E-Com Mail
(a failed experiment)
Forerunners E-Com Mail Look-a-Likes Stampsjoann

Some forerunners
Before the official establishment of E-COM mail on January 4, 1982, there were numerous attempts to combine the immediacy of electronic transmission of information with permanency of hard copy communications.

Early telegraph messages were often sent electronically to a city near the recipient and then printed and delivered by US Mail.  Even in 1934 I'm sure Mom much preferred the following to an operator's voice over the telephone... even if Mom did have a phone in her home...

In the 1960s, the United States Post Office initiated several experimental services hoping to take advantage of the then new electronic technology being developed by private sector companies.  One such experiment was called Speed Mail.  I have very little information on that test and would very much appreciate any information you might have.  A very brief mention of Speed Mail can be found by clicking here >

A Facsimile Mail Service was also tested by the United States Postal Service beginning November 1, 1971.  Again there is very little documentation about this experiment although there are anecdotal remembrances from several collectors who thought they saw FAX machines in some post offices.

However, thanks to Steve Unkrich, following are excerpts from a private communication with a USPS employee who was involved with several USPS experimental mail services.

Facsimile mail was designed to be a forerunner of other advanced communication technology but its rates
were very expensive for the user.
Letter Size:
 +  Delivered      $5.00
 +  Lobby pickup    4.25
 +  Each add/page   3.00
Legal size
 +  Delivered      $6.00
 +  Lobby pickup   5.25
 +  Each add/page  3.25

Delivery was guaranteed in 4 hours or minutes if someone was waiting at the other end in the lobby.
Transmission averaged 6 minutes per page.

Three post offices in New York City and three in Washington, DC were involved in the test.
New York City offices were...
+  Church Street Station, 90 Church St.
+  General Post Office, 33rd St. & 8th Ave.
+  Grand Central Station, Lexington Ave. & 45th St.

Washington, DC offices were...
+  Ben Franklin Station, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
+  20th Street Station, 1216 20th St., NW
+  Central Station, 819 14th St., NW

The service is believed to have been ended because of a change in management at the Post Office.

The true predictor of what would become E-COM mail was the formal alliance between the United State Postal Service (USPS) and the Western Union company.  This alliance signaled the birth of Mailgrams.  Western Union would handle the electronic transmissions and the USPS would deliver hard copy letters.

Although other examples are known from 1972, the earliest Mailgram I have been able to locate is from 1973.
The envelope used to send the letter can be seen be clicking here >

On April 13, 1974  the Westar communications satellite was launched for use in transmitting future Mailgram messages.  Even before the satellite launch, the USPS Philatelic Merchandising Division Office of Stamps used a Mailgram to announce the availability of special cachets/letters marking the planned September 6th first official use of the Westar for Mailgram transmissions.   An example can be seen here >  The outgoing envelope for this letter can be seen by clicking here >

A July 1974 letter from the Orlando Florida Postmaster confirming a collector's order of these first official Westar transmission items can be seen by clicking here >

After the September 6th successful transmissions, the collector received
+ the Mailgram here >
+ in the envelope shown here >
+ and also a cover commemorating the launch

A typical commercial use of a Mailgram from 1982, can be seen here > along with its accompanying outgoing envelope which is shown here >

The latest use of a Mailgram in my collection is from 1992 as shown here >  This letter not only has a new style printing, letterhead and outgoing envelope (here >) but is also two pages long as shown here >

Other styles of outgoing Mailgram envelopes are here > and here >

In 1975, Al "Tag"" Boerger described Mailgrams in his Handbook on US Luminescent Stamps  here > and here >