Letterpress - This article excerpt may help to understand why precancels were instituted:
In a few words, precanceling stamps saved time and labor by reducing the number of times which a piece of mail had to be handled in the flow of events at and between the private business concern which originated the mail and the addressee. While in fact the amount of effort saved on a single piece of mail might well be minute, when multiplied by one, five, ten or a hundred million, the cumulative labor savings for postmasters and the resulting efficiencies realized by mailers were enormous. Stamps canceled in bulk, as it were, before being affixed to mail, eliminated the necessity to hand- or machine-cancel them, of course. But beyond that, other economies were achieved as well.
Further explanation is perhaps best given by example. In The Story of Our Post Office by Marshall Cushing, which was published in 1893, there is a particularly detailed "first person" explanation offered as to why precanceling stamps became indispensable to both mailers and local postmasters alike. It is told by an employee of H. H. Warner & Co., a patent drug manufacturer ("Warner's Safe Cure") which was located in Rochester, New York :
[It] is in the mailing of pamphlets that we use the mails to the greatest extent. We mail between seven and eight million pamphlets each spring and fall. . . . We use the names of heads of families to send our pamphlets to, and generally renew the list about once in two years. As fast as the lists come in, they are looked up in the Postal Guide to ascertain if each place the list comes from is a post office, and to guard against duplicate lists, for they come from every state and territory in the Union. The lists are then taken by girls and the names written on wrappers, which are used to wrap the pamphlets in. Each name is generally written four times, on four different wrappers, as it can be done quicker, and this is enough for four mailings. About five hundred writers are generally employed, the writing being done for the most part by the thousand. After the wrappers are written they are separated into states for the postal clerks. Since April, 1887, during which month we sent out four million pamphlets (which blocked the mail so that the superintendents from Washington and New York came to our office to ascertain what could be done to handle our mail without so much work on the mail trains), we have worked our mail in our own building. . . . Cases were built especially for the purpose of routing our mail; and about two weeks before we commence mailing, the superintendent of mails is notified, and postal clerks are sent here to work the wrappers. When we mailed the old way, that is, previous to 1887, we would ship the sack of mail to the state which we wanted it to reach, and the postal clerks through whose hands this sack went were required to handle each piece in the sack in order to route it. Now the postal clerks come to our building, and route the wrappers before they are sent out, and as all the wrappers addressed to one place are tied together, they can route all the names in that place at one time, which is a great saving of time and trouble, as the sack in which these wrappers are put is shipped to the route in the state to which it is addressed, and the pieces it contains are not handled until they reach the route marked on the sack. It not only saves the postal clerks much labor, but also the pamphlets from being handled three or four times. . . ."
"After the wrappers are worked by the postal clerks, they are ready to be stamped. Stamps are cancelled in the sheet by the post office officials, thus saving to the Post Office Department the cost of twelve men to cancel, which was the number necessary to cancel the stamps on our pamphlets previous to 1887. The stamps are put on the wrappers by girls, who become very expert. The smartest girls will average about 25,000 stamped wrappers a day, although we have two in our employ who have put on 27,500 each, working nine hours. After the wrappers are stamped, they are tied in bundles of 250 each, and looked over by an expert to see that each wrapper is stamped. . . ."
"The wrappers are then ready for the mailers. The mailing is done by girls, who sit at their work with pamphlets before them and an open mail sack at their left hand. They become very expert in wrapping the pamphlets. . . . The force employed in our mailing room consists of two hundred girls and five men. The largest number of pamphlets ever sent out by us in one day was 220,000, requiring 880 mail sacks to hold them. The average number mailed during our busy season is 100,000 each day. This makes about a carload and requires $1000 worth of one cent stamps to send them out."
Link to full article:https://www.precancels.com/early-us...stal-system/