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On Feb. 20, 1792, President George Washington signed legislation renewing the United States Post Office as a cabinet department led by the postmaster general, guaranteeing inexpensive delivery of all newspapers, stipulating the right to privacy and granting Congress the ability to expand postal service to new areas of the nation. The Postal Service Act gave the postmaster general greater legislative legitimacy and more effective organization. It was considered a plum patronage post for political allies of the president until the Postal Service was transformed into a corporation run by a board of governors in 1971. The plan for a Constitutional Post began with William Goddard, a Patriot printer, in 1774. Benjamin Franklin promoted Goddard’s plan and served as the first postmaster general under the Continental Congress beginning in 1775. Franklin had already served as the postmaster of Philadelphia from 1737 and as joint postmaster general of the colonies from 1753 to 1774. He streamlined postal delivery with properly surveyed and marked routes from Maine to Florida (the origins of Route 1), instituted overnight postal travel between the critical cities of New York and Philadelphia and created a standardized rate chart based upon weight and distance.
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