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Nov 01, 2021

GARDEN CLUB R.F.D. : What is the Significance of R.F.D. in the Club’s Name?

Submitted by Ruth Korn

Garden Club R.F.D. is the name of a garden club in Middletown that was formed in 1941. In 1941, everyone knew what those three letters, R.F.D., stood for. Since then, the words and the meanings thereof have disappeared from use. However, since they are still a part of this club’s name.

In the 1800s, isolation was the lot of most farm families in America. Telephones, radios, televisions and cell phones did not exist. Farmers’ main links to civilization were the U.S. Mail and newspapers that arrived via the mail. At this time in history, nothing was delivered to your home by the government.

The farmers had to travel to the nearest post office – often not nearby – to pick up anything that had been mailed to them. Farmers usually delayed picking up their mail and newspapers for days, weeks or even months, depending on the weather and what needed to be done on their farms. It was a long trip by horse and carriage, and when it was taken, it also included the procurement of supplies, food and equipment.

Help came in the form of John Wanamaker, of Pennsylvania, the first Postmaster General to favor delivery to farmers’ homes.  Funds had been appropriated before he left office in 1893, but it was not until October 1896 that it began to gain momentum, when the first live riders went out on delivery routes in rural West Virginia. In addition, it was in 1898 that the U.S. Post Office officials announced that any group of farmers could have free delivery merely by sending a petition, along with a description of their community and roads, to their congressional representatives.  What followed was an overwhelming response, and by 1905, the U.S. Post Office was serving 32,000 Rural Free Delivery (R.F.D.) routes, and rural families, including those in the Middletown/Holmdel area, were no longer isolated.  

Today, Garden Club R.F.D proudly retains its name as it meets in Middletown, in an historic one-room schoolhouse that had been a learning center in 1842. The club also continues to use the rural mailbox as its club symbol. A designated National Historic Site since 1976, the schoolhouse is located on the corner of Middletown Lincroft and Dwight Roads.

When the schoolhouse became the meeting place for the club, most of the members still had R.F.D. addresses and delivery, making it quite natural for R.F.D. to become part of their name.  

Garden Club R.F.D. has just proudly begun its 80th year of existence and hopes to continue for many more years. New members are always welcome. For more information about joining R.F.D., contact Ruth Korn at ruthkorn77@gmail.com. The club meets at the schoolhouse on the third Tuesday of each month at 10 am. 

Garden Club R.F.D. is a member of the Garden Club of New Jersey, the Central Atlantic Region of State Garden Clubs, inc., and the National Garden Clubs, Inc.