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Publication numberUS3891139 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateJun 24, 1975
Filing dateJan 30, 1974
Priority dateJan 30, 1974
Publication numberUS 3891139 A, US 3891139A, US-A-3891139, US3891139 A, US3891139A
InventorsRedling Anthony E
Original AssigneeRedling Anthony E
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Mailbox apparatus
US 3891139 A
Abstract
A mailbox door holds an actuator rod rearward against spring pressure. A first magnet at the distal end of the actuator rod is held near a sloped, non-magnetic rear wall of the mailbox to hold an external hinged flap upward against the sloped rear wall. A second magnet on a medial portion of the rod is held against a nonmagnetic side wall portion of the mailbox to hold a slide indicator up. When the door is opened, the rear flap falls, changing the color of the entire rear face of the mailbox, and the slide drops into a pocket, concealing the colored slide. Reclosing the door moves the rod and magnets rearward, ready for the slide and flap to be reset.
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Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

1 i MAILBOX APPARATUS Anthony E. Redling, 1727 Kalakava Ave., Apt. A-4, Honolulu. Hawaii 96814 [22] Filed: Jan. 30, 1974 [21] Appl. No.: 437,806

[76] Inventor:

[52] U.S. Cl 232/35; 232/17 [51] Int. Cl. B65B 91/00 [58] Field of Search 232/17, 34, 38; 116/134, 1 16/173 [56] References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 870,654 1 1/1907 Weston 232/34 902,848 11/1908 Whitaker................ .4 232/38 1,393,944 10/1921 Chapman i 232/38 2,856,123 10/1958 Mary 232/35 2,864,553 12/1958 Petrie 232/35 3,017,073 1/1962 Piergiovanni. 232/35 3,498,256 3/1970 Hebal 232/34 [111 3,891,139 1 June 24, 1975 Scheerer 232/35 James, Sr 232/35 l 5 ABSTRACT A mailbox door holds an actuator rod rearward against spring pressure. A first magnet at the distal end of the actuator rod is held near a sloped, nonmagnetic rear wall of the mailbox to hold an external hinged flap upward against the sloped rear wall. A second magnet on a medial portion of the rod is held against a nonmagnetic side wall portion of the mailbox to hold a slide indicator up. When the door is opened, the rear flap falls, changing the color of the entire rear face of the mailbox, and the slide drops into a pocket, concealing the colored slide. Reclosing the door moves the rod and magnets rearward, ready for the slide and flap to be reset.

10 Claims, 6 Drawing Figures PATENTED Jun 24 m5 FIG.6

FIG. 3

MAILBOX APPARATUS BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION Two problems exist in the use of rural mailboxes which are located at street side. remote from a house for service by mailmen driving utility vehicles. One problem is that a signaling device must be employed to indicate when a mailman should stop to pick up mail when otherwise the mailbox would be skipped because of lack of necessity for a delivery to that box. or to indicate that the box should first be approached with an empty hand to pick up mail rather than to approach the box with a full hand for the deposit of mail. That problem is attacked by use of a flag which is raised when a person places mail in the box for pick-up.

The flag operates well but has two major drawbacks. First. the flag is not always lowered after mail is picked up from the box. Consequently, the flag repeats false indications of the contents of the box until the flag is lowered.

The flag may be in an area of a box which is difficult to reach by a mailman. thus causing its further misappropriate signalling. When the flag is raised to indicate the presence of the mail of the box. and is not lowered after the mail has been removed. the box owner may incorrectly surmise that the daily delivery of mail has not occurred and that the letters that he placed in the box are still there. Thus. the actual in hand receipt of mail may be delayed by the false indication.

The other chief problem which exists with rural mailboxes. or for that matter. with any mailbox which must be checked by opening a door is that a person must make a trip to the mailbox. exposed to the elements. to determine whether mail has been deposited in the box. Where the mailbox is at an end of a porch. the trip may be bothersome. but not difficult. Where the mailbox is far away from the house by a roadside. the trip may be bothersome, difficult and time consumming.

It is extremely useful to have a definite indication of the status of contents within a rural mailbox.

