19th century spam came by post, prefigured modern spam in so many ways


Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/02/21/19th-century-spam-came-by-post.html


If modern spam looked that good I wouldn’t filter it.


Okay then!


Except Spam wasn’t invented until 1937, so what did they call it? Ham?


in other word “junk mail”… I still get that stuff… whether it be credit card applications or business cards for locksmiths and car services dropped in my mailbox without postage… Not as bad as it was before the internet…


It seems pretty obvious that there was junk mail in earlier times because mail was pretty much the same then as now; why wouldn’t it exist? I think what is more interesting (and more analogous to “spam”) was junk telegrams. In 1864, a London dentist spammed numerous MPs with advertisements by telegram. Of course the beauty of it was that the spamming itself became newsworthy given the recipients and the dentists got free advertising in the newspaper articles condemning their actions.


I immediately thought the same thing… it hasn’t stopped coming by post.

Nowadays, the scummy ones just try very hard to look like an invoice, a government mailing, or a personalized handwritten message.

I’m actually somewhat fond of the last category, the lengths they go to to try to look legitimately hand-addressed are adorable sometimes.


The blog posts (both Cory’s and the original) talk about how postmasters could send mail for free, but all of the example envelope images clearly have stamps on them and seem to have been mailed by the advertisers themselves. (The example envelopes do have instructions to the postmaster to redirect the mail to someone else if the mail is unclaimed or undeliverable.)

Also, Cory’s post makes different claims than the original blog post:

  • Cory says “postmasters could send each other letters for free”, but the original post says “Postmasters in those days were allowed to send and receive Post Office business mail for free” and doesn’t specifically say it had to be to or from another postmaster.

  • The original post says many postmasters abused their ability “by engaging in some other occupation on the side using the free mail privilege”. Cory seems to have transformed that into saying advertisers “bribed” postmasters to “forward packets of mail to one another to pass on to townspeople” and “the industry thrived by exploiting a zero-rated piece of public infrastructure”.




Right here in River City!


And I am a Shrewd , Wide-Awake Boy and I might be willing to Sweep out a Post Office… Hmmmmmm


You call H.G.C. Hallock’s letter a con. Looks to me like he was an actual missionary running a church at that address. I’d be more careful about defaming people’s legacies.




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