A postcard with an image that incorporates postage stamps, circa 1910. And that might even be a cloud of incense. What a lovely piece of vintage mail art.
In October of 1935, the Philatelic Club of Los Angeles announced a project to revive the delivery of U.S. Mail by camel, with the animals carrying mail bags from Fort Tejon south to Los Angeles. But the service that the club was commemorating hadn’t been all that successful, nor was their history accurate.
As it happened, “camel express” mail was tried twice in September of 1860, with the camels leaving Los Angeles with mail for Fort Mojave on the Colorado River, about 250 hot and desolate miles to the east. Neither camel made it; the first died of exhaustion after 120 miles, near present-day Barstow; on the second attempt, the camel dropped dead just a few more miles farther to the east. In both cases, the mail had to be carried on foot for the remainder of the journey by the camel rider.
The officer in charge, Capt. Winfield Scott Hancock, the Assistant Quartermaster in Los Angeles, halted the experiment, having learned – too late for the camels – that they were not bred for speed but to travel slowly with heavy burdens. And the camels, while they lived, had in fact been no faster than the two-mule buckboard then carrying the mail to Fort Mojave.
So yes, camels did actually carry the mail in the United States, but not for long.