How a Banker Constructed His Bank Through the Mail

Daniel Ganninger
April 25, 2023

Sometimes you have to use a little ingenuity to get things done. This was the case in 1916 when William Colthart, the president of a new bank in Vernal, Utah, discovered that the new bricks for his building being produced in Salt Lake City would cost more than four times as much to ship than the bricks cost. But Colthart discovered a new opportunity to significantly cut the cost of building his bank.

Prior to 1913, the Post Office Department was not allowed to carry parcels weighing more than four pounds by law. At the start of 1913, the Post Office Department started a new service called Parcel Post, which allowed packages weighing up to 11 pounds to be delivered. The weight limit was increased to 20 pounds by August of 1913, increased again in 1914 to 50 pounds, and was followed by a final weight limit of 70 pounds.

This was when Colthart discovered that Parcel Post rates would be half of what the shipping rates would be for his bricks if he went through a private shipper on a railway. Most of the bricks he needed for his building were available locally, but the special pressed brick he wanted for the facade of the building were available only in Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City was a straight line distance of 125 miles away from Vernal, but because of the rugged terrain, a shipment had to travel 427 miles by rail and overland to get to Vernal.

He decided he would mail his bricks from Salt Lake City through the postal service since it would be cheaper than the standard shipping method. Colthart had each brick individually wrapped and put them in crates of 10 at a time. He then began mailing 50-pound boxes of bricks until he ended up with around 15,000 bricks. Bricks began piling up outside the postal office in Vernal since the postmaster there made Colthart pick up the bricks over the counter.

The cost of mailing the bricks in this manner saved Colthart a significant amount of money but ended up costing the Postal Service more money to ship them than what was paid. The feat prompted the US Postal Service to put a limit on the weight of a package per day from a person to a recipient of 200 pounds in 1916, but by that time, Colthart had already completely constructed the exterior of his bank building.

Sources: KSL, USPS