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Historic Postal Data

Open historic data created from Benjamin Franklin's Philadelphia post office records in the collections of the American Philosophical Society.

What is this data?

Benjamin Franklin was appointed Postmaster of Philadelphia in 1737, and a long and fruitful career in the postal service followed. The records created during his tenure, however, have not been objects of much study. The original volumes (Mss.B.F85.misc) from which these spreadsheets were made are in the collections of the American Philosophical Society and can be viewed in the APS Digital Library:

  • Post Office Book, 1748-52 [APS Digital Library link] - This volume of 372 pages records receipt and dispatch of all mail in the Philadelphia Post Office between May 25, 1748 and July 23, 1752. Deliveries into the Post Office from out of town were listed, letter by letter, by the names of the addressees, weight and amount due, paid or free. Outgoing mail was simply listed by number of sheets and weight, not by individual letters.
  • Post Office Record Book No. 3, 1743 [APS Digital Library link] - "Post Office Accounts drawn out Nov. 1743" is a small volume of ca. 50 pages. It contains a list of names with amounts due with notes as to letters delivered, paid, etc. The names are abstracted from Post Office Ledger, No. 2.
  • Post Office Accounts, 1748 [APS Digital Library link] - "Post Office Accounts" May 18, 1748, is the continuation of the above ledger [No. 3]. It contains 68 pages.
  • Post Office Book (letters received), 1767-68 [APS Digital Library link] - These printed forms were filled in in manuscript and list the letters received from other colonial post offices or from ships in the Philadelphia Post Office by Postmaster Thomas Foxcroft.

Who created this data?

  • Bethany Farrell, Digital Franklin Fellow
  • Cynthia Heider, Martin L. Levitt Fellow/Center for Digital Scholarship
  • Bayard Miller, Center for Digital Scholarship
  • Molly Shannon, Washington College Explore America Intern
  • Scott Ziegler, Center for Digital Scholarship

How was this data created?

Please see each individual dataset's documentation for detailed information on its process, structure, and sources.

What these datasets are not

Open historic data is not a replacement for or an identical recreation of the original manuscript record from which it was created. Rather, it is intended to to make these volumes easier to use.

This dataset was created as part of the American Philosophical Society's Open Data Initiative (Learn more at Although contributors took care to minimize mistakes and inconsistencies in the creation of these items, and have included any assumptions or choices made on their part that may affect interoperability or integrity of the data, APS cannot guarantee that they are free of instances of human error. They are offered "as is," and researchers are encouraged to consult the original records in digital or physical format in the event of uncertainty. If you have feedback or notice errors in the data, please contact us at


These datasets are available for anyone to evaluate, share, reuse, and remix as they wish under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License, and in accordance with the APS Open Access Policy. Please attribute APS Library & Museum. A sample citation can be found in the dataset documentation.


Open historic data created from Benjamin Franklin's Philadelphia post office records in the collections of the American Philosophical Society.







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