A collection of patents which concerns mailboxes and solutions of problems existing in rural mailboxes is found in class 2.32, subclasses 35 and 37 of the official United States Patent Office Classifications of Inventions. Particular examples of patents within those subclasses are as follows:

U.S. Pat. No. 3.026.025 has a rural-type mailbox with a rod suspended beneath its top. A spring urges the rod outward toward the door. When the door is closed. the spring is compressed. and the rod extends through a rear opening. The extended rod holds a sign in an up position. When the door is opened. the rod springs forward, releasing the sign to fall downward about a pivot.

ln U.S. Pat. Nos. 3.318.5[6 and 3.675.845 rods are pulled by the opening of doors to release signs from within the mailbox or within rear enclosures. The latter patent uses a magnet to pull a rod forward against spring pressure when the door is opened. The former patent uses a spring to provide variable extension of the rod upon opening the door.

Other patents show mailbox signals of varied types. In U.S. Pat. Nos. 3.606.141 and 3.034.706, a rod releases a weighted sign for pivoting into a position indicative of the fact that the mailbox has been opened. U.S. Pat. No. 884.964 shows a spring-loaded sign. In U.S. Pat. No. 3.026.024 a forward biased rod and dropping sign are mounted on an external attachment on the mailbox roof.

A need exists to provide a mailbox which has a flag for signalling the postman to pick up mail. and which has a sign readable by a house occupant to indicate that mail has been picked up, which signs are automatically activated to prevent misuse or disuse.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION The present invention is a mailbox which has indicators automatically operated upon opening of the main mailbox door for indicating that the door has been opened to remove outgoing mail and to deposit incoming mail. The invention provides for the automatic dropping of an indicator flag when the door is opened so that the flag does not continue in its raised position. to signal a continued state of contents of the box. once the state of contents has been changed by opening the door and by removing or depositing mail. The mailbox also has an indicator apparatus which covers an entire portion of the mailbox for changing color of the entire portion of the mailbox in a direction facing an occupants house so that the occupant may quickly visually check to determine from a great distance whether the state of contents of the mailbox has been changed through a transitional opening and closing of the mailbox door.

In a preferred form of the mailbox. the flag indicator is a slide indicator mounted on a side of the box facing a direction from which a mailman approaches the box. A sliding-type flag indicator is positioned within a sleeve mounted on the side of the box. The sleeve has laterally projecting flanges which are rivetted or bonded to the box. and has a central portion between the flanges offset from the box. The sleeve and flanges are colored the same as the side of the box. The slide which fits within the sleeve is colored a contrasting color. usually red. The central portion of the sleeve has a vertically elongated aperture or slot. A lug on the slide projects out of the slot and fits freely within the slot. The slide indicator is moved upward into a first indicating position by grasping the lug and pushing the lug upward in the slot. The slide falls freely to a second inactive position within the sleeve which is a nonindicating position in whichthe slide can not be seen.

In a preferred embodiment. the large door opening indicator is mounted on a hinge which extends horizontally across a rear face of the mailbox. The hinge may be positioned at the bottom of the rear face, on an extension below the bottom of the rear face. or on the lower portion of the rear face up to a central portion of the rear face.

In a preferred embodiment. the hinge is mounted medially on the rear face. The door opening indicator flap is colored on one side. substantially the same color as the mailbox. When the flap is in the first upper nonindicating position the entire rear face of the mailbox appears plain.

The reverse side of the flap which is exposed when the flap is in its second lowered indicating position is provided with a color which contrasts the usual color of the mailbox. A similarly contrasting color is provided on the upper surface of the rear face of the mailbox which is covered when the flap is in the upper position. Consequently. when the flap is lowered a large portion ofthe rear face of the mailbox has a bright indicating color.

While a single color is appropriate, strips or patterns of colors are useful. Reflective tape or reflective paint may be applied to the upper rear surface of the mail box, and to the outer indicating surface of the flap. so that the rear of the mailbox shines when illuminated with light, such as a flashlight from a distance.

Where great distances occur between the mailbox and the house, larger indicating surfaces may be provided by lowering the hinge and providing a more extensive flap which covers a greater upper portion of the rear face of the mailbox. Together, the exposed face of the flap when lowered and the exposed upper portion of the rear face of the mailbox perform the indication of a change of state of contents of a box.

