Michael Glaser delivers the United States mail to some of the oldest buildings in Smithtown, whose post office, established in 1794, was among the first on Long Island.
His route includes the 1740 Franklin O. Arthur Farmhouse, the 1740 Epenetus Smith Tavern and the 1918 Roseneath Cottage, Smithtown Historical Society properties off Middle Country Road. Tenants in Society buildings get personal mail. The Society's business mail, which sometimes includes inquiries from far-flung Smiths seeking information about their famous ancestors, goes to the cottage.
"You feel something just by walking in" those old buildings, Glaser said one afternoon last week. On weekends, he watches the occasional old-time baseball game played on the Society's meadow — "guys with old gloves, old hats, shorts and a flat wooden bat" — but he has little time for historical musing while working. "I come in with my smile…I say 'Good morning,' I keep moving."
Glaser's boss, Frank Anzaldi Jr., the officer in charge of the Smithtown post office, said the ambience was one of the job perks for letter carriers. "Just seeing the building and knowing the history behind it makes it special, knowing you're going to an address that people have delivered to for 200 years."
Today's postal service, ramping up for peak holiday season with new hires and new technology, operates at a scale Glaser and Anzaldi's predecessors might never have dreamed of. Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day last year, it processed 9.2 million packages for Long Island, employing machinery capable of sorting 12,500 pieces of mail per hour. Nationally, it fields a workforce of 655,000 and processes 65 million packages per day.
Glaser, 53, wears crisp United States Postal Service blues and black walking shoes he runs through at a rate of two or three pairs per year. His route, which he has worked 11 years, includes 300 Middle Country Road business addresses and residential addresses south of the road. The business portion alone takes four hours, and though he drives a delivery van, he walks four miles on a typical workday.
Home delivery here did not start until 1950, USPS historian Jenny Lynch wrote in an email. The early letter carriers dealt with roads so bad they were "in name only" and sometimes with thieves, who targeted them because of their regular routes, she said. There was no provision for retirement until the 1920s, and carriers hauled up to 50 pounds of mail until 1950, when the limit was reduced to 35 pounds.
A history of the USPS in Smithtown, archived in the Smithtown Library's Long Island Room and written for the 1970 dedication of the Route 111 post office, describes its origins in the 1730s in a 239-mile Pony Express-style circuit from Brooklyn to the East End.
Frank Braithwaite, a Smithtown resident whose postal history collection includes 120 Smithtown items like route maps, letters and postmarks, said most of the correspondence he'd found from the early centuries of Smithtown service was dry stuff: business and legal matters, including an open letter to area residents about the deplorable condition of local roads. Postage and paper were too expensive for gossip, he said.
Braithwaite marveled at the toughness of some of the early letter carriers, men like Joseph Hull Conklin, who drove for a stage coach company under USPS contract and rode through an 1838 blizzard to make his deliveries.
Conklin lasted a mere seven years on the job. Glaser has 20 years already and said he would keep going until his 65th birthday. "I feel great," he said. "This job keeps me in shape."
Smithtown Post Office, by the numbers
- 10,000 letters, 5,000 magazine-sized mail pieces delivered daily
- 64 routes covering Smithtown and Hauppauge
- 116 employees