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Dead medium: Pneumatic mail
From: rdi@cci.com (Richard Inzero)

Source(s): Sears Roebuck 1908 stereoscope card

(((Rick Inzero remarks: Here's a description that I found on the back of an old stereoscope card. It describes the pneumatic tube system used by the mail-order store Sears, Roebuck & Co., of Chicago, Illinois, circa 1908. The size of the system and noted volume of traffic across this huge system in a single day is *quite* remarkable.)))

"Card #16: Pneumatic Tube Station

"Probably the most valuable time saver employed by us to facilitate the transaction of business in the new plant is the very elaborate system of pneumatic tubes used for sending written communications, orders, etc. between departments throughout the several buildings.

"The illustration will give you an idea of this very large system, this picture representing the station in the Administration Building which is said to be the largest of its kind in the world. More than fifteen miles of tubing were used in the installation of this system, and it undoubtedly takes the place of an army of messenger boys and handles inter-department communications at a tremendous saving in time.

"Letters and orders received from our customers are opened and read in the Administration Building and from this central building are routed through this tube station to the proper merchandise or clerical departments for handling, and as this service is operated by compressed air it it almost instantaneous. These tubes carry what we call a cartridge, which is a hollow cylinder about four inches in diameter and about twelve inches long. Letters, orders or papers are inserted in this cartridge and the cartridge in turn dropped into the tube and the great air pressure forces this carrier at a very high rate of speed to its destination.

"It is not an uncommon thing for the boys in charge of this room to handle more than twenty-seven thousand cartridges in the course of a day's work, and in the entire tube system more than seventy thousand cartridges or carriers are handled in a single day."

Richard Inzero (rdi@cci.com)