The Sideshow

Once upon a time, snail mail was missile mail

The Sideshow

Fair or not, the postal service isn't exactly known for innovation. But 55 years ago, they tried something very different — maybe a little too different: delivery via guided missile.

The missile wasn't intended to replace your friendly neighborhood mail carrier, make 53 different stops on Main Street, and develop an irrational fear of dogs. Instead, it was tested as a new way of getting large amounts of mail from point A to point B, where it would then be delivered the old-fashioned way, CBS News explains.

The method was tested on June 8, 1959, when an unmanned missile was launched from a submarine off the coast of Florida. Inside the missile were 3,000 pieces of mail to various VIPs around the country, including one letter from Postmaster General Arthur Summerfield to President Dwight Eisenhower.

The missile took off without a hitch, landed as planned, and the mail was then delivered. In the letter to Eisenhower, Summerfield wrote about how this new technology will "be utilized in every practical way in the delivery of the United States mail."

Upon the missile's landing, Summerfield reportedly declared, "Before man reaches the moon, mail will be delivered within hours from New York to California, to Britain, to India or Australia by guided missiles. We stand on the threshold of rocket mail."

The price of postage was quite reasonable, all things considered. Four cents for domestic mail. Eight cents to send a letter overseas.

Alas, while rocket mail does have an undeniably catchy ring to it, the test marked the first and last time mail was ever delivered via guided missile. Practicality trumps all.

Follow Mike Krumboltz on Twitter (@mikekrumboltz).

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