Just last month, everyone was wrapping packages and mailing them to relatives and friends. It’s hard to believe but in 1913 when the parcel post service began in the US, at least two children were mailed with stamps stuck on their clothes. I swear I’m not making this up. There’re actually pictures of mail carriers with children they delivered.
This inspires all sorts of ideas for books. A child could be sent by mail by the mother to the baby’s father, who didn’t know about the baby. A child could mail themselves to the North Pole so they could see Santa and get all the toys. A runaway child could even stamp themselves to go out west for adventure. A child could get delivered to the wrong address.
Western mail order brides could actually be sent by mail with stamps on their dresses or foreheads. A mail order bride could be delivered to the wrong man. Instead of a train to deliver mail you can use an airship or a mail balloon to send stamped people about. And you certainly don’t have to keep this practice in the Edwardian era, you can move it to the Victorian era wild west.
A mailed woman or child could end up riding pillion with a pony express rider through Indian country. They could even ride on a stage coach that carries mail. If the train, stage or airship is held up by outlaws and a mailed person is taken as a hostage is that tampering with US mail? Would the Calvary be brought in to recover the stolen person or rather package? The ideas are endless.
Wood Guthrie wrote a cute song about this practice of mailing children.
This practice of mailing children is definitely one of those what were they thinking scenarios. In this case what they were thinking was how to do something cheaper. How to get out of the cost of an expensive train ticket. The how to do something cheaper thought process often causes people to do strange things. You can always use it for one of your characters; have them try to do something cheaper that ends up being pretty crazy. It might be a challenge to come up with something crazier than mailing children but if you can think of it chances are someone has actually done it. For many people cheaper and easier seems to outweigh unresponsible and dangerous and leads people to make some pretty foolish mistakes. Also characters who always try to do things on the cheap can be funny.
Maeve Alpin, who also writes as Cornelia Amiri, is the author of 24 published books. She creates stories with kilts, corsets, and happy endings. She lives in Houston Texas with her son, granddaughter, and her cat, Severus.