In the preferred embodiment, the entire box is constructed ofa non-magnetic material. such as aluminum, or a rigid plastic material, or exterior grade plywood or other similar non-magnetic material. Alternatively, the mailbox may be made of magnetic material with the portions of the mailbox opposite the indicators being made of non-magnetic inserts.

In a preferred form of the invention, the entire indi' cator apparatus, such as the laterally mounted slide and the indicator flap are constructed of magnetic material. Alternatively, the indicators may be constructed of nonmagnetic material with magnetic inserts located near the upper portions of the indicators, as for example, near an upper edge of the flap when the flap is in an upper, non-indicating position. A preferred form of the actuator mechanism is a movable element with a means to bias the element from a first operative indicator holding position to a second position in which indicators are released for falling. The element has a portion contacting a door so that the element is urged toward the first position when the door is closed and is released toward the second position when the door is opened. Magnets are connected to the element for movement from first positions wherein the magnets are adjacent walls of the mailbox directly opposite the indicator flap and slide. When the door is opened and the element urges the magnets toward second position away from the indicator positions, the magnets release the indicators, dropping the indicators.

In a preferred form of the invention, the wall of the mailbox against which the flap is placed in the nonindicating position is sloped downward and inward so that the flap is held tightly against the wall in a sloped condition. Upon releasing the flap, gravity pulls the flap into the second, indicating position.

One object of the invention is the provision of an actuator means mounted for movement in a mailbox, directional means connected to the actuator for urging the actuator in a single direction, a stop connected to the actuator for limiting permissive movement of the actuator, a magnet connected to the actuator and positioned within the mailbox for movement between a first position adjacent an indicator means, and a second position remote from the indicator. for holding the indicator when the magnet is in the first position and for releasing the indicator when the magnet is in the second position. wherein the indicator is constructed of a magnetic material and wherein a remainder of the mailbox apparatus is constructed of a non-magnetic material.

Another object of the invention is the provision of an indicator mounted on the rear wall of a mailbox for moving between first and second positions, and thereby changing color of substantially an entire rear area of the mailbox.

A further object of the invention is the provision of a mailbox with a hinge exteriorly connected to the rear wall, and a flap connected to the hinge and covering approximately one ha|f of the rear wall whereby the flap moves around the hinge from a first position adjacent the rear wall to a second position adjacent the rear wall as an actuator moves a magnet from a first position to a second position.

Another object of the invention is the provision of a mailbox with a hinge mounted on the rear Wall in a generally horizontal orientation approximately midway vertically on the wall to support an indicator flap.

The invention has as another object the provision of a rural mailbox with a hinge on a rear wall wherein an upper external surface of the rear wall above the hinge is colored, wherein a lower surface of the rear wall below the hinge is uncolored. wherein a first surface of the indicator remote from the upper portion of the rear wall is colored similar to the lower portion of the rear wall, and wherein a side of the indicator means adjacent the upper portion of the rear wall in the first position is colored similarly to the upper portion of the rear wall.

Another object is the provision of a mailbox with a rod extending along an inside of one side wall to the rear wall, and extending upward along the rear wall, and a magnet attached to a distal end of the rod adjacent the rear wall, a spring connected to the rod and connected to the side wall for forcing the rod forward into a second position with the magnet away from the rear wall and with a proximal end of the rod projecting through an opening closed by the door, whereby closing the door forces the rod rearward against the spring pressure to a first position with the magnet adjacent the rear wall.

Another object of the invention is the provision of a mailbox with a rear wall which slopes downward and inward.

Another object of the invention is the provision of a mailbox with a sleeve mounted exteriorly on a side wall, the sleeve having a central portion displaced from the side wall thereby forming a pocket, and wherein the indicator comprises a slide received within the pocket and connected to the mounting means for upward movement wherein a substantial portion of the slide is exposed above the pocket, and for downward movement into the pocket, whereby upward movement of the slide positions the slide directly opposite magnetic means within the mailbox in a first position for holding the slide upward when the magnetic means is in the first position and for releasing the slide to move downward into the pocket when the magnetic means is in the second position.

These and further objects of the invention are apparent in the disclosure which includes the specification and drawings. included in the specification are the foregoing and ongoing written description with the claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. I is a perspective view of a mailbox apparatus with indicating means.

