Rise in Personal Letter Writing

By the mid-nineteenth century, the post, long primarily a vehicle for newspapers, now also enabled average Americans to enjoy easy, back-and-forth personal correspondence for pennies, and they did so in rapidly accelerating numbers. Statistics on volume are dodgy, but around 1820, most Americans still received fewer than one letter per year; that figure rose to nearly three by 1850, to seven by 1854, and kept on rising. In what historian David Henkin calls “the postal age,” their correspondence no longer had to be reserved for matters of life and death but could carry on casual written conversations between friends.