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Post Office Reports of Site Locations, 1837–1950

The National Archives Building in Washington, DC, houses surviving report forms sent to postmasters seeking information for the Topographer's Office to use in compiling postal route maps.

These records have been reproduced as Microfilm M1126Post Office Department Records of Site Locations, 1837–1955 (683 rolls). M1126 has been digitized and made available online through the National Archives Catalog (National Archives Identifier 608210).

Historical Background

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1942 Map of Alabama Highways

Included among the Post Office reports of site locations for Alabama (NAID 68174777)

Before 1837, the U.S. Post Office Department had no official mapmaker and purchased its maps from commercial firms or private individuals. On March 13, 1837, Henry A. Burr was appointed the first Topographer of the Post Office, and he began preparing maps for postal officials' use.

The reports of site locations provided data that the Topographer used in preparing these maps. They were also an important part of the process for establishing a new post office and for reporting changes in a post office's name or location.

The Appointment Division of the First Assistant Postmaster General's Office usually sent a site location report form to the postmaster nearest to a proposed post office. The postmaster would complete and return the form, and the Topographer would then use the information to determine the location of the proposed post office in relation to other nearby post offices, transportation routes, and facilities.

In 1862, Postmaster General Montgomery Blair directed the Topographer to prepare a comprehensive set of postal maps for sale to the public. Maps of states, or groups of states, were to be continually updated by the Topographer's Office. Later, similar maps were prepared for territories and possessions.

On January 3, 1955, the Postmaster General ordered the end of sales of postal route maps and eliminated the need to accumulate reports on postal office site locations.

More information regarding the Topographer and postal route maps may be found in Records and Policies of the Post Office Department Relating to Place-Names (National Archives Reference Information Paper No. 72).

Contents of Site Reports

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Walthall Post Office Site Report

Holly Springs, Wake County, NC (NAID 68594426)

Although Post Office site location reports changed in format over the years, most requested the following information about a post office:

  • County and State (or Territory);
  • Land description used by the Federal survey system (range, township, and section), if applicable;
  • Mail route number and distance to the nearest mail route; and
  • Closest rivers, creeks, canals, roads, and railroads.

The reports do not typically provide the exact locations of post offices (except for some in the 1940s, which provide street addresses), nor do they include information about the buildings in which post offices were housed or operated.

However, most reports include a diagram or sketch map compiled by the postmaster or a printed map that the postmaster annotated to show the approximate location of the post office.

Some reports also provide the name of the contractor for the mail route and the number of families or people who would be served by the post office.

Note that petitions were submitted with site location applications to request a new post office. However, while we have the original site location reports, the U.S. Postal Service did not keep the petitions. As such, these petitions no longer exist.

Arrangement of Site Reports

The Post Office site location reports are arranged alphabetically by state (including the District of Colombia). Reports for states are followed by reports for territories (Panama Canal Zone, Guam, Samoa, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Philippine Islands).

The reports for each state or territory are then arranged alphabetically by major civil division (county, parish, or district) and thereunder by the name of the post office in rough alphabetical order.

Multiple Reports

More than one report can exist for the same post office if the post office moved or its name changed. For post offices that moved, the reports are usually arranged chronologically with the most recent report first and the oldest report last. Reports for post offices whose names changed are normally filed under the most recent name, but sometimes they are filed under the earlier name(s).

Boundaries of civil divisions sometimes changed, so reports for a given post office might be filed under more than one county or state. Secondary sources such as gazetteers, atlases, and commercially published postal guides can be consulted to learn the name of the county in which a particular post office was located. These resources may be found at most large public libraries.

Site Reports by State/Territory








 Delaware; District of Columbia





















 New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

North Dakota





Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota







West Virginia



Canal Zone, Guam, Samoa, Virgin Island

Puerto Rico

Philippine Islands

  • Roll 683: Philippine Islands (coming soon)

Bibliographic note: This web page is based on National Archives Microfilm Publications Pamphlet Describing M1126, Post Office Department Reports of Site Locations, 1837–1950 (Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1986), 18 pages. The web version may differ from the printed version.