The Canadian postal system evolved in step with the railway. By 1891, there are more than 8000 post offices across Canada. Communities are constantly vying with one another to obtain or upgrade postal service, and the post office is seen as a symbol of prosperity. In addition to providing for the transmission of correspondence, news and money, the post office also fulfills an important social function and is where villagers come together on a regular basis to socialize. Given its important role, the post office is usually located in an easily accessible and appropriate location, such as in or near a general store or other business, near a church, or perhaps at the intersection of two roads.
The postmaster is a key player in village society. Although pay is low and working conditions are difficult – the postmaster in smaller offices has to pay his own rent and heat, must purchase some of his equipment, and works on many holidays – the position is highly desired. In the late 19th
and early 20th
centuries, the craft is generally learned on the job and by members of the same family. Often the position is handed down from generation to generation. Over time, women play an increasingly important role in postal operations as postmasters or as assistants.