Rural Free Delivery: Connecting city and country

In the 19th century, a visit from the mail man brought much more than deliveries to the farm: it kept families connected to the world. The commitment to serving America’s heartland inspired our network’s name-- RFD-TV. Today, we take a look at the history behind the Rural Free Delivery.

In 1896, five men set out on horseback to deliver mail in the most remote parts of West Virginia. The journey opened the door to a universal service for all Americans. The first route marked the beginning of the Rural Free Deliver (RFD).

Up to this point, folks had to travel miles on poor roads into town just to get any news or mail. Yet farmer paid the same postage rates as people living in the city.

For decades, national ag groups pushed to get equal services, but a high price tag and infrastructure issues kept leaders from giving the project a green light.

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In 1895, farmers and ranchers found an ally in Post Master General William L. Wilson. He got Congress to approve $40 thousand dollars to test out the Rural Free Delivery Service. Shortly after the turn of the century, in 1902, RFD became a permanent service of the U.S. Post Office Department.

Today, rural carriers drive 3.5 million miles every day, sometimes using their own vehicles to get mail to the heartland.

The mission to connect and serve the very communities that fuel and feed our nation inspired RFD-TV founder and CEO, Patrick Gottsch, to name his network after. “Our namesake, RFD, the Rural Free Delivery Act was the first time that mail was delivered between city and country. Connecting folks where they could communicate by letters,” Gottsch notes. “There was a big push back then that it would break this country, America couldn’t afford to provide mail service to rural America, and thankfully, it got through and of course the rest is history.”

In an age of digital correspondence, the U.S. Post Office continues to keep rural Americans connected.