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Pneumatic Tube Mail System


Delivering mail between Chicago’s publish workplaces at the flip of the century really sucked.


Chicago Tribune August 25, 1904

OPENING CHICAGO’S NINE MILES OF PNEUMATIC MAIL TUBES.

From immediately, the statisticians will increase Chicago’s record of the “largest things in the world” by the addition of its “nine miles long” system of pneumatic postal tubes, which formally was opened yesterday at the short-term postoffice in the presence of 500 federal, state, county, and metropolis officers, railroad and enterprise men. The first “mail” dispatched by means of the twelve inch brass tubes was a silk American flag. It was followed by a bouquet of roses addressed to Postmeaster Common Payne. It took the mail less than three minutes to travel from the Twenty-second Road postal station to the short-term postoffice on the lake entrance. The first letter was addressed to President Roosevelt, and was signed by Postmaster Basic Payne, Postmaster Coyne, and Senators Cullom and Hopkins, who have been present.


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The first day of the Chicago postal pneumatic tube service: 24 August 1904
On the fitting Postmaster Frederick E. Coyne places the first bundle of mail right into a pneumatic service; observe its giant diameter compared with European variations. On the left is R. W. Morrell, a pneumatic tube skilled. The Chicago postal pneumatic tube ran between the submit office and the Winslow rail station. The tubes have been rented from the Chicago Pneumatic Tube Firm.


The tubes just opened are eight.9 miles lengthy and join the brand new postoffice, momentary postoffice, Chicago and Northwestern Depot, La Salle Road Depot, Union Depot, Illinois Central Depot, Twenty-second Postal Station, Armour Postal Station, and Stockyards Postal Station. The Twenty-second Road and Armour stations have been the primary opened for the service.

The system is operated by compressed air, the mail being transported in giant rectangular leather bins, metallic mounted. The system was constructed by the Chicago Postal Pneumatic Tube Service Firm, which can receive $119,625 yearly for the service. The tubes drastically will facilitate the handling of mail in Chicago. Where hours have been required for the transportation of mail to and from the varied stations has been dispatched via the tubes, the first letter taken out of the identical bag may have been assorted and started on its vacation spot. Delays created by the buildup of mail in addition to by its sluggish transportation will probably be carried out away with.


FROM

TO

MILES

New Common Publish Office, Dearborn, Adams and Clark Streets and Jackson Blvd

Momentary Publish Workplace, Washington St and Lake Front

0.670

New Basic Submit Office, Dearborn, Adams and Clark Streets and Jackson Blvd

Illinois Central Railroad Depot

1.020

New Common Publish Office, Dearborn, Adams and Clark Streets and Jackson Blvd

Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Depot

zero.570

Illinois Central Railroad Depot

Twenty-second Road Station

1.130

Twenty-second Road Station

Armour Postal Station, 3017 Indiana Av.

1.250

Armour Postal Station, 3017 Indiana Av.

Stock Yards Station

2.650

Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad Depot

Station U, Union Depot

0.430

Short-term Publish Workplace

Chicago and Northwestern Depot

1.160

TOTAL

8.880


July 31, 1905

REPORT OF THE POSTMASTER-GENERAL.

CHICAGO.
The tube service is now working satisfactorily and is a function of the service that has resulted in a betterment of the mail amenities. Fifteen minutes’ time is gained within the dispatches to outgoing trains at the Union depot, Northwestern Depot, Illinois Central Depot, and La Salle Road depot, after the standard time for closing mails despatched by the screen-wagon service, and a corresponding achieve on incoming mails from the identical depots. About 80 per cent of the mails for the town of Chicago is acquired and dispatched by the trains using these depots.

The pneumatic-tube system at Chicago consists of three strains from the brand new Authorities constructing: To short-term post-office and Kinzie Road Station (Chicago and Northwestern depot), 1.83 miles; to La Salle Road depot and Station U (Union depot), 1 mile; to Illinois Central depot, Twenty-second Road Station, Armour Station and Inventory Yards Station, 6.05 miles; a complete of eight.88 miles, and has been in operation from September 12 and 19, 1904, between the short-term post-office, La Salle Road depot, and Illinois Central depot; from October 3, 1904, between Illinois Central depot, Twenty-second Road Station, and Armour Station; from November 28, 1904, between Armour Station and Inventory Yards Station; from December 12, 1904, between La Salle Road depot and Station U; and from March 16, 1905, between the short-term post-office and Kinzie Road Station.

Since these strains have been in operation, and up to July 27, 1905, the reviews present that 717,510,806 items of mail have been carried by tube, a day by day average of 2,642,701 pieces, the transit time of which was expedited on a mean of fifteen minutes, and superior delivery and dispatch thereby secured. A system of beneath floor tubes completely inside the management of the postal service, used solely within the transportation of mails, free from depredation en route and the interruption of congested road visitors within the a part of the town the place the primary post-office should of necessity be situated, is value greater than may be properly proven in any calculation of minutes and money.

The pneumatic-tube system at Chicago isn’t absolutely perfected. Its first few months of operation have indicated defects and that improvements have been required. These enhancements have been given such consideration by the contracting company and its officers that these days there are but few interruptions to the service from accidents or different causes. The character of the construction has l)een significantly changed. It’s now the apply to put the bends in bricked chambers, referred to as “manholes,” so that prepared access to them is offered, and manholes have been put in at intervals of about. 350 ft. Now when from any trigger a service turns into lodged in the tube, it may be gotten at from a manhole not to exceed 175 ft distant, and with jointed rods pressure might be exerted to dislodge it or draw it again to the open area, whence it will possibly betaken out of the tube. Thus as an alternative of looking blindly for a “stuck” service, perhaps in a piece of pipe a thousand ft long, with the resultant delay, the new development permits an early recovery of the stuck service and the opening of the line for normal enterprise with out pointless delay. Bends of a better character are getting used and an improved sort of terminal receiving equipment has been invented and adopted.

The occupancy of the brand new post-office, about October 15, 1905. will remove a critical handicap from the tube service, as there’ll then be three strains of tube obtainable to ship the two,642,000 pieces of mail every day, whereas at the short-term post-office the good bulk of the mail have to be sent over two strains and unequally distributed between the 2, because the northwestern line carries however 20 per cent of the tube mail and the road by way of the brand new post-office carries the opposite 80 per cent.

The postal officers urge the extension of the tube service to numerous further giant postal stations in the northern and western sections of the town. The tube service from the overall post-office reaches north just one.83 miles and west but 1 mile. The extensions requested (but, by no means put in) are as follows:

FROM

TO

MILES

Kinzie road Station, C&NW depot

Lincoln Park Station

1.750

Lincoln Park Station

Lakeview Station

2.250

Kinzie road Station, C&NW depot

Carpenter road Station

1.031

Carpenter road Station

Wicker Park Station

2.000

Station U, Union Depot

Station C, 112 W. Chicago Av

1.188

Station C, 112 W. Chicago Av

Station D (Unknown Location)

1.094

Station U, Union Depot

Pilsen station

2.031

Station D (Unknown Location)

Douglas Park Station, Western avenue close to Twelfth St

1.460

TOTAL

12.744


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Pneumatic tube terminals on the Fundamental Chicago Submit Workplace about 1910.


In 1907 U.S. Postal Inspectors issued a report masking the Pneumatic Tube Service during which it was said:

This is the costliest technique of mail transportation in use these days, and the Inspectors very much doubt whether the advantages obtained are commensurate with the heavy expense.

As said earlier the entire Pneumatic Tube System was leased to the Submit Workplace Department, and the contract was renewed periodically. Resulting from this technique, the Congress had to authorize the appropriation. Congress reviewed annual studies as a way to decide if the service ought to be continued.

The Postal Appropriations Invoice of June 30, 1899, prohibited any new contracts for Pneumatic Tube Service. This prohibition continued till June 30, 1901. Subsequently, suspension of service occurred in all cities in from July 1, 1901, by means of June 30, 1902.

Some early Congressional limitations positioned on the Pneumatic Tube System have been:

Contracts have been written for four years or much less;
There have to be a positive annual report by the Postmaster Common;
No contract might be for greater than 4% of the gross postal income.

After June 30, 1904, renewals had to be offered for within the annual appropriations invoice. By imposing these restrictions Congress positioned a ceiling on the price.


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A typical pneumatic mailing tube canister. Empty, the cylinders weighed 18 kilos. Every might hold a pounds of mail, or about 346 letters. The Cylinders went 25 to 30 m. p. h.


In 1906 the pneumatic tube contract expired. The federal government was unable to secure bids in a number of cities. Their suggestion was for the service to be discontinued in: Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and St. Louis; nevertheless, it must be continued in New York City. On the insistence of the Pneumatic Tube corporations and because of the political strings which will have been pulled, the contracts have been extended by the Postmaster Common till June 30, 1916, and later extended by Congress until March 3, 1917. The final extension ended June 30, 1918.

A committee report back to the Postmaster Basic October 13, 1916, found the following in relation to the Pneumatic Tube System:
Benefits:

1. Excessive fee of velocity between stations for limited portions of mail.
2. Freedom from surface congestion.

Limitation and drawbacks:

1. Solely five kilos of mail might by carried in every container; and all courses of mail couldn’t be carried.
2. The minimum time between dispatches is 15 seconds permitting only 20 kilos of letter mail each minute. Subsequently, car service can be required to carry mail during heavy volume occasions.
three. The lack to carry particular delivery parcels because of the measurement of the carriers.
four. The relays at station are inbuilt delays but they are unavoidable requiring all stations to be manned and open during operation.
5. The lack to dispatch between intermediate stations throughout steady transmission between any two points,
6. Incapability to dispatch to railroad corporations without further handling.
7. Complaints ensuing from careless locking and unintentional opening of container in transit inflicting damaged mail.
eight. Dampness and oil injury to mail.
9. Service interruptions block a whole line.
10. Congestion from heavy mail volumes.
11. Gear takes up rented building area.
12. Extreme prices
13. Competition from new motor vans, which are replacing the horse and wagon mail rigs.


In the long run, it was President Woodrow Wilson who killed Chicago’s pneumatic tubes. As a result of the tubes served the U.S. Submit Workplace, they wanted federal funding, and not everyone in Washington thought it was a superb use of money. In 1918, Wilson vetoed funding for postal tubes in Chicago and other cities. He stated the tubes have been outdated, and that it was inexpensive to transport mail by truck. Chicago nonetheless used the tubes as late as the mid 1930’s.


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A pattern of a cancelled stamp that went via the Chicago Pneumatic Tubes at the Chicago & Northwestern Depot in 1910. Several totally different Chicago tube markings are recognized. One is a hand-stamp mark in three strains reading “N. Western Tube Sta.-Transit.” Others, comparable to “La Salle St. Tube Sta.,” ran as the bottom line in common machine-applied round cancellations.