History

1737--Postmaster Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia given the task of "regulating the several post offices and bringing the postmasters to account."

1772--Under the colonial postal system, Postmaster General Benjamin Franklin creates the position of "Surveyor" because he could no longer single-handedly regulate and audit post offices.

1776--Surveyors establish and keep open lines of communication necessary to conduct the Revolutionary War. William Goddard named as the nation's first Surveyor of the new American postal service.

1792--Congress imposes the death penalty for stealing mail.

1801--Title of surveyor changed to Special Agent.

1812--Special Agents observe and report on movements of the British fleet on the Potomac River during the War of 1812.

1828--Noah Webster, who was one of the first Surveyors, publishes his dictionary.

1829--Preston S. Loughborough is appointed as the first Chief Postal Inspector.

1830--Office of Instructions and Mail Depredations is established as the investigative branch of the Post Office Department.

1853--The number of Special Agents grows to 18. Assigned to specific territories, their duties include reporting on the conditions of steamboats, stagecoaches, railroads, and horses used to transport mail, visiting mail distribution offices and examining postal accounts.

1861--Special Agents establish and maintain military post offices and routes during the Civil War.

1872--Congress enacts the Mail Fraud Statute to combat a post-Civil War outbreak of swindles using the mail.

1873--The Postal Obscenity Statute is enacted by Congress, based on the urging of Special Agent Anthony Comstock.

1880--Special Agents become known as "Post Office Inspectors' by Act of Congress. "Green Goods" swindles exposed. Congress strengthens Mail Fraud Statute to protect citizens from bogus offers in the mail.

1881--Post Office Inspectors interview "Billy the Kid" in connection with a mail robbery in Santa Fe, NM.

1908--In Clinton, MS, Inspector Charles Fitzgerald is the first Post Office Inspector killed in the line of duty.

1916--The last known stage-coach robbery in the United States is solved by the Post Office Inspectors, who apprehended the bandits within five days of the crime.

1925--Inspectors quell heavy outbreak of train robberies and post office holdups.

1926--Postal Inspectors successfully conclud a 3 1/2 year, worldwide manhunt for three train bandits known as the D'Autremont brothers. The brothers killed four men and blew up a mail car, which they thought was carrying half a million dollars in gold.

1934--When the nation's $15.5 billion gold reserve is transferred from New York to Fort Knox, Post Office Inspectors plan the movement and protection of the bullion, which was sent by registered mail. The transfer required 500 rail cars, took several years and was completed without a mishap.

1940--The first of five Postal Inspection Service forensic laboratories is established.

1941--Post Office Inspectors organized the mail system for the military during World War II. The system is so efficient that even front-line troops expect mail delivery as normal procedure.

1947--Jesse M. Donaldson, the Chief Postal Inspector, is appointed Postmaster General.

1954--Inspectors are renamed "Postal Inspectors" to reflect their relationship to all phases of postal services and the U.S. Mail, instead of only to post offices.

1958--Owners of the Hope Diamond send the priceless jewel to the Smithsonian Institution by U.S. Mail. Postal Inspectors ensured that the gem arrived safely at its destination.

1970-1971--With the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 (effective 1971), the Bureau of the Chief Postal Inspector becomes the "United States Postal Inspection Service." A uniformed security force is added to assist in carrying out the Inspection Service's mission.

1971--The U.S. Postal Inspection Service becomes one of the first federal law enforcement agencies to hire female agents.

1972--Postal Inspectors and Postal Inspection Service forensic scientists prove that a handwritten note giving Clifford Irving exclusive rights to write Howard Hughes' biography was a fraud.

1984--The passage of the Child Protection Act gives Postal Inspectors additional powers to focus on the peddlers of child pornography.

1987--Investigations by Postal Inspectors reveal widespread white-collar crime on Wall Street, including insider trading and a massive check-kiting scheme.

1989--Postal Inspectors arrest telavangelist Jim Bakker, cofounder of the Praise the Lord (PTL) Club. Inspectors proved Bakker committed mail fraud after he scammed believers by using $178 million of their mailed-in money for personal gain. He is sentenced to 45 years in prison.

1991--The Postal Inspection Service breaks up a worldwide art-fraud ring that marketed bogus paintings purported to be by such renowned artists as Salvador Dali, Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso.

1998--Postal Inspectors play an integral role on a multi-agency task force that arrests the Unabomber, marking the end of one of the largest and most extensive criminal manhunts in modern history.

2000--"Know Fraud" is launched, the largest consumer protection efort ever undertaken, with postcards sent to 123 million addresses across America, arming consumers with common-sense tips and guidelines to prevent telemarketing and mail fraud.

2001--"Operation Avalanche," a coordinated strike between the Postal Inspection Service and 30 other federally funded task forces, results in the arrest of 100 child pornographers and molestors who used the mail and the Internet to sexually exploit children.

2004--For the first time in our nation's history, biological terror was sent through the mail, when four anthrax-laden letters resulted in the deaths of two postal employees and three citizens. The investigation continues. In related incidents, Postal Inspectors responded to more than 20,000 suspicious mailings, anthrax hoaxes and threats.