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Seeking to reach the unbanked, the US Postal Savings System provided a federally insured savings alternative to traditional banks. Using novel data sets on postal deposits, demographic characteristics, and banks, we study how and by whom the system was used. We find the program was initially used by nonfarming immigrant populations for short-term saving, then as a safe haven during the Great Depression, and finally as long-term investments for the wealthy during the 1940s. Postal Savings was only a partial substitute for traditional banks, as locations with banks often still heavily used Postal Savings.
The rollout of Rural Free Delivery (RFD) in the early twentieth century
dramatically increased the frequency with which rural voters received
information. This article examines the effect of RFD on voters' and
Representatives' behavior using a panel dataset and instrumental
variables. Communities receiving more routes spread their votes to more parties;
there is no evidence it changed turnout. RFD shifted positions taken by
Representatives in line with rural constituents, including increased support for
pro-temperance and anti-immigration policies. These results appear only in
counties with newspapers, supporting the hypothesis that information flows play
a crucial role in the political process.
“As the whole world has been drawn closer together by the
inventions and uses of steam and electricity, so farmers may be
drawn closer together by the universal practice of free
—Matthew Williams of Verndale, Minnesota as quoted in the 1900
Yearbook of the United States Department of Agriculture
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