First-class postage going to 39¢

<I>KEVIN HEIMBIGNER photo</I><BR>Jeff Brady at the Ocean Park branch of the United States Postal Service is busy supplying new 39 cent stamps.

OCEAN PARK - Jan. 8 the cost of mailing a first-class letter went up from 37 cents to 39 cents and Jeff Brady at the Ocean Park branch of the United States Postal Service (USPS) has been a busy man supplying his customers with the needed stamps.

"We had 8,000 of the new 39-cent stamps and 8,000 two-cent stamps and have sold about half of them already," Brady said last Friday morning. "The postal service made the announcement (of the price hike) early so people seem to be aware of the two-cent increase."

The USPS was forced to make the price increase for all postage prices, not just that of first-class letters, mainly due to increased fuel costs. Since the USPS is no longer subsidized by the Federal Government it must meet expenses, hence the jump in postage.

The postal service is big business with an annual income in 2005 of almost $70,000,000,000 (that's billion with a B). A total of 212 billion deliveries were made last year by 705,000 employees and 96 percent of the deliveries were on time. The postal service began in 1775, a year before the United States became an independent country.

Ben Franklin was the first postmaster general and his system of organization is still in place today. The Pony Express began in 1860 and Supai, Ariz., still receives its mail by mule-pack today. Conversely, the USS Barbero, a navy submarine, once successfully fired a guided missile carrying 3,000 letters to an airbase in Florida.

The first parcel post was in 1913 and since 2001 the use of parcel post has increased 26 percent, due mainly to online purchases and auction sites such as eBay. The first airmail began in 1911, but regularly scheduled flights didn't occur until 1918, 15 years after the Wright brother's initial flight at Kitty Hawk.

Zip codes were first used in 1963 and "no-lick" stamps came into existence in 1974. The first commemorative stamp was in 1893 and the first online features began in 1997. Today through the "click-and-ship" program, the USPS is bringing its services to anyone with a computer, simply by logging onto (www.usps.com).

The USPS is doing its part to conserve energy and costs as it recycled $200 million of its products last year and is actively using alternative-fueled vehicles and solar power in some of its "green" buildings. They report a 20 percent decrease in non-renewable resource usage. In 2005 the USPS's "stamp out hunger" program raised a record $70 million in one day for the needy.

Commemerative stamps of National Parks, supersonic aircraft, and U.S. scientists will be among the items that will grace stamps in 2006. For more information on the USPS visit their Web site or better yet, go to the National Postal Museum at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.

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