All happiness, old man! Affectionately yours,
FRANKLIN K. LANE
“Lane had a long look ahead,” says James S. Harlan, “that often reminded one of the extraordinary prevision of Colonel Roosevelt. One striking instance of this was in connection with this Express Case.
“Early in the progress of the investigation of express companies undertaken by him in 1911, at the request of the Interstate Commerce Commission, Lane warned a group of high express officials gathered around him that unless they promptly coordinated their service more closely to the public requirements, revised their archaic practices, readjusted and simplified their rate systems so as to eliminate discriminations, the frequent collection of double charges and other evils, and gave the public a cheaper and a better service, the public would soon be demanding a parcel post.
“The suggestion was received with incredulous smiles, one of the express officials saying, apparently with the full approval of them all, that a parcel post had been talked of in this country for forty years and had never got beyond the talking point, and never would. As a matter of fact, there was little, if any, movement at that time in the public press or elsewhere for such a service by the government. But Lane’s alert mind had sensed in the current of public thought a feeling that there was need of a quicker, simpler, and cheaper way of handling the country’s small packages, and he saw no way out, other than a parcel post, if the express companies stood still and made no effort to meet this public need.
“Within scarcely more than a year Congress, by the Act of August 24, 1912, had authorized a parcel post and such a service was in actual operation on January 1, 1913. It was not until December of the latter year that the express companies were ready to file with the Commission the ingenious and entirely original system Lane had devised for stating express rates. The form was so simple that even the casual shipper in a few minutes’ study could qualify himself for ascertaining the rates, not only to and from his own home express station but between any other points in the country. But by that time the carriage of the country’s small parcels had permanently passed out of the hands of the express companies into the hands of the postal service, by which Lane’s unique form for stating the express rates was adopted as the general form of showing its parcel post charges.”
TO Oscar S. Straus
Washington, July 8, 1912
My dear Mr. Straus,—I thank you heartily for your appreciative note regarding my University of Virginia talk. I wanted to say something to those people, especially to the younger men, that would make them doubt the wisdom of staying forever with systems and theories not adapted to our day.