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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Special Delivery

Earlier this year I discovered a piece of the past that has loads of charm and a good back story. That’s all it takes to pique my curiosity.

Have you ever heard of Mailsters? Officially called Westcoaster Mailsters. They were three-wheeled vehicles used for mail delivery in the USA in the 1950s and 60s.

I discovered these darling little cars quite by accident while in a post office I’d never been in before. (As you may know, this is how I find many blog topics: by stumbling upon something intriguing.)

This model was from 1966, after various modifications to the original design had been made:

I love the design of anything from the 1950s and 60s: the rounded corners of things made in that decade make everything look friendlier. There’s something so charming about the design itself. It looks like an adorable toy! It reminds me a bit of another vehicle that has fascinated me for years: the Isetta. (I actually once drafted a blog post on the darling Isetta but it’s been on back burner for a while. Three years, if we want to split hairs. I’ve been a little busy…Perhaps this post will kick me into gear on the Isetta post!)

Like most inventions, the Mailster was created in order to save effort and time, and therefore money. Some carriers rode bicycles to deliver mail but most walked. By driving Mailsters, which could carry 500 pounds of mail, postal carriers could cover more ground in less time than they could on foot. In their heyday (1966) there were approximately 17,700 Mailsters in use.

Below is a photo of a 1955 Mailster, before they were designed with doors:

Although it looks like a large toy, the Mailster could travel as fast as 35 miles per hour. Drawbacks to the design included the fact that it only took three inches of snow to render the vehicles unusable. Another issue was the Mailster’s likelihood of tipping over if it rounded a corner too quickly. One carrier even complained that a large dog tipped over his Mailster (the dog must have shared my take that this was a toy). Eventually Jeeps replaced Mailsters because the US Postal Department needed reliable vehicles. I get that. But for the fun factor, I cast my vote with Mailsters.


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