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Jim Kershner’s this day in history

Fri., Feb. 21, 2014

From our archives, 100 years ago

U.S. Post Office authorities issued the following, seemingly obvious, pronouncement: Do not, repeat, not, send children through the mail.

They had to say this after May Pierstorff, age 4, was mailed from Grangeville, Idaho, to Lewiston.

Apparently, her parents had come up with the idea of putting 53 cents of stamps on the little girl and sending her via mail to save money on a train ticket. The Grangeville mail clerk went along with this plan and sent her through in the train’s mail coach.

But when higher postal authorities saw a news story about this, they scrambled to alert the public that this was illegal.

However, there seemed to be no law that explicitly banned the mailing of people. Yet there was a law that prohibited sending “live animals” through the mail. May Pierstorff, was, by strict definition, a live animal.

The authorities also cited another law banning anything which “may kill or in any wise injure another or damage the mail,” although how this related to May was less clear. She was apparently quite well-behaved on her trip to Lewiston.

Meanwhile, authorities were trying to decide whether the mail clerk should be punished. He probably wouldn’t be, because regulations said a mail clerk should “turn unmailable matter in at the nearest division point.” Since Lewiston was the nearest division point, he could argue that he did what he was supposed to do.

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