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United States/Covers & Postmarks : return addresses first mandated on US mail

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Stampme
22 Dec 2010
12:10:57am
I'm wondering when the custom or regulation of placing the return address on an envelope became commonplace. But more importantly, I'm wondering why senders rarely placed their return address on the envelope in the 19th Century? Anyone have any theories?
Bruce
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Stampcommune
22 Dec 2010
08:51:10pm
re: return addresses first mandated on US mail

IMO:
Back in the day, when sending mail, there use to be a custom called C.O.D. (Collect On Delivery), so if there was only one address and there wasn't enough postage on it, then it could only be collected from one place, because there most likely wasn't a return address. They were pretty sharp back in those days.
Again, Just My Opinion Though.
Grant

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Stampme
23 Dec 2010
09:25:39am
re: return addresses first mandated on US mail

Thanks, Grant. That's one theory.
Bruce

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Rhinelander
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23 Dec 2010
05:02:18pm
re: return addresses first mandated on US mail

The most obvious explanation is that the postal regulations of past times simply did not require that a return address was included on the outside of the envelope. So, in my opinion, we are not talking about the emergence of a custom but a change in postal regulations. I do not know when return addresses were first required and so I cannot specificly answer the question. One would have to study the mail manuals and postal regulations from years past.

The postal regulations in conjunction with the UPU treaties for international mail have almost all the answers for postal historians. There is of course constant change and what is common knowledge at one time, is soon forgotten and obscure.

Most recently, to give an example, I was wondering about the significance of routing stickers frequently found on mail from the 70s and 80s. At the time, I surmise, we were all familiar with them. The top letter in each pre-sorted bundle received a sticker indicating the destination. And envelopes with such stickers were common place. Now I found myself wondering what the yellow S, the pink X etc, etc. was for. I am sure in the 80s "everybody" knew. And maybe I even knew what they meant at the time. Of course, now I don't remember anymore and, like I said, maybe I never really knew. In any event, I recognize them as routing labels, but what they really mean is lost knowledge. Wish I had kept a copy of the postal directives from back them. Sorry for getting of track here. Just to say: In the 1890s (guessing) when a return address was first mandated, everbody was aware of the change. Nobody saw a need to document anything for a change as trivial and now we scratch our heads.

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Cjd
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23 Dec 2010
05:52:27pm
re: return addresses first mandated on US mail

I think it was just last year that return addresses were first mandated on US mail, for certain commercial mail traveling internationally. This was a response to a UPU requirement.

I don't think there is a general requirement for a return address in the US. At least I don't believe there was as of last year, and I haven't heard of a change.

As for the custom, I have no idea...

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Cdj1122
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Silence in the face of adversity is the father of complicity and collusion, the first cousins of conspiracy..
26 Dec 2010
08:43:58pm
re: return addresses first mandated on US mail

I can say with certainty that in the US virtually all commercial covers bear a return address and the overwhelming majority of private covers (Of the very few that are actually mailed these days) also have some sort of return address either on the front or back.
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However, I sometimes dispair upon receiving an envelope from the UK that shows a great private usage of a stamp and a clear CDS but no trace of a return address
There are even some e-Bay sellers in the UK who will send an item that I have bid on and won with no return address on the outside. There are several who have not even included an address inside that might be used to allow the mail services to complete the envelope's trip from them to me should the intended address be in error.
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There was one recently from England that not only had no return address on the outside, and no indication of either address in the body of the note beyond first names, but the single stamp affixed that would have shown the correct single stamp rate for the usage within the appropriste effective dates, was not cancelled.The sender seemed to have asbsolute faith in both the sorters in her own country, but the mail sorters in the foreign mail reception section of the USPS at the international airport here.
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Fortunately despite our frequent negative comments about Royal Mail and the USPS, as far as I know no mail has been lost. Of course, other than me wondering where some paid for item got off to, there might be letters that went astray and never received. And that is core of the problem.
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I cannot recall in the forty five++ years of stamping as an adult ever receiving an envelope from Ireland or Scandanavia or elsewhere other than the UK that failed to have a complete readable return address. But I have several right now in one of the plastic shoeboxes that act as a repository for interesting covers received that, at this time, I am at a loss to imagine who may have sent them to me unless for some reason I recognise and recall the stamp and its likely source.
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PS: (Keep in mind that I have trouble recalling which of my grandchildren I am about to shout at in the next room.)
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Charlie Jensen
Lecsnto, Florida

(Message edited by cdj1122 on December 26, 2010)

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