March 6, 1879,

 New York City, NY


General E.A. Merritt,


Collector of Customs, New York


SIR: Your letter of the 26th ultimo, enclosing a draft of modification of the civil-service rules, was duly received, and the rules have been considered and approved by the President. You may therefore act upon them.


Very respectfully,







For the purpose of making it more certain that only persons of good character and adequate capacity shall be selected from among applicants too numerous for the postmaster to become informed of their individual merits by personal investigation, the following rules are established:


1.      Hereafter all applications for clerical appointment at this post-office must be made in accordance with a prescribed form, a copy of which shall be furnished to each applicant.


2.      All appointments to clerical positions will be made to the lowest grade, and no applications from persons under 16 or over 25 years of age shall be entertained.


3.      On receipt of an application for appointment, and before further action is taken in regard to it, the applicant will be referred to the medical officer for examination as to his physical condition, as being adequate for the service; and if the report is unfavorable the application will be rejected. Should the report be favorable, the application will be filed and registered in its regular order.


4.      Every application must be accompanied by a certificate, signed by no less than three nor more than five reputable citizens, stating the time for which each has been acquainted with the applicant, and testifying to his good character and reputation for integrity, sobriety, and industry, and to the willingness of the signers to furnish personally any further information they may possess concerning the applicant, if so requested by the postmaster or board of examiners.


5.      Applications not properly filled out as herein required, or which are found to contain false statements, or which in any other manner show the unfitness of the applicant for employment in the post-office, will be rejected and the applicant notified of such rejection.


6.      All examination papers, with the markings showing the relative proficiency of the candidates, will be carefully preserved and filed.


7.      The names of candidates which have been on the register for one year without being reached for examination will be regarded as removed, and will not be selected for examination unless placed on the register by a new application, after which they will be selected when reached in order.


8.      All applications duly received and filed shall, when reached in order, be referred to a board of examiners, which is hereby appointed, and which shall consist of the assistant postmaster, auditor, the general superintendants of the fourth, fifth, and sixth divisions, and the assistant general superintendant of the third division. The postmaster’s private secretary shall act as secretary of said board.


9.      When vacancies occur in the lowest grade, the board of examiners shall notify such number of applicants, not less than twenty, of those first on the register of applicants to appear for a competitive examination.


10.  The questions to be asked and answered at such examinations shall be such as will show the proficiency of the candidates, first, in penmanship; second, in arithmetic; third, in geography; fourth, in English grammar; fifth, in the history of the United States and in matters of a public nature, to the extent that may be required adequately to test general capacity or special fitness for the postal service.


11.  The board shall present to the postmaster a list of the names of the successful candidates in the order of their excellence, as shown by the examination, beginning with the highest; and the appointments will be made from the three highest names on the list.


12.  All further details in methods of examination will be left to the discretion of the board, but subject to the instructions of the postmaster, in conformity herewith.


13.  All vacancies that may occur in the higher grades of any department shall be filled by the promotion from the lower grades by means of competitive examinations, to which shall be admitted as competitors such persons only as already employed in the division in which the vacancy exists or in divisions having analogous duties. The questions of these examinations shall be restricted mainly to matters pertaining to the ordinary business of their department. The examinations shall be conducted by the general superintendant of the division to which the department is attached, assisted by one or more other officers of the same as the postmaster may select; and they shall report the result to the postmaster in the manner provided in rule 11, and the vacancy will be filled by the promotion of some one of the three standing highest in the competition. But whenever the vacancy to be filled by promotion is that of a position requiring the exercise of administrative authority the board may add such questions as will test the degree to which the candidates posses special qualifications for such position.


14.  For positions as porters the examination will be confined to questions intended to test the physical ability of the candidates and their proficiency in reading, penmanship, and elementary arithmetic only.


15.  The postmaster reserves from the operation of the above rules for original appointment and promotion positions of special pecuniary trust, as well as those involving confidential relations, as private secretary, etc.,

THOMAS L. JAMES, Postmaster.

APPROVED. Let these rules go into effect May 1, 1879.


D.M. KEY, Postmaster-General


The foregoing rules are approved.

April 3, 1879



go to top of page