Perqs of Being a Postmaster

Franklin’s service in the Crown’s colonial post exemplifies his flair for doing well while doing good. Many colonial printers, particularly those who also published newspapers, were eager to serve as postmasters, less for the position’s modest financial rewards than for its perquisites. The job put them on the inside track for lucrative official printing jobs and also gave them privileged access to both the news and its circulation. Their valuable franking privilege enabled them to send their newspapers to one another through the mail for free, and articles recycled from these “exchange papers” helped to pad their broadsheets’ profitable ads and notices for little trouble or expense. Moreover, once the costly, top-priority letters and government documents had been locked in the portmanteau, as the secure official mailbag was called, postmasters selected which newspapers could also travel with the post, though informally, in saddlebags, and pending the courier’s approval as to bulk. This was an easy decision for postmaster-printers who were eager to increase the circulation of their own publications, and at no cost.