In the book Flat Stanley, Stanley was mailed to California instead of going by train or plane in order to save money. This idea seems hilarious and crazy, and a wild stretch of the author’s imagination, but did you know that back in 1913-1914 it was legal to send children through the mail? There are some cases of “real life Flat Stanley’s” in the United States Postal history.
In 1913 the U.S. Post Office introduced a Parcel Post service for Americans to send larger packages through the Post Office. Before this time all you could send was a normal letter. This was great for businesses and farmers but a few people took advantage of it to ship their children! On January 26, 1913, the New York Times reported that a mail carrier in Batavia, Ohio, delivered a baby “mailed” by his parents to his grandmother who lived about a mile away:
Vernon O. Lytle, mail carrier on rural route No. 5, is the first man to accept and deliver under parcel post conditions a live baby. The baby, a boy weighing 10-3/4 pounds, just within the 11-pound weight limit, is the child of Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Beagle of Glen Este. The boy was well wrapped and ready for “mailing” when the carrier received him to-day. Mr. Lytle delivered the boy safely at the address on the card attached, that of the boy’s grandmother, Mrs. Louis Beagle, who lives about a mile distant. The postage was fifteen cents and the parcel was insured for $50.
*From The New York Times. “Baby Boy by Parcel Post.” 26 January 1913
Learn more about this crazy, but true story in this addition to my Flat Stanley novel unit, “Could you Be a Real Life Flat Stanley?”. It is included with the full Flat Stanley Novel Unit, or available alone. It includes a reading informational article detailing the longer, complete version of this interesting factoid of our postal history as well as a math and writing follow up activity where the student will work to determine the cost to deliver themselves to a travel destination via mail, car, train, or plane! Crazy, fun, and educational all in one!
Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown, is a fun book that is wonderful to use in the classroom. The activities that can be branched off this book across the curriculum are numerous. The book asks the reader to suspend reality and go along for the ride. Students really have a fun time reading Flat Stanley and participating in the extension activities.
Completing the Flat Stanley project with your class can be a really fun learning experience. Each student will create his or her own personalized flat character (usually named after themselves). They will ask a relative or friend that lives in a different place to take their character on an adventure and report back. Most of the helpers really get into the fun and make it really fun for the student to share their results. All three of my kids have sent their flat selves with Grandpa on golf vacations. Grandpa had a lot of fun with his Flat Grandkids and posed for numerous pictures. My kids were able to share their Flat adventures with their class.
Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!