FIG. 2 is a rear view of the mailbox of FIG. 1 showing an indicator flap in an upper. nonindicating position.

FIG. 3 is a rear view of the mailbox of FIG. 1 showing the indicator flap in a second. lowered. indicating position.

FIG. 4 is a detail of a slide indicator. as shown in FIG. I.

FIG. 5 is a side elevation. partially cut-away. showing the mailbox of FIG. I with the door opened and the indicator means dropped.

FIG. 6 is a side elevation of the mailbox shown in FIG. I, partially in sectional view. showing the indicators in first positions wherein the indicators are held by magnets.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS With reference to FIG. I. a mailbox is generally indicated by the numeral 1. The mailbox has first and second side walls. 2 and 4. connected to a base 6. The base 6, in the preferred form of the embodiment has a conventional mounting means for mounting the mailbox on a post or on a bracket extended from a wall.

A roof 8 usually curved to shed water. connects upper portions of the side walls. 2 and 4.

A door 10 is supported on the front of a mailbox by a hinge 12 which is connected to and extends across a forward edge of base 6. Door 10 is held in an upper position by pull 14, which engages with the spring latch 16 by sliding under the movable cammed cantilevered portion I8.

As best seen. with reference to FIGS. 1, 2 and 3, a

flap 20 is mounted on a rear wall of the mailbox. A

hinge 22 extends medially and horizontally across the rear wall of the mailbox. The hinge. which may be a piano-type hinge is connected to the rear wall 24 of the mailbox and an edge of flap 20 is connected to hinge 22. Flap 20 is constructed ofa magnetic material. while the rear wall 24 of the mailbox. or at least an upper portion 26 of the rear wall is constructed of a nonmagnetic material.

The lower portion of the rear wall 28 and the outer surface 30 of flap 20. when the flap is in its upper position. reveal a color which is uniform with the remainder of the mailbox. When flap 20 falls to its lowered position. face 32 of the flap is revealed together with the upper portion 26 of the rear wall. as shown in FIG. 3 and a bright visually discernable indicator is presented.

Referring to FIG. 1, a slide indicator of a flag-type is housed in a sleeve 40. The sleeve has flanges 42 which are bonded. welded. rivetted, or otherwise connected to wall 22 of the mailbox. Walls 44 of the sleeve space a central portion outward from the wall of the mailbox forming a pocket. A slot 46 is provided in the central portion of sleeve 40 to facilitate the raising of the slide indicator.

As shown in FIG. 4. the slide indicator. which is generally indicated by the numeral 50. comprises a flat plate 52 which may be constructed of non-magnetic material. A knob 54 is provided on a lug 56 which extends from the slide through slot 46. The lug 56 is integral with magnetic element 58 which is positioned within a recess in non-magnetic plate 52.

With the door 10 open. as shown in FIG. I and FIG. 5, indicator 50 is in a second lowered non-indicating position within sleeve 40.

As shown in FIGS. 1. 5 and 6. an actuator rod is generally indicated by the numeral 60. The rod has spaced mounts 62 and 64 connected to an inside of wall 2, to hold the rod for reciprocable translation. A spring 66 urges rod 60 forward with its proximal end projecting beyond the door opening. The end of spring 66 furtherest from the door opening rests on abutment 68 which is connected to wall 2 inside the mailbox. The opposite end of compression spring 66 bears against lug 70 which is fixed to rod 60.

When the door is closed as shown in FIG. 6, rod 60 is urged rearward against the spring force of compression spring 66. Magnet 72 at the distal end of rod 60 is pressed against the inside of upper portion 26 of rear wall 24. At the same time magnet 74. which is fixed mcdially on rod 60 is urged to a position directly opposite the slot 46. Latch 16 holds pull [4 and door I0 closed. In that condition. flap 20 can be rotated upward to a position against the rear wall where magnet 72 holds the magnetic material flap 20 in place. At the same time. slide 50 may be raised by raising knob 54 to position the knob and the rearward connected magnetic element 58 directly opposite magnet 74.

When the door is opened. as shown in FIG. 5 and FIG. 1, magnets 72 and 74 are pulled by rod 60 into second non-active positions, and the indicators fall.

