Railway Post Office (RPO) Cover to Denmark
This cover passed through the hands of a clerk of the Railway Mail Service, on its way from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Copenhagen, Denmark. I come to that conclusion since the cover bears a hand cancellation that could only be applied in the railway car by a Railway Post Office (RPO) clerk.
The history of the RPO service is both fascinating and amazing. Each RPO car (usually coupled directly behind the locomotive) was full of clerks, sorting the mail "on the fly", as the train speeded its way between the cities and small towns of the United States. These clerks were expected to know the sorting schemes for all cities and rail routes for the mail they were handling. Using these "human computers", it was possible for the Post Office to achieve overnight first class mail service between most cities East of the Mississippi.
This cover bears the hand cancel of the Chicago and Minneapolis RPO, which operated on the main line between these two great cities. The crack trains that vied with each other for the fastest trip between these cities were famous in their day. This particular RPO marking was used on the Chicago, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis Railway.
Based on the cancel date, this cover was mailed in 1900, and bears the printed return address of the Pillsbury-Washburn Flour Mills, the precurser of todays Pillsbury Company.
This cover is also of interest to me, since it bears the 5-cent rate required to send it to Denmark, its final destination. This cover would have been placed by the RPO clerks into a separate pouch that would have been routed directly to a steamer in New York harbor, for its trip across the Atlantic.
This collection of images includes another RPO cover example.
The postal history of the Railway Post Office is of particular interest to members of The Mobile Post Office Society.