On the 21st of January, 1862, the President approved an act passed by Congress authorizing the Post Office Department to return all dead letters to their writers. The Post Master General was of the opinion that the revenue derived from a charge of double postage on such letters would more than equal the expenditure caused by an extra clerical force in the Department. Thus far the new system (which is like the English one) works very smoothly, and all letters not reaching their destination, instead of being burned by the cart load, are now carefully sent to the writers, and double postage collected. – Of course many non-valuable letters are returned, but of their value the writer, not the Department, should be the judge. The following notice on the envelope inclosing the dead letter to the postmaster explains the further object of the new law:
“The inclosed letter is sent to the writer, under an act of Congress, approved January 21, 1862. If not delivered, and double postage collected, as required by this new law, it must be returned to the Third Assistant Postmaster General within one month, with the reasons for non delivery indorsed on it, according to section 199 of Post Office regulations.
“If retained a longer period the Postmaster will be held accountable for the postage, whether delivered or not. The date of receipt at the post office must be marked on the letter.
“The Postmaster will not allow the envelope to be opened before receiving the postage.”
– Published in The Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, April 12, 1862, p. 1