What is going one here 1?
August 18, 2022 9:53 AM   Subscribe

During the late 1940s and early 50s some classified ads in magazines that I read had entries for "remailing services" where you could use a mailing address other than your own where letters would be forwarded to your correct address. My elderly memory says they cost about 20 cents a letter for the service. What was going on here? The magazines in question were Mechanix Illustrated and Popular Science and others like them.
posted by Raybun to Society & Culture (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
These still exist. People can use them for a number of different reasons.

- privacy so people don't know your home address
- privacy so people delivering your mail or in your home won't know who you're getting mail from (remailers will put things into a new envelope to forward it along)
- possibly to establish residency somewhere (not technically legal but can work)
- for people who are nomadic of some sort, they can change the "deliver to" address to where they are at the time. Fulltime RVers use these a lot
posted by jessamyn at 10:04 AM on August 18, 2022 [7 favorites]

Imagine you lived in a small town in that era and everyone knew your business including the post-office workers.

If you wanted to, for example, order something the neighbors would frown upon like a girlie magazine how would you do it? This is one way. There was a reason these services were advertised in male-oriented magazines.
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:06 AM on August 18, 2022 [10 favorites]

It's just a service (which still exists today) that you can use for a verity of reasons where you don't want to give out your real address for whatever reason.

I have friends who are full time RV's who have official "residency" in a specific state for taxes, vehicle registration, and such but have their mail FW though a private company to where ever they are currently staying.
posted by Captain_Science at 10:06 AM on August 18, 2022

Even into the 60's, "Hell remails" was a novelty thing. Send your letter and a small fee inside another letter, and it would get postmarked from "Hell" (Michigan).

Hell has since branched out: https://www.gotohellmi.com/
posted by dws at 10:09 AM on August 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

I know some places won't mail to APOs, and anecdotally I've heard of remailing services to get around that. I would imagine, with military deployments being what they were in the 40s and 50s, that that would have been an even bigger problem. Also, I would imagine the military would probably monitor incoming mail in a lot of those locations, and the types of mail that someone who reads Popular Science might receive could theoretically arouse some suspicion. So I don't know if it would be successful, but I could see a use case where a soldier getting mail from, like, the 50s equivalent of Nuclear Physics for Dummies might want to try to avoid hassle.

I would also imagine that if you moved frequently (e.g., if you were a soldier on deployment at the end of a major war), it would be easier to just update your address with the remailing service than to change it with everyone who sent you mail. The midcentury equivalent of a password manager.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:19 AM on August 18, 2022 [1 favorite]

Also useful if you are corresponding with anyone whose gender or identity would have led to questions—and very likely danger—from your household or community.
posted by corey flood at 11:53 AM on August 18, 2022 [2 favorites]

Also sometimes used as a marketing technique - a finance business might prefer a New York mailing address, a tech company prefers a San Francisco address, etc.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 7:41 PM on August 18, 2022

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