The postal system played a large role in small communities in the early days of the state. Postmasters were appointed and changed under the national political spoils system, and the post office had the power to direct town name changes and street numbering schemes.
In Puyallup, in August 1910, a new post office opened on Meeker, next to the arcade, linking it with Pioneer. The paper touted its golden oak fixtures and Postmaster Edgerton’s grand office.
Within a year, the post office’s receipts exceeded a threshold ($10,000 in a year) for implementing free mail delivery. But it would only be in areas of the city where contiguous sidewalks and crosswalks existed, only after U.S. Postal Inspectors had approved the house-numbering scheme in the city, and a civil service exam was held for prospective carriers.
The Puyallup Valley Tribune editorial comment was that the current numbering system gave a one in four chance for a piece of mail being properly addressed, and it predicted only one piece of mail in 100 would be properly delivered.
The numbering problem had been in the paper in December 1910, when the city engineer complained that his hand-drawn plat map had been removed from a shelf on top of a safe, but the culprit was unknown, and that, in the city clerk’s office, it was impossible to find a street number attached to any piece of property.
The water committee recommended implementation of “ ... a system of house numbers, so bills could be done by street and house number, rather than a property description.”
Two weeks later, the Commercial Club urged the city council to proceed numbering houses at once in such a way that house numbers on parallel streets would correspond as closely as possible.
By the end of September 1911, the numbering system had been inspected and approved, and citizens were told that delivery might begin in 90 days. By the end of October, it was announced that delivery could begin in 90 days, around the first of February, by one of two carriers and a substitute, with two deliveries a day, morning and afternoon.
The system apparently was implemented without further hoopla in early 1912, for the paper was silent on the issue until May 1912, when it was announced that 10 mailboxes would be placed throughout the city as soon as the bids were approved by Postal headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Finally, in September 1912, it was announced that a third carrier had been hired, and that, with the establishment of the third district (Meridian, 9th Avenue, 2nd Street, 3rd Avenue, 10th Street, 7th Avenue and 13th Street), almost the whole city was covered, except the extreme north and east.
Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat, was inaugurated president on March 4, 1913, to replace the Republican William Howard Taft. On April 5, the Tribune printed a list of postmaster appointees in the Puyallup Valley, with the statement that the applicants had been endorsed and recommended to the Postmaster General by the Democratic National committee of the State of Washington and the chair of the Washington Democratic State Central Committee. It further stated that the jobs were vacant.
Robert Montgomery, publisher of the Tribune, was nominated to be postmaster of Puyallup at a salary of $2,300. An editorial in the Tacoma New Herald lauded him as: “the only publisher of an independent Democratic newspaper in Pierce County for nearly 20 years, he has a unique record for party fealty.”Andy Anderson is the historian of the Ezra Meeker Historical Society. He can be reached at 253-848-1770.