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Postal Service (U.S.)


Last modified: 2016-04-13 by rick wyatt
Keywords: postal service | mail | departmental | united states |
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[Flag of Postal Service] image by Ben Cahoon

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The USPS is an independent executive branch agency. The flag is blue with the logo in center and fringed in gold.

Dave Fowler, 11 September 2013

Earlier Mail Flags

US Post Office Department

[US Post Office Department] image by Ben Cahoon, 20 July 2007

The former flag of the former US Post Office Department. It was a cabinet level department 1829-1971, then it became a semi-independent government agency as the US Postal Service (USPS):

US Post Office Department:
26 Jul 1775 Office of Postmaster General created by Congress.
1829 Postmaster General becomes a cabinet member.
8 Jun 1872 Post Office Department formally established as an executive department.
1 Jul 1971 U.S. Postal Service (no longer a cabinet position).
Ben Cahoon, 20 July 2007

This was not technically the flag of the department as such but that of the Postmaster General himself. The four stars in the corners are the giveaway, but it is also labelled as the Postmaster General's flag in a number of sources, including the the USN 1938 flag book.
Joe McMillan, 23 July 2007

USM Mail Flag

[U.S. Mail flag for ships circa 1900 to after 1950] image by Joseph McMillan, 9 August 2005

Mail Flag circa 1900 to after 1950.
Joseph McMillan, 9 August 2005

U.S. Mail flag for ships

[U.S. Mail flag for ships, mid-19th to early 20th century] image by Joseph McMillan, 9 August 2005

U.S. Mail flag for ships, mid-19th to early 20th century

I had a chance today to look at the Annin & Co. (flagmakers) "Wholesale Trade Catalogue" for 1914, which shows the blue U.S. mail flag at the top of page 27.

The flag is dark blue (same color as for canton of U.S. national flag as printed in the catalogue, and probably as manufactured), rectangular, with bold sans-serif white block letters reading "U.S.M." about half the height of the flag. The periods following the letters are round and smaller than in most type fonts I know of. The font looks roughly similar to Tahoma bold, but the middle of the M reaches all the way down as in Arial Black.

The catalogue offers the flag in 10 sizes (all in feet): 2x3, 2.5x4, 3x5, 4x6, 5x8, 6x10, 8x12, 10x15, 10x18, and 12x20. The same page shows the red U.S. Mail pennant, which the catalogue describes as being produced according to official specifications. It does not say that about the blue rectangular flag, which leads me to believe that the blue flag was unofficial. I would guess that the red pennant, with its more complex design, was probably introduced to counter misuse of the easy-to-produce, unofficial blue one. As previously noted on the mailing list, the purpose of these flags was to give the ships flying them preferential port handling priority. I don't have a date when the red pennant was introduced, but it shows up as early as the 1905 edition of the German Navy's Flaggenbuch.
Joe McMillan, 22 August 2002

The pennant was a red swallowtail with dark blue upper and lower borders, a blue and white version of the US coat of arms (but with the head facing the fly) in the hoist and the words "UNITED STATES MAIL." in white in the fly, the first two words in an arc and the last one, with the period, beneath.

This pennant was flown by ships carrying mail in a similar fashion to the Royal Mail pennant used by British vessels. It was adopted some time around 1900--it appears in the 1905 Flaggenbuch of the German Navy--and was still in use in 1950 when the U.S. Merchant Marine Council issued a set of flag guidelines calling for the "U.S. Mail flag" to be hoisted at the port yardarm on the day of departure as well as upon arrival in port by any ship carrying mail. I have not been able to find official records on the adoption of this pennant, but that it was official is attested by Annin & Company's listing of it in their 1914 catalogue as complying with official specifications.

The same Annin & Co catalogue also shows the older U.S. Mail flag, blue with the initials U.S.M. in white block letters. This flag seems to have been in use by the 1870s, as a painting of the American Line steamer Indiana in the collection of the Peabody-Essex Museum,, shows it flying from the foremast, with the house flag of the American Line at the main. The style of lettering on this flag was probably not fixed by regulation; paintings show a Roman style of lettering with serifs, while the Annin catalogue shows a simple sans-serif style.
Joe McMillan, 9 August 2005

Just ran across this in the New York Times online archive, from the 3 March 1903 edition:

Flag for the Postal Service.
Washington, March 2--The Post Office Department will shortly adopt a flag emblematic of the Postal Service. Several designs are under consideration, including the figure of an eagle clutching an envelope and the present design of a post rider on a circular field. The mail transfer craft on the lakes and in New York Harbor will in the immediate future have the special flag of the service flying from their mastheads.

