The United States Postal Service is, well, the postal service in the United States. (Duh!) Although known by many Internet users as snail mail, it is one of the world's most efficient mail-moving operations, moving billions of letters each year at 32 cents each. Services include First Class Mail, where your mail takes a long time to arrive, Priority Mail, where the mail goes through in 2 days, and Express Mail, an overnight delivery service created to compete with the likes of FedEx.

The USPS uses 5 primary different pieces of equipment to sort mail.

Advanced Facer-Cancelers
These orient mail in the appropriate direction, apply postmarks and separate mail that can be dealt with by other equipment to the appropriate other equipment.
Multiline Optical Character Readers
These read machine-printed addresses on letter mail and print a POSTNET barcode in the lower right-hand corner, as well as performing an initial sort. The OCR equipment they use is actually fairly sophisticated, and definitely very fast.
Mail Processing Barcode Sorters
These read POSTNET barcodes, first checking the lower right-hand corner and then in the address region. (And sort based on that.) These can handle something like 30,000 pieces of mail in an hour -- that's about the same rate that a WWII era machine gun could fire bullets.
Remote Barcoding System
The single most expensive piece of equipment for them to use. Basically, a human reads what the mail says and the equipment puts a POSTNET barcode on it.
Delivery Barcode Sorters and Carrier Sequence Barcode Sorters
these sort barcoded mail into the actual order the carrier takes in their route using a full 11-digit barcode (ZIP+4 code plus 2-digit delivery point)

The United States Postal Service is not a monopoly. It is a federal agency and thus is not bound by anti-trust laws.

Furthermore, a plethora of alternatives are available, FedEx, Airborne and UPS spring to mind immediately. The USPS is, arguably, the best run department in the Federal system. The USPS is the only Federal agency to turn a profit.

Lately they have come under fire for frequently raising the price of postage, however, the price of postage had been virtually unchanged for decades.

Of further note, A recent study I saw on CNN last week stated that postal workers are statistically NOT more prone to violence than workers in other professions.

Update: I have received information correcting my statement about the USPS budget. My informant claims that they are deeply in debt and that is the reason for their recent rate increases. I will admit that my initial information was several years old, but I stand by my claim that they are one of the best run federal agencies.

Professional cycling team, actually owned and managed by Tailwind Sports, which operated under that name from 1997 to 2004 under a sponsorship deal which followed on from the Motorola and 7-Eleven teams which were the USA's main contribution to world-class cycling in the 1980s and 1990s; they were at the time the only American team to have had a consistent presence in the major races in Europe, other than the short-lived Mercury team in 2001. The team's prominence was largely down to Lance Armstrong's run of wins in the Tour de France, although in 2001 George Hincapie's riding in the spring classics led to more effort being put in to other parts of the calendar; the other highlight of the season was the solid performances in the Vuelta a España and the World Championships by Levi Leipheimer, who has since left the team. The team manager, or directeur sportif as they say in American (well, on their website,, anyway) was the canny tactician Johan Bruyneel of Belgium, who took over the reins from Jim Ochowicz in 1999.

Team lineup for 2002

The TLA used by the UCI for the team was USP.

The USPS ceased sponsoring the team at the end of the 2004 season and were replaced as main sponsors by Discovery Channel.

One often hears about the United States Postal Service motto. One of those things that everyone knows. Right?

You know:

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Wrong. The USPS has no official motto, nor has it ever had one.

So what's the story, then?

Like many old municipal buildings (hospitals, city halls, police stations, public schools), post offices have often had inscriptions. Usually some inspirational verse or quote, commonly in Greek or Latin (or derived from one or the other). That famous "motto" that everyone thinks is the USPS creed can be found at the General Post Office (also known as the James A. Farley Post Office or James A. Farley Building, after a Postmaster General) in New York City—on 421 8th Avenue between West 31st and West 33rd streets.

When the architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White designed the building in 1913, one of their people—a William Mitchell Kendall—supplied the now famous quote. According to Kendall, the quote (which would be an appropriate motto) comes from the writings of Herodotus. It "describes the expedition of the Greeks against the Persians under Cyrus, about 500 B.C." The Persians used mounted "postal" couriers as a means of relaying messages and news. So the quote, of course, is meant to suggest the devotion and determination of those whose job it was to see that the "mail" got through. A Harvard professor, George H. Palmer, supplied a translation which was considered to be the most "poetical" of seven.

To this day, those words are inextricably linked to the USPS—and postal carriers everywhere.

(Primary source:

Postoffice Department, one of the executive departments of the United States government; established in 1794. It is under the management of the Postmaster-General, who since the time of Andrew Jackson, has been a member of the President's Cabinet. He is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The department is divided into four great bureaus each under the immediate charge of an assistant postmaster-general. The first assistant's bureau has charge of the large clerical and carrier forces and all the matters of annual management. It supervises an annual expenditure of more than $40,000,000. The bureau of the second assistant has the immense task of providing for the transportation of the mails at a yearly cost of $35,000,000. That of the third assistant looks after the financial side, furnishes the stamps, and keeps the accounts. The fourth assistant has charge of the appointment of 75,000 postmasters and directs the force of inspectors. The United States postoffice department, unlike that of Great Britain, is carried on at a loss; this is due to the large amount of postal matter of certain classes carried at less than the cost of conveyance and distribution. The greatest revenue in a single year has reached $203,562,383; and the greatest expenditure, $221,004,102.

Entry from Everybody's Cyclopedia, 1912.

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