Bank of Vernal
In the 1910s, Vernal, Utah, had a population of a little over 800, but was keeping an eye toward future growth as the county seat. A fine town like Vernal needed an upscale brick bank to express its cosmopolitan outlook, but the nearest brick works was in Salt Lake City over 170 miles away. Shipping the bricks would cost over four times the purchase price.
Parcel Post Wagon, c. 1914
It was then that Coltharp hit on a novel idea. The United States Mail had in 1913 begun domestic parcel post service. To encourage people to use the service, rates were kept rather low. Coltharp did the math and realized that he could mail the bricks from Salt Lake City cheaper than having them delivered by wagon, so he had the Salt Lake Pressed Brick Company bundle the bricks into packages of about 50 pounds (to stay within parcel post weight limits). The company would mail about 40 crates (or one ton) of the packages a day.
Salt Lake Pressed Brick Company
To get the crates to Vernal, the US Mail sent the bricks to Mack, Colorado, via the Denver and Rio Grande RR, then by narrow gauge Uintah RR to Watson, Utah, and finally by freight wagon to Vernal. Each of the 80,000 bricks traveled over 400 miles across tough terrain, including steep mountain roads, at a final cost of about seven cents per brick!
Freight Wagon Arriving in Vernal, Utah
Postmasters along the route expressed their frustration with the volume of weighty crates and the US Mail quickly realized that if Coltharp's scheme caught on, it would hopelessly clog their transportation systems and strain their mailmen. So in response, Postmaster General Albert S. Burleson, allowed the remaining bricks be sent to Vernal, but issued a new regulation allowing only 200 pounds per sender each day and stated, "it is not the intent of the United States Postal Service that buildings be shipped through the mail."
"The Parcel Post Bank" Today
The bank was completed the next year and was nicknamed "The Parcel Post Bank" by locals. The building still exists and still serves as a bank at 3 West Main Street in Vernal.