4 weird facts about the post office, and 1 that could help save the economy.

No one appreciates the U.S. Postal Service anymore.

Sure, the Pony Express was cool for that year and a half it existed, the Trystero mail service was fun in that book I read that one time, and UPS and FedEx both clearly have their places in the world. But the United States Postal Service is where it's at. 

And if you're feeling cynical about having to wait in line sometimes (which, dude, I know, totally sucks), here are five delightfully wacky facts about USPS that will make you appreciate those intrepid parcel warriors in ways you never thought you could.


Photo by William Thomas Cain/Stringer/Getty Images.

1. A dog used to be the official mascot of the USPS ... and its taxidermied body is still on display.

Owney was a stray border terrier who was adopted by the Albany Post Office in 1888. The friendly pup had an affinity for mailbags and used to crawl inside to nap ... and get carried away with the mailbag to wherever it went next.

The other post offices soon took a liking to the nomadic pup and always knew where to send him home. Owney gained a reputation as a good luck charm on rail trips and was named "Official Mascot of the Rail Mail Service" by then-Postmaster General John Wanamaker. 

Sadly, Owney died in 1897, but his stuffed body is still on display at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. Maybe that'll get your dog to stop barking at every postal worker who goes by?

Thumbnail photo by Smithsonian Institution/Flickr.

2. Speaking of animals, it's entirely legal to ship live scorpions through the USPS.

Sure, FedEx and UPS will let you send some hooch to a friend. But neither one of them will deliver a literal box of scorpions right to the doorstep of your enemy.

Did I say enemy? I meant laboratory. The shipment of live scorpions through USPS is strictly limited to "purposes of medical research use or the manufacture of antivenin."

Spiders, however, are still not legally mailable. 

Unfortunately, it is not legal to mail the rock band Scorpions — although it is legal for them to rock you like a hurricane. Photo by Scott Harrison/Stinger/Getty Images.

3. It also used to be legal to mail children.

Or, at least, it wasn't explicitly illegal, so long as the child still weighed under the parcel limit of 50 pounds. When the parcel system was first introduced in 1913, no one really thought it was something they would have to regulate. But, well, c'mon — traveling with children is tough. Can you really blame a parent for sending their kid to grandma's house via USPS?

Yes, yes you can. That's why it was made illegal less than two years later.

4. There's still one mail route that's delivered by mule.

Understandably, it's kind of difficult to drive a mail truck down into the Grand Canyon. And that's why a pack of mules travels down to the bottom of the canyon every day, each one carrying 130 pounds worth of mail, food, and supplies to the Havasupai tribe that lives there. The eight-mile trek has been overseen by the same courier for 21 years — and it even has its own unique mule-themed postmark.

5. The post office used to be a bank ... and could be again.

Back in 1910, William Howard Taft introduced the U.S. Postal Savings System in an effort to fight back against predatory lending and offer an alternative for people who had lost their trust in banks.

The Postal Savings System offered a guaranteed 2% interest rate; the post office in turn would redeposit that money in local banks, stimulating local economies and keeping whatever additional interest they accrued to cover their own operational costs.

By the end of World War II, U.S. citizens had invested almost $3.4 billion in the Postal Savings System. But as the private banks regained (massive amounts of) power in the postwar boom, they drew the public back to them with higher interest rates and fancy promises, and the Postal Savings System was shuttered in 1967.

And, fortunately, predatory lending and big banks have never, ever, ever caused any problems since then. Right?

So what if we brought back the Postal Savings System?

Did you know that 28% of American households — roughly 35 million households — either don't have a bank account or otherwise regularly rely on alternative financial services (like check-cashing services and payday loans)? Did you know that those services could end up costing them a full 10% of their annual income? That's a pretty crucial survival chunk when you're only making $25K a year.

You might know that the post office is massively in debt, but did you also know that USPS receives absolutely no money from U.S. taxes, except for the less than 1% of their budget that comes from the government to cover free postage for blind people and overseas voters?

As it stands, post offices do offer some very limited banking services, such as money orders and U.S. Treasury check cashing. But did you also know that 59% of U.S. post offices operate in zip codes where there is just one bank or no bank at all? And in rural areas in particular, post offices tend to sell 27% more money orders per capita than offices in urban areas.

Are you seeing the connection here?

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

A new postal banking system could save significant money for millions of Americans. And also save the USPS itself.

According to an extensive white paper put together by the USPS, those unbanked and underbanked Americans spent a combined total of about $89 billion on interest and fees from alternative financial services in 2012.

But if services like check cashing were available at the post office — a public institution obligated to provide affordable and quality services — it would save money for millions of Americans, while also having the potential to bring in an estimated $8.9 billion in revenue for the USPS itself.

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are among the politicians who support the idea. The USPS even has a plan to implement it. So what is Congress waiting for? (Who knows? It's Congress, ugh.)

The USPS has such a fun and fascinating history — and it can provide some amazing things for the American people. I'd say it's worth keeping around.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

This article originally appeared on 12.02.19


Just imagine being an 11-year-old boy who's been shuffled through the foster care system. No forever home. No forever family. No idea where you'll be living or who will take care of you in the near future.

Then, a loving couple takes you under their care and chooses to love you forever.

What could one be more thankful for?

That's why when a fifth grader at Deerfield Elementary School in Cedar Hills, Utah was asked by his substitute teacher what he's thankful for this Thanksgiving, he said finally being adopted by his two dads.

via OD Action / Twitter

To the child's shock, the teacher replied, "that's nothing to be thankful for," and then went on a rant in front of 30 students saying that "two men living together is a sin" and "homosexuality is wrong."

While the boy sat there embarrassed, three girls in the class stood up for him by walking out of the room to tell the principal. Shortly after, the substitute was then escorted out of the building.

While on her way out she scolded the boy, saying it was his fault she was removed.

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One of the boy's parents-to-be is Louis van Amstel, is a former dancer on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." "It's absolutely ridiculous and horrible what she did," he told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We were livid. It's 2019 and this is a public school."

The boy told his parents-to-be he didn't speak up in the classroom because their final adoption hearing is December 19 and he didn't want to do anything that would interfere.

He had already been through two failed adoptions and didn't want it to happen again.

via Loren Javier / Flickr

A spokesperson for the Alpine School District didn't go into detail about the situation but praised the students who spoke out.

"Fellow students saw a need, and they were able to offer support," David Stephenson said. "It's awesome what happened as far as those girls coming forward."

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He also said that "appropriate action has been taken" with the substitute teacher.

"We are concerned about any reports of inappropriate behavior and take these matters very seriously," Kelly Services, the school the contracts out substitute teachers for the district, said in a statement. "We conduct business based on the highest standards of integrity, quality, and professional excellence. We're looking into this situation."

After the incident made the news, the soon-to-be adoptive parents' home was covered in paper hearts that said, "We love you" and "We support you."

Religion is supposed to make us better people.

But what have here is clearly a situation where a woman's judgement about what is good and right was clouded by bigoted dogma. She was more bothered by the idea of two men loving each other than the act of pure love they committed when choosing to adopt a child.