The United States government establishes a post office in the tiny hamlet of Chicago and appoints Jonathan N. Bailey as postmaster on March 31, 1831.
|Illustration of Chicago's First Post Office in 1833|
The postoffice log building was near the present site on the west side of the Lake Street bridge. The north branch of the Chicago River is on the left behind the Postoffice, and the main branch veers off to the right. In the middle of the river fork is Wolf Point and the Wolf Point Tavern.
Before the establishment of the post office, mail was brought to Chicago every second week or so from Niles, Michigan. The small outpost of Chicago had about a dozen families at the time, along with the garrison at Fort Dearborn. Post-Master Bailey served in his position until November 2, 1832, when his son-in-law, John S. C. Hogan, took over the job, moving the post office to today's southwest corner of Franklin and Wacker Drive.
Mail carriers were men of tough fiber and strong nerve, for, burdened as he was with his pack, mail pouch, and loaded musket, he was forced to keep on his feet day and night wading through snow so deep at times as to require snowshoes. When overcome with sleep he wrapped himself in his blanket and lay down in a snow-bank, taking such rest as he could with wild animals and wolves howling around him.
In 1831, the mail was carried on foot once a month.
In 1832, on horseback once a week.
In 1833, by wagon once a week.
In 1834, by stagecoach semi-weekly.
In 1835 and 1836, by stagecoach tri-weekly.
In 1837, by stagecoach daily: and after that time, at increasingly shorter intervals.
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.