Friday, July 11, 2008

The Bank That Was Sent Through the Post Office

It's Fun Friday -- time for some fun for the weekend. Enjoy today's post and I'll see you back here on Monday with more philatelic news and notes.

"The Parcel Post Bank"
Vernal, Utah

The U.S. Post Office allows its customers to mail many things besides the familiar letter. A customer can send plants, insects, some types of live animals and some dead ones, too. A direct marketing research company surreptitiously mailed a football, a claw hammer, and even a water ski, with nothing other than adequate postage and a delivery label attached to it, just to see what happened. All were delivered with some chastisement from the destination postal clerk about the items needing to be properly wrapped. But the strangest thing to be sent through the mail was a bank. And not a child's piggy bank, but a savings institution.

Of course, the entire bank couldn't be sent through the mail system, as there are the obvious logistics of moving the building. But the next best thing was mailed -- all of the bricks used to construct the bank, all 80,000 of them.

On January 1, 1913, Parcel Post Service was inaugurated in the United States. This service provides for the shipment of packages between two places. Parcel post service was ideal for rural Americans, who could now use the post office as a delivery method to get packages sent through the mail. Farmers and rural craftsmen especially loved the convenience that it afforded them to get their products to market. City dwellers also used the service at a phenomenal rate. It was one of the most popular services added to basic mail service.

"it is not the intent of the United States Postal Service that buildings be shipped through the mail."
Mr. W. H. Coltharp, a young businessman in the town of Vernal, Utah, wanted to build a building and dedicate it to the memory of his father. After consulting with the directors of the local lending institution in the city, Coltharp proceeded with plans to build a building in which the front corner would be used as a new bank.

The bricks which Coltharp selected were made by the Salt Lake Pressed Brick Company, located about 120 miles away from Vernal, Utah by straight line, and even longer on the trails that weaved through Utah. Coltharp's problem was that the freight costs to haul 80,000 bricks from Salt Lake City to Vernal was prohibitive. The freight charges to ship the bricks to Vernal were about 4 times more expensive than what the bricks cost. In a stroke of creative genius, Coltharp decided he would have the bricks mailed to the small town, taking advantage of the cheap parcel post rates.

In order to meet the postal regulations of the day, Coltharp had the bricks carefully packaged in crates weighing less than 50 pounds, the upper limit of what the post office would permit. News accounts indicate that 40 or so crates were shipped each time, meaning that each attempted shipment was equivalent to one ton.

The trek from Salt Lake City had to take a very circuitous route in order to get to Vernal. First, the bricks were sent to Mack, Colorado, using the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. From there, they went to Watson, Colorado by way of a narrow gauge railroad. Finally the bricks were hauled the final 65 miles to Vernal by freight wagon. The total length of this route was over 400 miles.

As the post offices began to get overwhelmed by the cartons of bricks, the postmasters began to get frantic. Ultimately the entire quota of bricks were delivered, but the post office changed their regulations. The new rules stipulated that the sender and receiver could only ship or receive a total of 200 pounds of goods in a single day. In a clarification of the rule, the postal administration indicated that "it is not the intent of the United States Postal Service that buildings be shipped through the mail."

The Bank of Vernal was completed and was nicknamed "The Parcel Post Bank" by some of the town's residents. The building still exists and is still used as a bank; it now serves as a branch office of Zion's Bank and is located on West Main Street in the city of Vernal.

Previous Fun Friday Posts

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Think you mean "Watson, UT", not "Watson, CO". Watson, now a ghost town, was once the terminus of the "Crookedest Railway in the West", the Uintah Railway. .