I have no idea what if anything came of this, unless it was the red "US Mail" flag with the coat of arms in the hoist.
Joe McMillan, 31 January 2008

Air Mail

[Air Mail Flag] image by Joseph McMillan, 7 August 2005

The U.S. Air Mail flag was (according to [gsh34]) adopted by the Post Office Department to be flown over airport buildings handling air mail. The flag was white with bands of blue-white-red and red-white-blue at the top and bottom and the badge of the Air Mail Service in gold in the center.

According to [gsh34], the flag was adopted on 1 September 1930. On the other hand, the Smithsonian Institution's Postal Museum's website captions its photograph of the flag implying that it dated to 1918, which was when the Post Office took over the flying of the mails from the Army Air Service. However, two specific mentions of its use would seem to date it to the later period. The first, an article on the website of Memphis [Tennessee] Magazine,, relates a story about the mayor of Memphis hoisting the flag in 1931 in connection with the first airmail flight from Memphis. The story shows a commemorative envelope for this flight with a stamp showing the same badge as the flag. The second, at, shows a photograph of the air mail station manager at Burbank, California holding what it describes as "the first air mail flag at Burbank" circa 1930.

The image was made working from the Postal Museum photograph.
Joe McMillan, 7 August 2005

From the magazine Popular Mechanics, February 1931:

New Air Mail Flag Soon to Fly at Airports

An official air mail flag, recently adopted by postal authorities, soon will be hoisted over all airports at which United States mail is handled. Red, white, and blue stripes at its top and bottom edges resemble the markings on air mail envelopes.

On a central field of white, a device worked in gold represents a globe bearing the words "U.S. Air Mail," flanked by two wings. Colonel L. H. Brittin, of Northwest Airways, designed the flag, which was dedicated by Assistant Postmaster General Glover.
Joe McMillan, 30 January 2009

The Order of the Yellow Jersey flag

[Flag of Postal Service] image by Blas Delgado Ortiz, 6 December 2001

"The Post Offices in the Northland District (includes most of Minnesota and a portion of Western Wisconsin) will fly "The Order of the Yellow Jersey" flag recently awarded to employees for outstanding performance and teamwork in satisfying customers.

"The new flag features the Postal Service logo with the eagle body emblazoned in yellow and is awarded to postal facilities that receive high marks in the Customer Satisfaction Measurement-Residential survey conducted for the Postal Service by The Gallup Organization. The yellow jersey is designed to mirror the symbol of excellence worn by the daily leader and winner of the prestigious Tour de France bicycle race. For the last two years that champion was Lance Armstrong, a member of the U.S. Postal Service Pro Cycling Team."

I assume this is awarded throughout the US Postal Service, not just in this one district. I also assume that the basis for the yellow jersey flag is the USPS flag that now flies in front of Postal Service HQ in Washington. It is blue with the relatively new USPS logo (eagle's head) in white, with the name of the service underneath.

I had seen descriptions of a USPS flag featuring the logo adopted when the Post Office Department first became the Postal Service, the entire American eagle in profile with wings elevated surrounded by the name of the service in a kind of square with rounded corners.
Joe McMillan, 6 December 2001

Requesting a Mailboat

Found on the vast Boatnerd site:, written by Postmater J.J. Enright and published in the Detroit Free Press on 16 June, 1895: 'United States Marine Post Office, Detroit, Michigan'.

Quote concerning signals to and from mailboat - see third and fifth sentences:


Signal to passing boats from U.S. mail boat for delivery of mail: Blasts - One long, one short, one long.

Signal for steam vessels wanting mailboat to call for mail: Blasts - One long, one short, one long.

Signal for sailing vessels requiring mailboat: White flag by day; flashing bright light at night.

Signal from mail boat to large boats to check down: Three blasts of mocking-bird whistle.

Signal from rowboat belonging to mailboat when approaching vessels for delivery of mail: White flag in daytime; swinging bright light at night.
Boatnerd adds that J.J. Westcott still holds that particular contract.

Jan Mertens, 10 May 2007