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Rural Free Delivery (RFD) is a service which began in the United States in the late 19th century to deliver mail directly to rural farm families. Prior to RFD, individuals living in more remote homesteads had to pick up mail themselves at sometimes distant post offices or pay private carriers for delivery (this fee was in addition to the postage paid by the mailer). RFD became a political football, with politicians promising it to voters and using it themselves to reach voters. The proposal to offer free rural delivery was not universally embraced. Private carriers and local shopkeepers feared a loss of business. The United States Post Office Department began experiments with Rural Free Delivery as early as 1890. However, it was not until 1893, when Georgia Congressman Thomas E. Watson pushed through legislation, that the practice was mandated. However, universal implementation was slow; RFD was not adopted generally in the United States Post Office until 1902. The rural delivery service has used a network of rural routes traveled by carriers to deliver mail to and pick it up from roadside mailboxes.

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