The first man to truly “go postal” was a peculiar English gentleman named W. Reginald Bray.
The Human Letter
Whether Bray was peculiar before is unknown, but his purchase of the Post Office Guide delivered him to a strange place.
The postal service rules at Victorian times were a lot more generous than they are now.
The smallest item that could be posted was a bee and the largest an elephant!
There was nothing in the rules to say you couldn’t send people
On November 14th, 1903, Bray completely failed to resist this Victorian postal service rule:
‘a person may be conducted by express messenger to any address on payment of the mileage charge’.
He later explained in a newspaper article that he had found this particularly useful when:
‘one very foggy night I could not find a friend’s house, so instead of wandering about for hours I posted myself and was delivered in a few minutes’.
And apparently, it was cheaper than a taxi!
An official form from 1903 acknowledges ‘Delivery of an Inland Registered Person Cyclist’ to Bray’s home address.
Other items Bray posted included:
His Irish terrier Bob
A rabbit skull*
A turnip (address and message encarved)
A bowler hat
A clothes brush
A frying pan
A crocheted letter created for him by his mother
A postcard addressed to “The Driver, Locomotive No. 133, Caledonian Railway, Glasgow Station”.
The postman’s revenge
The most wonderfully peculiar aspect of these pranks is that the majority of Bray’s mail was delivered.
That includes himself three times and his dog, Bob.
What the unfortunate postmen involved felt about all of this is unknown.
(And possibly unsuitable for the royal mail.)
Maybe the penny fee for undeliverable letters afforded a small measure of satisfaction.
One postman at least had a little fun, sending the letter to ‘The Resident, Bournemouth’ back with this rhyme scrawled on it:
‘Pursuing this game
We hope there are not many
However, for your hobby
You will have to pay a penny.’
Happy January 10th, Peculiar People Day.
For further fascinating information on Bray, check out the definitive book: “The Englishman who Posted Himself and Other Curious Objects“.
He later went on to become “The Autograph King” and Hitler-botherer.
*the address spelled out on the nasal bone, and the stamps pasted to the back
Siobhan is a freelance writer, research addict and lover of twisted history. If you like horrible but amazing history, check out her website www.interesly.com or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/interesly. Or you can reach her through www.siobhanoshea.com.