Manual mail-sorting at the turn of the 20th century

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You were expecting maybe robots?




There’s a lot more snark here than I’m used to seeing in an historical article. Dinosaur bones? Seriously?

Newsflash for the article’s author: corporate mail still goes through a manual sorting step at one point or another. It’s on a smaller scale than what’s shown in the video, but it still has to be sorted into floors/departments/whatever. There’s not much to do since virtually everything is e-mailed these days, but the process is still in place to handle the few physical pieces that come in.

It’s manual processes like these that led to software sort algorithms and the recognition of the use for things like relational databases. Honour them.


FedEx still has enormous sorting/distribution centers where teams of humans make sure every single package gets into the right truck. It’s amazing, I will look for a video. If they could replace all that labor with machines, they would.


“Say, fellows! Did you ever notice that Jones only cancels about a dozen letters before he puts the whole pile in front of me? That’s why I have to throw them in bags without looking at them.”

“Never mind that! I just realized that the windows in this place are only painted on a canvas backdrop!”

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I thought Deutsche Post was using robots to unload containers - but I misremembered, it’s still in the fooling-around phase (or completely dead and all research funds revoked). The only videos I found are an animation and a prototype at the university, the news on the project homepage are olds (read the results of the market study 2014).

I thought it was done the way Bugs Bunny sorted the mail.

/I’ve been trying to find a clip of this, but can’t. Anyone have it?

No, but I do have a gif somewhere of that old mailroom guy from “The Hudsucker Proxy”, if that’s any help.


Couldn’t find a Blue Letter animated gif, so this will have to do:


“…so it seems I won’t be working in the mailroom long!”
“No, I don’t suppose you will be.”

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