RFD Museum 


Welcome to the Rural Free Delivery Postal Museum!

RFD Postal notes with envelopes
now available,
call Joan Bausch at 868-7593.

Latest News

For appointments call:
Joan Delzell Bausch at 868-7593

Since the dedication of this small museum, the pride of the Morning Sun Community has taken on an even greater dimension.

When the format for this project was introduced in 1992, many volunteers have eagerly furnished ideas, energy and cash to make the project materialize.

In early 1996, Gov. Terry Branstad visited the site and heartily endorsed it, he even drove a couple of symbolic nails.

From the beginning the underlying focus was to honor the people of Morning Sun, who 100 years ago, diligently pursued the idea of helping further this new service by being one of the very first communities in the nation to have it offered.

The Morning Sun Community Betterment Team takes pride in being able to call this landmark happening to the attention of several new generations by presenting historic information and some of the hands on pieces of equipment.

One of the eye catchers in the museum is the 1200 brick memorial wall. All of the bricks are from local brick factories and for many years were the west wall of the Iowa State Bank building. Other items in the museum are the letter sorter, the original window and the post office boxes, a little round stove that they burned corn cobs in to keep warm and the postal buggy.

Other fund raisers are rents received from the sale of lifetime boxes in the old original postal front as well as from 1st and 2nd class patrons, gifts from former mail carriers, postal employees from Iowa and across the nation.

Museums, mementos and memorials are great but the Community Betterment Team believes that while working together with literally dozens of volunteers, both local and former residents plus former postal employees and carriers, that a climate of cooperation has been created and is spreading throughout our neighborhood.

The Beginning of Rural Free Delivery

In 1890, Postmaster General John Wanamaker recommended an extension of city delivery service to towns with a population of less than 10,000. Using this suggestion as a basis for a broader program, Mortimer Whitehead, a farmer, introduced the subject of Rural Free Delivery to the National Grange in 1891. He then presented the idea before a Congressional committee in the winter of 1891-1892. A bill was introduced in 1892 by Representative James O'Donnell of Michigan, but, it was not passed by Congress.

It wasn't until 1896, when Postmaster General William L. Wilson agreed that is was time to test the idea of Rural Free Delivery. Senator John H. Gear recommended that Morning Sun in Louisa County be chosen as the first experimental town in Iowa because it was the most 'reading' community he knew of. Morning Sun had a post office that was established since 1851 with William P. Brown as the first postmaster. By 1896, the town was a thriving community with good railroad connections.

Inspector Bird of the U.S. Post Office was sent to Morning Sun and mapped out three routes averaging 35 miles each. Civil Service examinations were not required at the time so Albert L. Roberts, Bert McKinley, & William Blair were granted the contracts without delay. They were each paid $22 a month and each furnished his own transporation. After a two week trial it was realized that the 35 mile route was too long on horseback. Fred Shipman was added as a carrier and the routes were reduced to an average of about 24 miles.

Their territory extended 5 miles north of Morning Sun, 3 and a half miles east and south, and 4 miles west (all over bad roads). The mail consisted of 1st class letters, postcards, newspapers, and agricultural journals.

The four carriers served a population of 850 from the start on November 10, 1896 to July 1, 1897. They carried 46,043 pieces of mail at a cost of $624.96. The first rural carriers preferred wagons for transportation but because of the small amount of mail and lack of good roads most of them delivered the mail on horseback.

Since there were no mailbox requlations until 1900 farmers nailed old boot legs, tin cigar boxes or shoe boxes on fence corners.

One year after the first experiment 28 routes were established in 29 different states. The Postmaster General summarized the success of the experiment in 1896 as follows: "The general results obtained have been so satisfactory as to suggest the feasibility of making rural free delivery a permanent feature of postal administration in the United States."