Mail chute

Inactive mail chutes in the Empire State Building
A disused mail chute at Grove Arcade, Asheville, North Carolina
Sketch of mail chute system of 1910

A mail chute is a largely defunct letter collection device used in early multi-story office buildings, hotels, apartment buildings and other high rise structures. Letters were dropped from the upper stories and collected (usually at the ground level) at a central depository by the postal service. This innovation was before the time of the modern "mail room" normally associated nowadays with high rise buildings. It was for the convenience of the users of the building so they would not have to take their mail to an outside mail box or to the post office.[1]


Original design and usage

James Goold Cutler received a patent on September 11, 1883 for the mail chute.[2] The first one was installed in 1884 in the Elwood Building in Rochester, New York.[3] Cutler ultimately received thirty patents for variations of his invention. The original approved patent No. 284,951 design stated that it must "be of metal, distinctly marked U.S. Letter Box," and that the "door must open on hinges on one side, with the bottom of the door not less than 2'6" above the floor." If the building was more than two stories then the collection box was to be outfitted with a cushion to prevent injury to the mail. The mail chutes had to be accessible along its entire length so lodged mail could be removed.[3]

The first experimental "Cutler mail chute" device was successful at the Elwood Building so later it was installed in two New York City office buildings. Additional ones were then installed in railroad stations and some public buildings as a test. Eventually Cutler Mail Box produced over 1,600 such devices in buildings over the next twenty years.[2] Then the postal service allowed "Cutler mail chutes" to be placed in hotels taller than five stories. They were also installed in public apartment buildings of more than fifty apartments.[3]

The design of the mail chute was of a thin shaft going from the top floor of a building to a lobby collection box. The tenants or employees of an office building on each floor would simply put their letter into the slot on their building floor they were at. Hopefully the letter would drop into the lobby collection box, but sometimes it became lodged in the chute itself. [3] The mail chutes in large buildings often became congested. There is a story of where in the fifty-floor McGraw-Hill Building in New York City there were some 40,000 pieces of mail stuck. To dislodge the mail cinder blocks had to be removed.

It was announced on Sunday, May 9, 1909, by the New York Times, "Cutler and Other Companies Join in a $2,000,000 Corporation".[3]

Current use

Recently certain buildings like Chicago's John Hancock Center, the Chrysler Building, and the old RCA Building in New York City have shut down their chutes.[2] The reason is the increase of modern mail rooms in the building lobby with associated mail boxes available for the building tenants. There remain, however, about 360 buildings in Chicago with mail chutes, and more than 900 active chutes exist in Manhattan and the Bronx of New York City alone, as well as elsewhere. Since 1997, however, the National Fire Protection Association has banned mail chutes in all new building construction. The historic Lenox Hotel in Boston's Back Bay is one of the few known properties with an active Cutler Mail Chute system. Built in 1900, the "original boutique" boasts a Cutler U.S. Mail Chute on every guest floor at the elevator bank. The Chanin Building in New York City also has an active Cutler Mail Chute System. So although the Cutler Mail Chute Company itself currently is not active, its product remains in use in some old buildings.

A Cutler mail chute, still in service as of 2010, in the lobby of the Idaho Building in downtown Boise.

Other installations

The London Transport HQ at 55 Broadway had a system installed. The chute slot for 'London & Abroad' mail plate says 'Cutler Mailing-System Cutler-Mail-Chute-Co Rochester,NY,USA'.(As shown BBC 'Art Deco Icons: London Transport' TV programme aired Nov 09.)

See also


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • mail|chute — «MAYL SHOOT», noun. a chute for depositing mail, in a corridor on each floor in office buildings …   Useful english dictionary

  • Chute — may refer to: Chute (gravity), a channel down which falling materials are guided Mail chute, a chute for collecting and transporting mail within a building Chute (in North America), a cattle race, a channel for handling and sorting farm animals… …   Wikipedia

  • Chute (gravity) — For other uses, see Chute (disambiguation). Natural chute (falls) on the left and man made logging chute on the right on the Coulonge River in Quebec, Canada. A chute is a vertical or inclined plane, channel, or passage through which objects are… …   Wikipedia

  • mail — Verb: To place a letter or other mail matter, properly enveloped or packaged, addressed and stamped, in a mail slot, mail chute, or mail box, provided by the post office department for the reception of mail, or to deliver a letter or other mail… …   Ballentine's law dictionary

  • mail drop — noun 1. a. : a receptacle for mail especially at the place of delivery b. : a slot (as in a chute) for deposit of mail 2. : an address used by an agent who transmits secret communications (as for an espionage apparatus) …   Useful english dictionary

  • Westminster Mail Order — Sinclair Research Ltd. Logo de Sinclair Research Ltd. Création Cambridge, Angleterre (1961) Personnages clés Sir Clive Sinclair, fondateur …   Wikipédia en Français

  • L’Orme du mail — Publié en 1897, l Orme du Mail d Anatole France est le premier volet de la tétralogie l Histoire contemporaine . L intrigue et les personnages L intrigue se déroule en province dans une ville dont le nom n est pas cité mais qui est un chef lieu… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Cutler — Contents 1 Places in the United States 2 Music 3 Companies 4 …   Wikipedia

  • Letter box — This article is about boxes for depositing letters. For video framing, see letterbox. For the type of interprocess communication, see MailSlot . A letter box, letterbox, letter plate, letter hole, mail slot, or mailbox is a receptacle for… …   Wikipedia

  • List of comic book letter column titles — The typical comic book letter column until its general disappearance in the early 2000s had its own title, usually a reference to the book’s hero or heroes. Cape and Cowl Comments ( World s Finest Comics ), JLA Mailroom ( Justice League of… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.