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Defending the Frontier.

Enforcing the Law.

As our country’s oldest federal law enforcement agency, modern day Postal Inspectors, in the same way the early surveyors and special agents, have a proud and successful record of fighting criminals who attack the nation’s postal system and misuse it to defraud, endanger, or otherwise threaten the American public.      

  • In 1737, Benjamin Franklin as the Postmaster at Philadelphia, visited and audited the accounts of existing Post Offices. His additional duties included “regulating the several Post Offices and bringing the Postmasters to account.”
  • In 1772, the Post Office Department had expanded to the point that regulating Post Offices and auditing postal accounts required the creation of a new position — Surveyors. Surveyors were the first Postal Inspectors, required to investigate thefts of mail or postal funds, often by a rider, innkeeper or other person entrusted with the US Mail.
  • In 1801, an issue was ordered changing the title of Surveyor to Special Agent.
  • In 1812, Special Agents observed and reported on movements of the British fleet on the Potomac River during the War of 1812.
  • In 1830, a separate Office of Instructions and Mail Depredations was formed to be the investigative and inspection branch of the Post Office Department. By then, laws and regulations were being enacted by Congress which made certain violations against the United States postal system federal crimes.
  • In 1835, Preston S. Loughborough was placed in charge of this new investigative and inspection branch which was the predecessor to the Office of the Chief Postal Inspector.
  • In 1853, there were 18 total Special Agents in the Postal Office Department who were assigned responsibility for specific territories.
  • In 1872, Congress enacted the Mail Fraud Statute to combat a rash of swindles by mail which erupted after the Civil War.
  • In 1873, Congress enacts the Postal Obscenity Statute based on the urging of Special Agent Anthony Comstock. The total number of Special Agents had jumped to 63.
  • In 1880, a law passed by Congress establishing the title of Chief Post Office Inspector and changed the designation of a Special Agent to Post Office Inspector.
  • In 1916, Postal Inspectors investigated and solved the last known stagecoach robbery in the U.S. The stagecoach from Rogerson, ID to Jarbidge, NV was robbed, the driver murdered and over $3,000 taken from the mail. Within five days the robbers were caught by Inspectors.
  • In the 1920s and 30s, mail train robberies were a new challenge to the postal system. Trains transported high value mail shipments, such as diamonds, increasing the need to protect valuables sent through the mail. Post Office Inspectors became the first federal law enforcement officers to carry the Thompson submachine gun — one of the most widely recognized firearms in the world — to combat the rash of robberies. The Post Office Department was the first government agency to purchase and use the “Tommy Gun” in an effort to curb the increase in mail robberies.
  • Between 1937 and 1941, more than 500 railroad cars carried $15.5 billion in gold by registered mail between New York and Fort Knox. Inspectors were responsible for all the plans for the movement and protection of the gold, and the transfer was accomplished without mishap.
  • During World War II, 247 Inspectors were assigned to create a mail system for the troops — the Army Post Offices (APOs) and the Fleet Post Offices (FPOs). What they established still remains as today’s military mail system.
  • In the 1940s, Robert Moon, while working as a Postal Inspector in Philadelphia, developed the idea for the ZIP Code. He’s sometimes called "Mr. ZIP" and is considered the father of the ZIP Code. His system used only the first three digits of what became a five-digit, and later a nine-digit, system.
  • In 1958, owners of the Hope Diamond sent the priceless jewel to the Smithsonian Institution by U.S. Mail. Postal Inspectors ensured that the gem arrived safely at its destination.
  • In 1971, the Postal Inspection Service becomes one of the first federal law enforcement agencies to hire female agents.
  • The Postal Inspection Service has a longstanding reputation as a leader in the battle against child sexual exploitation and was the first law enforcement agency to aggressively identify, target and arrest child pornography distributors and their customers. Postal Inspectors have investigated child sexual exploitation and the distribution of pornography for more than 30 years. Since the enactment of the Federal Child Protection Act of 1984, Postal Inspectors have arrested thousands of child molesters and pornographers.           
  • Postal Inspectors have investigated insider traders on Wall Street, world-wide art fraud rings, crooked televangelists, and fake charities. In recent years, the Postal Inspection Service has played an integral role in terrorist investigations, including the Unabomber, anthrax and ricin cases.

For additional information about the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, go to

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