Hand-held door knocker for mail carriers, 1863

Some letter carriers chose to use wooden, dumbbell-shaped door knockers as they made their delivery service rounds. Convenient, lightweight and easy to grasp, the knocker saved wear and tear on hands and sounded a loud crack to announce the carrier’s arrival.

The postman really did ring twice, or knocked, or blew a whistle.  Letter carriers waited for someone to answer their signal, If no one was home, they took the mail back to the post office and tried again the next day.  Studies showed carriers spent an average of two hours daily waiting on doorsteps. To save work hours, the Post Office Department required residents to install mailboxes or letter slots in 1916.

This photo is one of 137 million artifacts, works of art and specimens in the Smithsonian’s collection. It is on display at the National Postal Museum.

For more info, visit the Postal Museum’s Arago website.

Photo courtesy of the National Postal Museum.

Posted: 26 January 2011
About the Author:

Jessica Porter Sadeq has worked in the Central Office of Public Affairs since June 2007. In August 2008 she joined the Internal Communications department as an internal communications coordinator.