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‘Paper Trails’ Explores How The U.S. Postal Service Helped Shape The American West

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23min 20sec
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
<p>Julesburg and other towns along the South Platte River Valley have historically always been important stops for travelers on the way to the West, whether they were explorers, or in wagon trains, railroad trains, or cars and trucks on the nearby interstate. <a href="https://www.nps.gov/poex/learn/historyculture/index.htm#onthisPage-0">The Pony Express</a> stopped here too in the 1860s. Although the legendary mail route ran for just 18 months between 1860-61, it still enjoys an outsized myth in the West, and Julesburg plays up its relationship with the historic route as part of a strategy to lure tourists to town.</p>

There’s a lot of talk about infrastructure these days and whether Washington should fund a major investment. We’re going to look back at one of this country’s biggest infrastructure roll-outs: the westward expansion of the Postal Service in the late 1800s. Interesting fact: at one point, the USPS had double the locations it has today. In his new book, "Paper Trails: The US Post And The Making Of The American West." CU Denver historian Cameron Blevins writes that this rapid and far-reaching expansion also “facilitated a larger process of colonization” as “the US Post helped accelerate the seizure of Native territory.”