CHICAGO – The corner mailbox, a staple of American life for a century and a half, is disappearing from some neighborhoods, leaving folks a little nostalgic.
St. Louis resident Jacob Pashia is "a little disappointed, because these things are hard to find to begin with."
Six thousand mailboxes — or "collection boxes," as the Postal Service calls them — have been "canceled," or delivered to the scrapyard, in recent years.
"I mail all my letters and cards from here," said Wilma Neu, another St. Louis resident. "It's so handy."
The Postal Service has a simple system to determine which boxes stay and which go — by counting the number of letters dropped into a box each day.
"Normally, if it's below 25 pieces, we give strong consideration to removing the collection box, either putting into another location or retiring it completely," said Burton St. John III of the U.S. Postal Service.
The Postal Service's downsizing of its collection boxes is part of an effort to cut $5 billion in expenses. Other initiatives include market-based pricing for letter- and flat-mail tracking services and using electronic postmarks.
It's all part of the Postal Services Transformation Plan, announced by Postmaster General John Potter in April, to keep the mail system intact as the economy slows and mail volume decreases.
It may be working. In July, Postal Service officials said that the service's third-quarter net loss was $80 million less than the $361 million expected loss. Expenses were reduced $876 million more than had been planned.
The brighter fiscal outlook comes despite the fact that overall, mail volume dropped by 1.2 billion pieces recently, 2.5 percent below the same quarter last year, according to the Postal Service.
Standard mail volume was down by 738 million pieces, accounting for about 60 percent of the total decline. First-class mail dropped by 231 million pieces.
Mailboxes have been a part of the American way of life since the 1850s. But the truth is that these days, fewer people drop their letters and bills into them.
"Certainly e-mail has dipped into it a lot," said Nancy Pope of the National Postal Museum. "Electronic communications of bills and what have you has cut down on the first-class letter."
Last fall's mail-borne anthrax scare didn't help, prompting the removal of mailboxes from potential terrorist targets. But the Postal Service says the economic slowdown had a much larger impact on its business.
If the postal service is to compete with commercial delivery companies, it says it'll have to continue cutting corners — and the mailboxes that sit on them.
"Right now, it's right out in front of my door and just a few steps," Neu said. "I'll miss it."
Fox News' Liza Porteus contributed to this report.
Steve Brown is an author, radio broadcaster and seminary professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida.