- Mail has been delivered by boat on Lake Geneva by mailboat jumpers for over a century.
- The summer job is about as exciting as it gets.
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For the last 105 years on Lake Geneva, mail has been delivered by boat. The small, 8,000-person city in southeastern Wisconsin was a big deal back in the day.
Until the beginning of World War II, ice was shipped by rail from the lake to nearby Chicago. Today, the city is dominated by tourism.
Considered a “resort city” these days, Lake Geneva is dotted with Gilded Age mansions and other Victorian-style summer homes. The residents (who are mostly there from June to September), receive their mail by boat and it makes for the coolest summer job of all-time— mailboat jumping.
Each morning, the U.S. Mailboat Walworth travels from dock to dock delivering letters, packages and newspapers but the boat never stops.
It keeps moving at five miles per hour and continuously moves past the dock. This is where the mail jumpers come in.
Mail jumpers hop from the boat to the dock and sprint to the mailbox. They drop the mail in the box before turning back and hopping from the dock to the boat. All while the boat stays in motion.
About 10/15 local area youths try out for the job every summer and five are selected. In addition to the athletic requirements, jumpers are required to have good speaking skills, as they also serve as tour guides during the boat cruises.
Mailboat tours run from June 15 through September 15 every day at 10:00 a.m. and the full loop takes around two and a half hours. Passengers are not only treated to the exhilarating mail jumping, but they learn about the historic homes along the lakefront.
TikTok user Thomas Peck is a videographer and former mailboat jumper. He provides an inside look into the summer job and answers all of your burning questions.
What happens if the jumper misses the boat?
If the jumper can’t get back on the boat, the boat circles back to get them.
What happens if you drop the mail in the water?
Well, the home owner is SOL and the mail gets wet.
What happens if the jumper misses the boat twice?
Short answer is— don’t.
Can’t they just put the mailboxes on the street side of the lake?
Yes, but it’s a fun tradition.
Why aren’t the mailboxes closer to the end of the dock?
Part of the fun of the mail jumping job is the challenge!
Is there any training involved?
Speed is key!
What happens if the dock doesn’t have a mailbox?
Throw the mail and leave it on the end!
Do people leave anything in the mailboxes for the jumpers?
Do the mail jumpers show off?
Absolutely they do.