First Postal Surveyors

Today, the Postal Inspection Service is one of the most advanced investigative law enforcement agencies in the nation. Since 1775, postal security and law enforcement have been essential to a growing country. The first Post Road Surveyors laid down the foundations for today’s Inspection Service.

The First Postal Surveyor: Hugh Finlay

The role of a Postal Surveyor was to examine possible routes, account for dangers, and prepare the safest and most effective way of delivering and transporting mail. Prior to the birth of the United States, Hugh Finlay was appointed Surveyor of the Postal Roads in 1772 by the British Postmaster General.

Finlay kept a detailed journal of his travel through the 13 colonies and Canada from 1773-1774. His journal serves as a record of his 310-mile journey assessing the mail system and improving its efficiency.

Finlay discovered that a surprising number of people were sending their mail through private carriers to avoid postage payments. many colonists saw payment of postage to the British Post as a version of "taxation without representation.

From Hugh Finlay to William Goddard

Finlay's expedition came to an end in 1774, when growing hostilities between American Colonists and British troops made the job too hazardous to continue. The same year, William Goddard created the Constitutional Post to avoid the British Post Office fee. The British Post Office closed in America the Christmas of 1775.

In August of 1775, Postmaster General Benjamin Franklin assigned William Goddard to travel and inspect the postal roads, making Goddard the second Surveyor in the Colonies, and the first under the new Constitutional Post.

Goddard's position was short lived. Though he seemed destined to be the next Postmaster General after Franklin, he was overlooked in late 1776 and left the Post Office for good.

From Goddard to Hazard

On January 6, 1977, Ebenezer Hazard took over as Surveyor. hazard would remain in the position until 1782. Hazard was the appointed Postmaster General, serving until 1789. During this time, he reorganized the Post Office, establishing transportation by stagecoach and replacing the old Pony Express.

Unfortunately, Hazard became a bit too ambitious when he put a stop to the customary practice of allowing newspaper copies to be distributed by the mail. President George Washington had Hazard replaced by Samuel Osgood in 1789.

In 1801, the title Surveyor would be replaced with Special Agent, as it became clear the position was far more centered on investigation and protection that previously understood.


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