of arms, flap, and time schedule, and these ' are refurbished and used again. The remaining metal, or whatever of it is whole, is sheared into strips and used in the repair of other boxes. The residue is sold as scrap. Even odd bags of twine, sent in at intervals by postmasters, are not wasted, but are utilized wherever possible, instead of buying new.
A substantial saving is anticipated by the substitution of small mail boxes for the larger ones now in use, in districts where the amount of mail does not re-
quire large boxes. When a large box in a busy section needs replacing, one is pulled in from the suburbs, and a new small box substituted there. The small boxes are $5.30 cheaper than the old large ones, and when the process of substitution is complete it is estimated that the saving will total more than $30,000. By a system of nation-wide checking of mail bags and the installation of a number of new depositories for the collection of bags not in use, a saving of $125,000 was effected for this item alone. Increased efficiency within the branch made possible a reduction of staff, which lopped more than $12,000 from the annual salary bill.
Every mail carrier is given free, a complete outfit of uniform and equipment when he starts with the Post Office Department, and this is replenished from time to time. He receives a summer suit, a winter suit, two pairs of trousers, a frieze overcoat, fur cap, shirts, collars, straw hat, cloth cap, rubber cape for the protection of the mail, rubber coat, rubber boots ("where required) leather vest and fur collarette for severe climate, and a cash allowance for boots, so that he may buy his own choice of footwear. The material from which suits and overcoats are made is manufactured strictly according to government specifications and bought direct from the mill. Every yard is inspected when it arrives in the building of the Equipment and Supply branch, stamped ‘Canada P.O.’ along the border to prevent substitution, and sold to the clothing contractor to whom the bid for making the garments has been demanded at exactly the price the Government paid for it. The purpose of this is to guarantee that the material in the uniforms shall be up to specifications. Every piece made is inspected, and anything below the specified standard immediately is rejected and the manufacturer has to make good.
Clothing the Post Office force of 4,000 men is a big job, requiring annually 3,800 yards of frieze, 6,000 yards blue melton, 1,000 yards brown melton, 10,000 yards blue serge, and 1,200 yards brown serge. The total annual cost of clothing the force approximates $68,000, but the officials claim that they get their money’s worth.
Efficiency is not alone the prerogative of the Equipment and Supply Branch or the more actively engaged staffs of the other branches. It extends through the organization to that office which has to do with the accounting and auditing of the millions of money orders and postal notes which flow across Post Office counters in the course of the year. Going to all the far corners of the globe, and returning home, frayed and battered travelers, each must , be accounted for, checked, audited and laid away. Here is one that brought comfort and a happy heart to the old mother in the hills of Kildare; another that crossed the great seas to Melbourne, under the Southern Cross; a third that carried a greeting — ‘and a little something for your birthday, John,”—to a Vancouver Island schoolboy. Now, their adventurous journeyings done, they feed the clattering and roaring Hollerith mechanical auditors at the rate of thousands an hour. Girls transfer the information on the forms, by means of punching machines, to cards. The work is terribly monotonous and poorly paid, and the operators are required to work steadily and swiftly with but small margin allowed for error. By great endeavor it is possible for them to earn a bonus over their inade• quate salaries, but increased speed brings more errors, and as mistakes are penalized, bonus-winning is a heart-breaking job. Perhaps some day the minimum wage pundits will concern themselves with this phase of government employment.
The work of the auditing branch is the acme of efficiency in other respects. The cards, at the rate of 2,000,000 a month, after coming from the hands of the operators go to the mechanical adding and auditing machines, where steel performs
the work of the human brain. Next, after automatic machine sorting into their proper classifications they are filed for two years, then destroyed.
The Department’s Sherlock Holmes
THERE are some grim sleuths attached to the Inspection Branch of the Post Office Department, for the protection of the mails against theft. In the United States recently 2,000 marines were attached to guard the mails against bandits, and they proved inadequate. This phase of mail theft is not the one which bothers us here in Canada; it is the sneak thief— he who rifles parcels, abstracts the contents of registered letters, removes ordinary letter mail and after taking whatever of value it contains destroys the rest. And this is the type for which the patient watchers of the Department lie in wait. They are bulldog men, these postal detectives, canny, possessed of infinite tenacity, making sure of their ground, then swooping, noiselessly, and plucking the culprit frojn the midst of his unsuspecting fellows.
