"Neither Snow Nor Rain ..." Is Not the United States Postal Service's Motto (or Policy)

iStock.com/Willowpix
iStock.com/Willowpix

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." If this motto summons up visions of brave postal workers trudging through inclement weather conditions, you're not alone. For more than a century, it's been synonymous with the tireless work the postal service does to make sure you get your junk mail, magazines, and birthday cards on time. But if you think it's the official creed of the United States Postal Service, think again—it was actually written about another set of postal workers from around 500 BCE.

In fact, the USPS doesn’t have an official motto [PDF]. And given that the postal service regularly cancels mail delivery due to weather—as is the case this week in parts of 10 states in the Midwest—the misunderstanding about its motto regularly leads to even more frustration from mail-less customers.

Blame a building for the confusion. In 1912, a building then called the General Post Office Building (since renamed the James A. Farley Building) was constructed in what would later become ZIP code 10001. Smack dab in the center of Manhattan, the grand structure was built right across the street from Pennsylvania Station and Madison Square Garden. It had prime real estate and a profile to match, including white columns, a grandiose reception hall, and even a dry moat around it to light up its gigantic basement.

It also had an architect with a taste for classical flair. William Mitchell Kendall designed other column-studded sites like the Manhattan Municipal Building and the Arlington Memorial Bridge. Kendall, whose dad was a classics scholar, also loved the words of the ancients as much as their columns. So when he designed the General Post Office Building, he decided to inscribe it with a phrase by Herodotus, the Greek scholar sometimes known as the father of history.

Kendall modified a translation of Herodotus's work by George Herbert Palmer, a professor at Harvard and a preeminent classicist, for the building. The line was written by Herodotus in paragraph 98, book eight of The Persian Wars, which recounts the history of a war that took place between the Greeks and the Persian Empire from 499 to 479 BCE (the exact time period of the war is disputed).

Herodotus was impressed by the efficient, relay-like postal system employed by the Persians, which he compared to the Greek torch race. "There is nothing in the world which travels faster than the Persian couriers," he wrote admiringly. The postal system may have been impressive, but it ultimately didn't help Persia; after decades of conflicts, they lost the wars.

The Persians may not have won in Greece, but the Persian couriers who inspired the inscription must have been on to something. To this day, the USPS relies on a relay-like system to both get mail across the country and assist postal carriers on their daily rounds. They may not operate in all weather conditions, but today's USPS still manages to deliver hundreds of billions of pieces of mail each year. Not bad for an organization with no official motto.

An earlier version of this story ran in 2016.

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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Why Does the Supreme Court Have Nine Justices?

Front row, left to right: Stephen G. Breyer, Clarence Thomas, (Chief Justice) John G. Roberts, Jr., Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel A. Alito. Back row: Neil M. Gorsuch, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett M. Kavanaugh.
Front row, left to right: Stephen G. Breyer, Clarence Thomas, (Chief Justice) John G. Roberts, Jr., Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel A. Alito. Back row: Neil M. Gorsuch, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett M. Kavanaugh.
Fred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States // Public Domain

Some facets of the U.S. government—like presidential terms and post offices—were written into the original Constitution after (often lengthy) deliberations by the Founding Fathers. The number of Supreme Court justices was not one of those things.

The document did establish a Supreme Court, and it stated that the president should appoint its judges; it also mentioned that a “Chief Justice shall preside” if the president gets impeached. Since it was left up to Congress to work out the rest of the details, they passed the Judiciary Act of 1789, which outlined an entire court system and declared that the Supreme Court should comprise one chief justice and five associate justices. As History.com explains, they landed on six because the justices would have to preside over federal circuit courts, one of which was located in each state. Traveling wasn’t quick or easy in the horse-and-carriage days, so Congress wanted to minimize each justice’s jurisdiction. They split the courts into three regions, and assigned two justices to each region.

According to Maeva Marcus, director of the Institute for Constitutional History at George Washington University Law School, the even number of justices was a non-issue. “They never even thought about it, because all the judges were Federalists and they didn’t foresee great disagreement,” she told History.com. “Plus, you didn’t always have all six justices appearing at the Supreme Court for health and travel reasons.”

Over the next 80 years, the number of Supreme Court justices would fluctuate for two reasons: the addition of federal circuit courts, and presidents’ partisan motives. John Adams and his Federalist Congress reduced the number to five with the Judiciary Act of 1801, which they hoped would prevent Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson from getting to fill a seat after he took office that year. By the following year, Jefferson’s Congress had passed another judicial act that returned the number of justices to six, and they upped it to seven after forming another circuit court in 1807.

The nation grew significantly during the early 19th century, and Congress finally added two new circuit courts—and with them, two new Supreme Court seats—during Andrew Jackson’s presidential tenure in 1837. Republican Abraham Lincoln then briefly increased the number of justices to 10 in order to add another abolitionist vote, but Congress shrunk it to seven in 1866 to keep Andrew Johnson from filling seats with Democrats. As soon as Republican Ulysses S. Grant succeeded Johnson, Congress set the number back to nine, where it’s remained ever since.

Sketched portraits of the U.S. Supreme Court justices through 1897.Popular and Applied Graphic Art Print Filing Series, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division // No Known Restrictions on Publication

In 1911, Congress did away with circuit courts altogether, so the number of Supreme Court justices stopped being contingent upon their expansion (though each justice does still oversee a region to help with occasional tasks). As for presidents shifting the number to serve their own goals, it’s now looked down upon as “packing the court.” When Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to increase it to 15 in the 1930s to push his New Deal through the Supreme Court, the Senate opposed the bill by a whopping 70 to 20 votes.

In short, the depth of the Supreme Court’s bench changed a lot in America’s early years not only because the country was expanding, but also because the federal government was still testing out its system of checks and balances. And though presidents do still appoint justices based on their own political party, we’ve gotten used to the idea that the Supreme Court is, at least ideologically, supposed to be unbiased. If Congress and the president kept up the habit of adding and subtracting justices at will, it would tarnish this ideal.

“If Congress increases the size of the Supreme Court for transparently partisan political reasons, it would cement the idea the justices are little more than politicians in robes, and that the court is little more than an additional—and very powerful—arm through which partisan political power can be exercised,” Steve Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law, wrote for NBC News. “Indeed, that Congress has not revisited the size of the court in 150 years is a powerful testament to just how ingrained the norm of nine has become—and how concerned different political constituencies have been at different times about preserving the court’s power.”

[h/t History.com]