Posting People

MayPierstoffCharlotte May Pierstorff’s parents must have been a thrifty couple because 100 years ago they were the first — and last — folks to mail their child in lieu of buying a train ticket.

In 1914, the Pierstorff family lived in Grangeville, Idaho, and wanted to send five-year-old May to visit her grandparents in Lewiston, about 70 miles away. Train fares seemed a little steep, but the new parcel post service introduced by the post office the previous year accepted packages up to 50 pounds. May weighed in at 48 1/2 pounds.

So, for 53-cents in stamps affixed to May’s coat, Mr. and Mrs. Pierstorff “shipped” their daughter in the train’s mail compartment. Leonard Mochel, the clerk on duty in Lewiston, duly delivered her to her grandparents’ house. Once the U.S. post office got wind of the incident, they changed regulations to prohibit shipping humans. Spoil sports!

mailing_may_lgMay’s story was forgotten for many years, but Michael O. Tunnell wrote a children’s picture book about it, Mailing May, in 1997.

If we could still send people by post, how much might it cost today? I’ll assume that most of us would opt for first class mail when it comes to shipping children. Today’s first class rate is 98¢ for the first ounce plus 21¢ per ounce thereafter. At 48.5 pounds, it would cost a whopping $163.94 to mail May in 2014.

By comparison, bus fare from Graingeville to Lewiston comes in at a bargain $16.50, and the journey by coach takes less than two hours (definitely faster than the mail).

Read about May and other odd parcel post deliveries.