A post box (British English and others, also written postbox; known in the United States and Canada as collection box, mailbox, letter box, or drop box) is a physical box into which members of the public can deposit outgoing mail intended for collection by the agents of a country's postal service. The term post box can also refer to a private letter box for incoming mail.
History of post boxes
Lamp box mounted next to a sewer gas destructor lamp in Crookes, Sheffield, England.
In 1653, the first post boxes are believed to have been installed in and around Paris. By 1829, post boxes were in use throughout France. The first public post boxes in Poland were installed in Warsaw in 1842.
A post box originally installed in the wall of the Wakefield Post Office is dated 1809 and believed to be the oldest example in Britain. It is now on display at the new Wakefield Museum.
In the British Isles, the first red pillar post boxes were erected in Jersey in 1852. Roadside wall boxes first appeared in 1857 as a cheaper alternative to pillar boxes, especially in rural districts. In 1853 the first pillar box in the United Kingdom was installed at Botchergate, Carlisle. In 1856, Richard Redgrave of the Department of Science and Art designed an ornate pillar box for use in London and other large cities. In 1859 the design was improved, and this became the first National Standard pillar box. Green was adopted as the standard colour for the early Victorian post boxes. Between 1866 and 1879 the hexagonal Penfold post box became the standard design for pillar boxes and it was during this period that red was first adopted as the standard colour. The first boxes to be painted red were in London in July 1874, although it would be nearly 10 years before all the boxes had been repainted. In 2012 to celebrate Olympic gold medals for Team GB, selected boxes are painted gold. One has been vandalised briefly with graffiti. One has been painted in the 'wrong' town.
The first public letter boxes (post boxes) in Russia appeared in 1848 in St. Petersburg. They were made of wood and iron. Because these boxes were lightweight and easy to steal, they disappeared frequently; later boxes were made of cast iron and could weigh up to 45 kilograms.
The post box arrived in the late 19th century Hong Kong and were made of wood. In the 1890s, metal pillar box appeared in Hong Kong and remained in use till the late 1990s. From the 1890s to 1997 the boxes were painted red and after 1997 were painted green.
The United States Post Office Department began installing public mail collection boxes in the 1850s outside post offices and on street corners in large Eastern cities. U.S. collection boxes were initially designed to be hung or supported, and were mounted on support pillars, lamp-posts, telegraph poles, or even the sides of buildings. By the 1880s, these pillar boxes were made of heavy cast iron to deter theft or vandalism. As mail volume grew, the Post Office Department gradually replaced pillar mailboxes with larger free-standing models, though many of the pillar boxes continued in service as late as the 1960s.
The four-footed, free-standing U.S. Mail collection box was first suggested in 1894, following the successful use of such designs in Canada, and quickly became a fixture on U.S. city street corners.
Unlike Canadian mailboxes, which were painted red, U.S. mail collection boxes were originally painted in red or green. Beginning in 1909, all mail collection boxes were painted a dark green to avoid confusion with emergency and fire equipment. Dark green gave way to olive drab green after World War I, when the U.S. Army donated a large supply of olive drab green paint to the Post Office. Olive drab green subsequently became the standard color for all U.S. mail collection boxes until 1955. On 4 July 1955, Postmaster General Arthur Summerfield announced that the Post Office would begin painting all mail collection boxes in red, white, and blue to make them easily identifiable. Subsequently, the Post Office began painting mail collection boxes in red and blue, with white lettering. In 1971 the Post Office (now USPS) changed mail collection boxes to the current USPS Dark Blue with contrasting lettering.The coming of the automobile also influenced U.S. mailbox design, and in the late 1930s, an extension chute or "snorkel" to drive-up curbside collection boxes was adopted.