Mail & Express in 1876


(44th Congress, 2nd Session; Senate; Miscellaneous Document No. 20)

(Courtesy of Thornton Waite, June 20, 2017)


SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH, November 14, 1876.


Question. What is your name, sir?
Answer. John Sharp. I am superintendent of two railroads, the Utah Central and Utah Southern; and president and superintendent of both of them. The Utah Central runs from Ogden here, thirty-seven miles, and the Utah Southern from here to a place called York.

Q. How many cars do you run on an average it?
A. A mail-car and two passenger-cars constitute our general business train. Sometimes we have to have three cars to a place called Sandy.

Q. Do you have a baggage-car in addition?
A. No, sir; not in addition. Our mail-car is divided into three parts, and the mail is in the center, and separate and apart from both the express and baggage.

Q. What other railroads have you in Utah?
A. The Utah Western, going west from Salt Lake City about twenty-five miles. We have still another road, called the Utah Northern, from Ogden, going the other way—north in place of south—north to Franklin. This is a narrow-gauge road.

Q. Has the business of your roads been increasing?
A. On the Utah Central it has rather decreased since the panic struck us in 1873, but it is picking up now, and the business prospects are very encouraging. The Southern has about the same increase all the time. In addition to our regular passenger-trains, we ran a special once a week on both roads, for the accommodation of the people along the roads. The rate is two and a half cents. But, while this is well patronized, we discover that it cuts off our regular passenger-traffic, because people will wait for that particular train, and go up and come back again at these low rates. People come to do their marketing on that day.

Q. In addition to your passenger-trains do you run freight-trains?
A. Yes, sir. On the Utah Central we run two freight-trains each day, and sometimes we run three each day. We have also an extra, called "9 and 10." On the Utah Southern we have two freight-trains running from Salt Lake City to Sandy every day, one in the morning and the other in the evening; and then we have also a freight and passenger mixed, from Sandy to the end of the town, one each way.

Q. Which is the largest business, your freight or your passenger?
A. The freight has been the largest. The passenger comes nearer on our Southern. But averaging all around, we have nearly three times as much freight as we have passengers.

Q. What are your earnings per mile for passengers?
A. From three to five cents. The regular passenger-traffic is five cents per mile, and accommodation-trains three cents per mile.

Q. You have a pretty large mail on the Utah Southern, have you not?
A. Yes, sir; about 14,000 pounds. We get it at Sandy and stations along the road. It is distributed at the end of the line. It isn't all distributed on the line of the road. Some of it goes beyond the end of the line, to Beaver, Pioche, and other places. All our southern mail comes down that way.

Q. Do you run your own express?
A. No, sir; Wells, Fargo & Co. do that, although the Union Pacific people talk of running their own. They pay us by the month. They pay us 60 cents per mile at points from Ogden to Salt Lake City. It has been very light. During the time when there was plenty of money we had three times as much express. The payment for carrying this express varies from $450 to $500 a month. They have agreed if the weights don't make up 250 dollars they would make it up for us.

Q. You are going to put on better cars for postal service, are you?
A. Yes, sir; not exclusively postal, however. They will be compartment-cars—one-third for mail. They are intended to be run regularly twice a day—two round trips. There is plenty of room for the mail. We have to light the car and clean it, and furnish the fuel.

Q. When did you have your last weighing of mails?
A. I don't know, sir; I think it was about six months ago. The mail has undoubtedly increased since that time.

Q. How does the compensation you receive for carrying the mail compare with the compensation you receive from the rest of the business?
A. It is much lighter. We have to pay out for delivering the mail at Ogden and this point this month $466.80. We pay that amount to Wells, Fargo & Co. to bring it to and from the post-offices for us four times a day. We pay that out of this amount that the Government gives us. At all terminal points the railroad must deliver the mail to the post-office, and along the line if within 80 rods of the station. We get $4,200 for carrying the mails.

Q. Is that as much as you get for the same weight of passengers or other matter?
A. Well, take for instance a third part of this car—your postal car running along here—if we didn't get in any third part of the car more than we do generally in the postal department it would hardly pay us.

Q. Do you send goods—express goods—over this [the Southern] as well as over the other road?
A. Yes, sir.

Q. What do you get for that?
A. Just about the same as on the others. It don't amount to much now. It is somewhat less, I believe, than on the Central. On this road the express company have agreed to make up to us only $150. We go over that line only twice a day, while on the other we go four times. The mail goes once a day from the terminus to the south. The stage makes connection with us at noon on the southern terminus and goes south to Pioche. The express company have an agent running with us on the Central, but not so regularly on the Southern, but there is an agent at the end of the track. We get more compensation on the Southern for carrying mail than we do for our express, but not so on our Northern. The Central has paid us more than $3,000 a year; but this last six months it hasn't; we haven't anything to pay out for our express, while we have for our mail.

