Today in 2006, Alaska Senator Ted Stevens famously told his colleagues that the Internet was not a dumptruck, it was a series of tubes (figuratively speaking).

But here’s a story about some literal tubes that New York City once used to deliver mail.

These pneumatic mail systems were a big deal in the 1890s.

Cities across the US started building long tube networks so that they could put mail into canisters and whoosh them from place to place.

They were pretty similar to the tube system you might see if you go through the drive-through lane at the bank.

Except that the mail canisters could hold hundreds of letters.

Untapped New York reported they were big enough to hold a cat (they actually did this once… for some reason).

And they could travel a long, long way.

The New York mail tube system started in 1897.

It had 27 miles of tubes connecting 23 post offices.

They stretched from borough to borough.

Mail sometimes crossed the Brooklyn Bridge!

New York postal workers handled almost 100,000 letters a day this way.

But mail by tube was complicated.

Running a tube network several feet underground through a big city is hard, and expensive, and sometimes things didn’t work right and the mail was damaged.

The Post Office suspended tube service – not because of these challenges, but because of World War I.

While New York did bring it back for a time, it eventually fell out of favor.

And while there are remnants of the tube network in the city today, don’t expect to put a letter in there and have it go anywhere.


Dreams do come true; sometimes they just take 60 extra years.

Today in 2021, a dream come true for 70 year old Gwen Goldman.

As a 10 year old, she wrote to the New York Yankees asking to be a batgirl, but was told “in a game dominated by men a young lady such as yourself would feel out of place in a dugout.”

Six decades later, the team reached back out and said they accepted her offer after all.

She even got to throw out the first pitch that night!


In 1961, the Yankees told her she couldn’t be a batgirl. Sixty years later, it happened. (Washington Post)

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Image from Chronicling America/Library of Congress via Wikicommons