The very first cast iron mailboxes were used in Russia in the 19th century. Russia was the first country to provide public post boxes and they started with letter boxes made of wood. However these were lightweight and frequently stolen. In response, Russia introduced the considerably heavier cast iron boxes that could weigh up to 45 kilograms.
The United States postal service began employing mailboxes during the late 1800s. They purchased these mailboxes from the Danville Stove and Manufacturing Company, which was also known as Beaver Stoves. During the turn of the century and the early 1900s one could see post boxes with the Beaver custom logo around the country.
One of these antique mailboxes is still in use at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Wall mounted letterboxes made of cast iron were also popular for home use during the first half of the twentieth century. Today mailboxes are seeing a resurgence in popularity, both for their sturdiness and their aesthetic qualities. Many neighborhoods have encountered repeated attacks on mailboxes from people driving by wielding baseball.
One response has been to purchase letterboxes that can withstand a hit, such as those made out of cast iron. Besides standing up to brute force, cast iron wall mounted mailboxes can hinder theft. Many have letter slots and hinged lids that lock. As long as the lock is as sturdy as the rest of the mailbox, personal correspondence and the information within is safe from mail theft. Others prefer it for its non-utilitarian features. They are usually black and generally more ornate than a typical mailbox, embossed with designs. In addition, it lasts for years.
So, those looking for antique mail boxes as authentic finishing touches to their period homes should have no trouble finding the right wall mounted letterbox. However, if they have not been properly cared for, these antique boxes will likely be rusty. To restore the mailbox first rub down all surfaces with steel wool to remove the rust. Then wipe down the mailbox to remove any dirt or dust. Finally, dip a cloth in oil or unsalted fat and rub it into the mailbox. This last step prevents rust and adds shine and will need to be repeated periodically.