In my days as the country’s first postmaster, I can honestly say there were a lot of new things I introduced to make mail delivery more speedy and dependable. And the only means of transportation we had at our disposal was the horse… no planes, trains, or mail trucks. Yet we still managed to decrease the time it took for a letter to go from New York to Philadelphia!
Now, this latest announcement from this company you call Amazon.com absolutely boggles my mind. What a huge leap this is for me to imagine, going from flying kites to flying robot drones!
As a scientist, I wonder about the practical aspects of all this. How will these drones function? What kind of challenges will they create for current air traffic patterns? How well will they fare in enduring “snow, rain, heat, or gloom of night?”
Speaking of snow and rain, I think it would be proper to comment on this so-called postal carrier’s creed, which actually came about after my time in the 1700s…at least in one way.
The original expression is, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” And, while it is not actually an official motto of the U.S. Postal Service, it has become an unofficial description of the mail carrier’s dedication to their work.
Where did it originate? It is actually an inscription carved in stone at the James Farley Post Office in New York City, at 8th Avenue and 33rd Street. But, its roots go back even further than that!
This inscription was the idea of William Mitchell Kendall of the firm of McKim, Mead & White, the architects who designed the post office in 1896. Kendall explained that the sentence appears in the works of Herodotus and describes the expedition of the Greeks against the Persians under Cyrus, about 500 B.C. The Persians operated a system of mounted postal couriers, and the sentence describes the fidelity with which their work was done. Professor George H. Palmer of Harvard University supplied the translation, which he considered the most poetic of about seven translations from the Greek.
But, back to the main topic at hand: my biggest concern is, what does this “drone” invention mean for the future of the Postal Service? In light of budget cutbacks and increased competition from private carriers, is it any wonder the Postal Service is having a harder and harder time staying afloat? I would hope that the drones are not the straw that break the camel’s back and hasten the end of personal, human-provided postal delivery services.
Your humble servant,