Feminine curiosity is responsible for considerable interference with the mails, for offences do not deal with theft alone; they embrace the unauthorized opening of mail—and the feminine mind, particularly in rural post offices, dearly loves to follow the course of a local romance, or discover the business of her neighbors with distant correspondents. A number of methods are used to remove the contents of envelopes without detection; a hairpin slipped under the flap, and the letter within wound around it then pulled through the gaping end of the flap; two pencils used similarly, and the contents replaced in the same manner. Some thieves, by rolling a pencil under the gum at the end of an envelope, top and bottom, instead of straight across the flap, accomplish their purpose with even less chance of detection, for people do not look for tampering with the tightly gummed lower portion of an envelope.
It would not be wise, of course, nor in the public interest, to divulge all the methods by which postal thieves are caught—and there are many; but often it is the very thing which the culprit depends upon to protect him which leads to his betrayal. One particularly successful thief had operated for a considerable time, his being the more frank method of opening the flap of.a letter when he wished to secure the contents. He was on a busy division, where the men around him constantly were changing, and, thought he, with so many coming and going in the course of a year, it would be impossible to detect him.
When complaint is made, however, of the theft of a letter, the first move in its detection is to localize the theft, and to list the names of the people through whom it might have passed. In this way, as thefts continue, and men constantly are changed, one name persistently will bob up. Thus the field narrows. It is a process of elimination from then on."
This man’s name constantly recurred among the staffs on duty when letters were stolen, and he was watched. His private life quietly was investigated, to discover if he was living beyond his means, if he was playing the horses, or otherwise amusing himself. Nothing could be gained there, for the fellow, as he afterward confessed, took only sufficient to enable him to live comfortably, knowing that otherwise suspicion might be directed to him. Moral certainty that he was guilty then dictated the next move— a test letter, sent through the mail in the usual way, and containing marked money. The envelope, sealed, passed through his hands in the routine manner, and passed
out again, sealed, and in such shape that by looking at it there was no possible means of telling that it ever had been opened. He immediately was arrested, however. The detectives knew it had been opened because, when they sealed the envelope before it reached him they gummed down only one side of the flap. The unsuspecting thief, when he resealed it, had moistened the entire flap and sealed it down, thus convicting himself.
Fate occasionally takes a hand in settling the destinies of postal thieves. One man who had succeeded for a long period in evading detection encountered in the mail a letter addressed by a man who had incurred his enmity. The contents of the letter were not particularly valuable, but the thief, unable to resist doing an ill turn—he had recognized the writing of his enemy—rifled the envelope. This letter, ultimately, was the one which led to his conviction, and a sentence of three years imprisonment.
Maudlin sentiment on the part of the public is entirely misplaced, where mail thieves are concerned, because of the circumstances under which money so frequently is transmitted through the mails. Often it is for the purpose of relieving dire need, extricating people out of trouble, and so on, and interference with its arrival may work great hardship upon the needy. Some time ago, a consumptive, recently discharged from a sanitorium, complained to the postal inspector that he had failed to receive money orders which his brother had been in the habit of sending him. In the midst of his complaint he slipped from his chair in a faint—the result of hunger and privation. He was broke and homeless, and utterly despondent. Prompt investigation revealed that the letter carrier had been stealing the money orders and, by forged signatures, converting them to his own use. Yet there were those who condemned his subsequent three-year sentence as unnecessarily harsh!
Periodically, messages and posters of various kinds are distributed by the Post Office Department telling of various ways by which the public may co-operate in the work of making the service efficient. Such things as adding the district number to the address, for cities where the zoning system is in operation, placing the stamp in the upper right corner, where the mechanical canceller can reach it, thus saving loss of time through hand cancellation, putting a return address on letters and parcels to lighten the work of the Dead Letter Office—and incidentally save annoyance to the sender and addressee—all are highly important in the aggregate, although small in themselves. But the magnitude of Post Office operation is only an aggregate of little things, and small individual acts of help by Canadians generally can render the service almost unbelievably deficient. Yublic co-ordination, however, is a sluggish body until aroused. It is like a sleeping Gulliver among the Lilliputians. Strive as they will they cannot move him; but when he awakens, the official Lilliputians make known their wants and the complaisant Gulliver moves with giant’s strides. .
Perhaps we are not sufficiently awake to what is being offered us, and although self-praise is no praise, the opinion of an outsider may give us a new perspective. Not long ago, The Mail Bag, a United States magazine devoted to postal affairs, in commenting on some of the innovations of the Canadian Post Office, particularly with reference to the facilities given Canadian manufacturers for the compilation of mailing lists, remarked that ‘the Canadian Post Office Department is probably the most intelligently advertised and exploited postal service in the world.’