Neither rain, nor wind, nor driving snow will stop the delivery of the mail. Nor, apparently, will disgusting items; heavy items; bizarre items; or the fact that the item is a living human being. Here are some of the strangest things people have successfully sent through the mail.
When the U.S. Postal Service began delivering packages in 1913, it didn’t take long for people to realize that it was cheaper to mail their children than it was to buy them train tickets. One such couple, Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Beauge of Glen Este, Ohio, paid $15 cents in stamps to send their son to his grandmother’s house. If this sounds a little foolish, not to worry: the couple also insured their son for $50.
It didn’t take long for the Postal Service to outlaw the practice of shipping children, but certain Postmasters were inclined to be lenient. During this time period, one couple even successfully mailed a 14 lb baby to its grandma. Finally, in 1915, the straw that broke the camel’s back came when May Pierstorff, just shy of her 6th birthday, was over 73 miles away to her grandparents’ house. After that, the Postal Service declared an all-out ban on child delivery. Neither rain, nor wind, nor driving snow will stop the delivery of the mail. Nor, apparently, will disgusting items; heavy items; bizarre items; or the fact that the item is a living human being. Here are some of the strangest things people have successfully sent through the mail.
1916, there was no law against shipping an entire building through the mail, because no one thought that someone would attempt it. They didn’t count on William H. Coltharp, a man with a dream to build a bank and a limited shipping budget. He calculated that the best way to send his bricks to his construction site, 127 miles away, was via the U.S. mail. He had 40 crates packed just under the 50 lb limit, for a total shipment of 40 tons.
The Utah post office was overwhelmed, but to their credit, successfully completed the job. However, the episode prompted the then-Postmaster, General Burleson, to limit the weight one person could send to 200 lbs per day. “It is not the intent of the United States Postal Service that buildings be shipped through the mail,” he wrote
The Hope Diamond
The most expensive item to ever be shipped through the mail was the Hope Diamond, the rare, blue, possibly-cursed diamond whose ownership records date back over almost four centuries. After passing through the hands of Kings, Queens, royal mistresses, thieves, and jewelers, the gem wound up in the hands of New York merchant Harry Winston in 1958. Winston never believed that the diamond was cursed, and in fact exhibited it for several years in his “Court of Jewels” tour. He eventually donated it to the National Museum of Natural History, not because he feared a curse, but because he hoped to establish a U.S. national gem collection.
Not a man of great fussiness, apparently, Winston wrapped the diamond in brown paper and shipped it through ordinary post. He paid $2.44 for postage and about $142 for insurance. The diamond arrived at its destination safe and sound, and was given a new name, Specimen #217868.
A pet chameleon
While you can’t send a cat, dog, or child through the mail anymore, there are a few live animals that actually can be sent. In 1954, an Ohio man known only as “David” decided that his pet chameleon would be much happier in Florida. A few weeks after sending it on its way, he received the following note from Orlando’s then-Postmaster: “Dear David, I received your chameleon yesterday and he was immediately released on the post office grounds. Best wishes for a Merry Christmas!” For those curious, other live animals that can be mailed include bees, scorpions, chickens, fish, and animals smaller than 20 inches. You can view a complete list here.
For centuries, people have tried to push the envelope (get it?) of what can and cannot be sent through the mail. In 2000, a team of social scientists decided to test the Post Office’s limits once again. Researchers mailed themselves items ranging from a single ski; a green coconut; a street sign; a wheel of rancid cheese; a deer tibia; and…a human molar. All of the items, including the molar, arrived intact to their destinations.
The tooth was the only item with which the postal service apparently had some deliberation. While the rest of the items shipped within 7 business days, the tooth took twice as long to arrive. Finally, it was delivered in a repackaged mailer with an accompanying note: “Please be advised that human remains may not be transported through the mail, but we assumed this to be of sentimental value, and made an exception in your case.”
50,000 pink panties
In 2009, a right-wing Indian group called the Sri Ram Sena attacked young women in a nightclub. The group accused the women of destroying Hindu culture by dressing provocatively, and promised to enact more violence on Valentine’s Day. Although the attack was caught on film and received some media attention, it would likely had been forgotten had not one group, the Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women, decided it was time to take action.
The group started the Pink Chaddi campaign, a movement that invited women to mail the SRS a pair of pink “chaddi”, or “undies”, in protest. The movement spread across the nation, with thousands of women sending in, er, contributions. At the time of this writing, organizers have received more than 50,000 colored panties, with about 2,000 winding up in the SRS mailbox. The SRS eventually withdrew its threat of Valentine’s Day violence, and several members were placed into custody by an embarrassed government.
A human foot
This story happened in gentle, peaceful Canada, where everyone loves their politicians. Just kidding. Politicians are hated everywhere, and one dissatisfied voter decided to express his disagreements with then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper by mailing in a severed human foot. According to Ottawa police spokesman Marc Soucy, the package was shipped despite what appeared to be bloodstains on the outside of the box. Staff members then called the police.
Hours later, authorities discovered a second suspicious package containing a human hand at the Ottawa Postal Terminal Tuesday night, which police confirmed was sent from the same origin as the foot. They declined to say where the package was being shipped, the condition of the appendage, or whether had been postmarked.