Q. Couldn't you carry the mail from the stations to the offices cheaper than you pay Wells, Fargo & Co.?
A. No, sir. It wouldn't pay Wells, Fargo & Co. to hitch up a team specially to bring the mail, at the figures we pay them; but as they go there for their own goods they can bring our mail at the same time. You must remember it is four times a day. The weight of the mail is increasing just as our business is increasing. The express business has fallen off since the panic. I don't think that holds good as far as the mail-matter is concerned. If anything, that has been increased, especially by reason of the panic. People patronize the mail, while they consider the express a luxury only to be indulged in when they can't get along without it.

Q. What is the general business of the city and State?
A. We produce a great many woolen goods. There is one factory with about $200,000 worth of machinery in it. I can't say how many hands. We produce all the grain we need here and then have a little surplus. We ship it over to Chicago. The freight on grain is a great drawback to us. We raise wheat, oats, barley, and corn. Our country is not so good for corn, but still there is considerable grown. Our seasons are not too short, but our nights are too cold. The precious metals are carried by the express company. When it is refined, it is carried to the end of the track. We also raise all the potatoes we need. We manufacture blankets. Stock-raising is an important feature. We send the wool to Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York. Our population is considered to be about 20,000. Some old residents think it is above that. Our last census, taken six years ago, showed us to have over 18,000. The population of all Utah is estimated at from 125,000 to 150,000. We have some Indians who are civilised and are trying to work for a living. They raise corn and potatoes, and my opinion is that they are natural herders. Our mails are delivered pretty regularly all over Utah, except in some few places south of here where I have heard a little complaint, only, however, through the papers. Those complaints come more from the stage-routes. We have a great deal of trouble with them. When the winter commences, then it is a pretty hard matter to get the mails through. It is only a natural road, and whenever it gets wet it has no bottom to it.

Q. Have you much snow here?
A. Not much in volume.

Q. Where does your supply of water come from?
A. From snow-deposits in the mountains. Our rains are increasing. I have been here since 1850. I came from Missouri, but I am not a native of that State. I am a Scotchman.

Q. How long does it take the mail from here to New York to arrive?
A. Five days.

Q. During last spring did you get your mail through any quicker than you do now?
A. No, sir.

WILLIAM HOOPER, president of Deseret Bank:

Question. You keep your exchanges with New York, do you not?
Answer. Yes, sir also with Chicago and Saint Louis; but on New York heaviest.

Q. How long does it take to send your letters through to New York and get an answer?
A. Twelve days is about as soon as it can be done.

Q. How long did it take six months ago?
A. Twelve days. It took just as long. We couldn't have reaped any benefit unless they shortened the time between New York and Chicago fully twenty-four hours, instead of only twelve, for the reason that we only receive one mail per day, and unless it came there to Omaha a full day earlier, it would still be the same with us. No matter how rapidly the trains run east of Omaha, when they do arrive there they all wait and pull out together at noon; so that, even if they came in twelve hours sooner, they would lie at Omaha just as usual.

[See documents hereto appended and marked Exhibits A, B, and C, respectively.]


SALT LAKE CITY, 11, 14, '76.

Length of road, Utah Central Railroad, 36.356 miles.

Cost of road --- $1,163,038.05
Gross earnings, fiscal year ending April 30, 1876 --- $392,346.71
Operating earnings, including taxes and incidental expense --- $165,847.05
Mail earned outward, weight --- 6,259 pounds
Mail carried inward, weight --- 14,347 pounds
Annual allowance --- $2,920 00
Paid by company for carrying mails to and from termini --- $466.80

Mail carried two round trips daily.
Length of compartment mail, 14 feet, by 8 feet 6 inches wide. Fitted with boxes, stove, lamps, &c., according to instructions from Superintendent Amerman.


Length of road, Utah Southern Railroad, 75 miles.
Cost of road --- $1,379, 913.44
Gross earnings, fiscal year ending December 31, 1875 --- $188,981.60
Operating earnings, including taxes and incidental expenses --- $120,650.87
Mail carried outward, weight --- 14,146 pounds
Mail carried inward, weight --- 8, 540 pounds
Annual allowance --- $4,428.00
Paid by company for carrying mails to and from terminus --- $216.50

Mail carried one round trip daily.
Length of compartment mail, 15 feet, by 8 feet 9 inches wide. Fitted with boxes, stove, lamps, &c., according to instructions of Superintendent Amerman.


Utah Southern Railroad postal car.
Size of apartment, 15 feet long by 8 feet 9 inches wide in center of car, with dome-roof and side lights, and excluded from baggage and express apartments. It is heated by means of a Russian-iron drum, connected to stove in express compartment, and furnished with arm chair, stool, clothes' closet, water-cooler, &c.

The paper-case contains 30 boxes, divided into four rows above table, 11 inches high, 12 inches wide and 18 inches deep, with sliding fronts and turned knobs, fastened with bow-springs, according to printed circular.

Under paper-case is sliding table with drawer underneath, with one permanent section on right aide, provided with hinged traps and hooks underneath for hanging sacks.

The letter-case contains 100 pigeon-holes, 4 inches high, 44 inches wide, and 5 inches deep. Under letter-case is a table 20 inches wide, with 3 drawers underneath.

There are two sash-doors, one on each side, arranged to slide, and hung from the top. Also a letter-drop on each side, and two lamps, one attached to letter-case, the other to paper-case.