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Contributed by Vail Preservation Society and the Postal History Foundation.
This collection of photographs, documents, postal covers and oral histories tells the story of Vail, Arizona. It is often called the "Town Between the Tracks" because of its location between the east and west bound tracks of first, the Southern Pacific Railroad, and later the Union Pacific. Since 1908 the adobe post office has been a focal point for government, communication and commerce in Vail and the surrounding region. All other traces of Vail's railroad, mining and ranching roots are gone, erased by time, population growth, and development. The post office characterizes the connections between the economic and cultural forces that converged at Vail in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Vail's Siding, as Vail was originally called, was established in 1880, and appears as early as 1883 on the Pima County Roskruge map. The post office building's location and features are the direct result of a local response to the expansion of the United States population westward, particularly the growth of the Southern Pacific railroad and mining in the Helvetia District located to the south in the Santa Rita Mountains. Walter and Edward Vail, recognizing the economic possibilities deeded a right of way through their land to the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1880. A second right of way was deeded in 1887 by Walter Vail and J. Vosberg when the Southern Pacific relocated the entire section of passing tracks between Vail and Pantano. Vail is located on the last stretch of flat land before the railroad tracks enter the Cienega Creek and make their way up towards Dragoon Summit. This particular stretch of rail was the most difficult and expensive to build and maintain across the entire southern rail route across Southern Arizona. In1893, "Owney," the dog who became the Mail by Rail mascot, passed through on his way to Los Angeles. By 1900 Vail had became part of the Railway Post Office system, which carried the mail by rail, thereby linking the nation from coast to coast.
As a Centennial Project, the collection highlights various aspects of community life, such as its mining and ranching history, and spans the Territorial period through the closing of the post office in the mid-1970s.
A finding aid for Arizona Postal Documents can be found on Arizona Archives Online.