DEAD-LETTER OFFICE, a division in the United States post-office department at Washington for the reception, care, and disposition of letters and packages (except newspapers) that are uncalled for or cannot be delivered to the parties to whom they are directed at the various post-offices of the country. A statement of the business of this office for the year 1879, will give an idea of its importance and efficiency: The whole number of dead letters and packages received and disposed of during the year was 2,996,513, a decrease of 190,292 from last year's receipts. The fact that while there has been an increased number of letters mailed annually in this country, a reduced number has been sent to the department as dead, presents an anomaly which can be explained only upon the theory of increasing efficiency of the delivery service, and the growing popularity of the return-request system. The extent of the latter will be illus trated by the statement that of the 533,934 letters mailed in a single day at Baltimore, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, 287,835 bore upon the envelope some clew by which they could be restored to the writer if undelivered, without the intervention of the dead-letter office. Of the letters opened, 16,007 contained $31.591.49i; 13,755 con tained drafts, checks, notes, money-orders, etc., to the value of $1,105,762.07; 47,797 contained postage-stamps to the value of $2,387.53; 24,372 contained receipts, certificates, paid notes, etc.; 24,024 contained photographs; and in 38,306 letters and parcels were found jewelry-, books, clothing, merchandise, and miscellaneous articles in endless variety, from a small bottle of choice perfumery, to a large box of Limburger cheese. The increase in tik number of letters containing money-orders and postage-stamps, and the decrease of those containing money, is attributed to the retirement of fractional cur rency, which formerly furnished a convenient means of making small remittances by mail. The mode of treating insufficient prepaid letters has been slightly modified during the past year„ and the present system seems to be the most satisfactory of any which has yet been devised for disposing of that unfortunate class of correspondence. It is as follows: Those that bear a name and address, or a business card, post-office box, or other designation by which the writer can be identified, are immediately restored to the owner, or his attention invited to the deficiency of postage, by the postmaster at the mailing office. Of the balance, all " local " or "drop" letters are delivered by the postmasters
to the persons addressed, upon payment by them of the necessary postage, after due notice of the fact and cause of detention. The remainder are sent to the dead-letter office, and are at once examined by an expert, who, taking into consideration the places of origin and destination of each letter, determines whether it can be returned to the writer in less time than would be required to collect the postage from the addressee and forward the letter to destination. And each letter is then treated in the way decided to be the quicker. Whenever a doubt exists, or where the difference is very small, the postage is collected and the letter forwarded, thus preserving the seal intact. The amount of money deposited to the credit of the post-office department from letters which could not be restored to the owners was $3,323.39. The value of stamps received for postage on unpaid and short-paid matter forwarded to address, and upon unclaimed third and fourth class matter returned to senders, was $4,471.70. Of, the whole number (5,262,241) of registered letters and packages mailed in this country during the year, but 2,193 found their way into the dead-letter office, and of these 1,982 were successfully restored to their owners, 177 were filed subject to identification, and 34 outstanding; that is, opened and sent to postmasters for delivery, and the result not yet reported. The number of undelivered foreign registered letters was 3,685, which were all returned unopened to the countries of origin, and receipt was acknowledged. The number of ordinary foreign dead letters was 147,886, while those mailed in the United States and returned unclaimed by foreign governments was 94,669. This difference is accounted for by the migratory habits of foreigners, who, upon reaching this country, either fail to furnish a correct post-office address to their kinsmen in the old country, or do not profit by their privilege to have mail-matter forwarded from one place to another without additional postage charge.