Although this invention has been shown with reference to specific embodiments, it will be obvious that modifications and variations may be constructed without departing from the spirit and scope of the inven tion. The scope of the invention is described in the following claims.

I claim:

I. Mailbox apparatus having an elongated enclosure formed by a base and a mounting means connected to the base. parallel side walls extending upward from the base. atop connecting'the parallel side walls. an imperforate rear wall rearwardly connected to the base. the parallel side walls and the top. a door mounting means connected to the mailbox apparatus and a door connected to the door mounting means for selectively opening and closing the mailbox. an indicator mounting means connected externally to the mailbox. and a indicator connected to the indicator mounting means for moving between positions indicative of state of contents of the mailbox apparatus. wherein the improvement comprises actuator means mounted for movement in the mailbox apparatus. directional means connected to the actuator means for urging the actuator means in a single direction. stop means connected to the actuator means for limiting permissive movement of the actuator means. magnet means connected to the actuator means and positioned in the mailbox apparatus for movements between a first position opposite the indicator means. and a second position remote from the indicator means. for holding the indicator means when the magnet means is in the first position and for releasing the indicator means when the magnet means is in the second position. wherein the indicator means is constructed of a magnetic material and wherein a remainder of the mailbox apparatus is constructed of a non-magnetic opaque material.

2. The apparatus of claim I wherein the indicator mounting means is mounted on the rear wall of the mailbox apparatus. and wherein the indicator means is mounted on the mounting means adjacent the rear wall for moving between first and second positions adjacent the rear wall. and thereby changing color of substantially an entire rear area of the mailbox apparatus.

3. The mailbox apparatus of claim 2. wherein the indicator mounting means comprises a hinge exteriorly connected to a middle position on the rear wall. and wherein the indicator comprises a flap connected to the hinge and covering approximately one-half of the rear wall whereby the flap moves around the hinge from a first position adjacent the rear wall to a second position adjacent the rear wall as the actuator moves the magnet means from its first position to its second position.

4. The mailbox apparatus of claim 3 wherein the hinge means is mounted on the rear wall in a generally horizontal orientation approximately midway vertically on the wall.

5. The apparatus of claim 4 wherein an upper external surface of the rear wall above the hinge is colored. wherein a lower surface of the rear wall below the hinge is uncolored, wherein a first surface of the indica tor means remote from the upper portion of the rear wall is colored similar to the lower portion of the rear wall. and wherein a side of the indicator means adja cent the upper portion of the rear wall in the first position is colored similarly to the upper portion of the rear wall.

6. The mailbox apparatus of claim 3 wherein the actuator means comprises a rod extending along an inside of one side wall to the rear wall. and extending upward along the rear wall, and wherein the magnet means comprises a magnet attached to a distal end of the actu ator rod adjacent the rear wall. wherein the directional means comprises a spring connected to the actuator rod and connected to the side wall for forcing the rod forward into a second position with the magnet away from the rear wall and with a proximal end of the rod projecting through an opening closed by the door. whereby closing the door forces a rod rearward against the spring pressure to a first position with the magnet adjacent the rear wall.

7. The apparatus of claim 3. wherein the rear wall slopes downward and inward.

8. The apparatus of claim 7, wherein an upper portion of the rear wall slopes downward and inward. and a lower portion ofthe rear wall is substantially vertical.

9. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein the magnet means further comprises a second magnet mounted on a medial portion of the actuator rod. and wherein the indicator mounting means comprises a sleeve mounted externally on a side wall of the mailbox with a central portion spaced from the side wall. and wherein the indicator means further comprises a slide positioned within the mounting means between the central portion and a complementary portion of the side wall for up and down movement, from an upper position directly opposite a first position of the second magnet to a lower position within the central portion of the mounting means. and wherein the slide includes magnetic material.

10. The mailbox apparatus of claim I, wherein the indicator mounting means comprises a sleeve mounted exteriorly on a side wall, the sleeve having a central portion displaced from the side wall thereby forming a pocket. and wherein the indicator comprises a slide received within the pocket and connected to the mounting means for upward movement, wherein a substantial portion of the slide is exposed above the pocket. and for downward movement into the pocket, whereby upward movement of the slide positions the slide directly opposite magnetic means within the mailbox in a first position for holding the slide upward when the magnetic means is in the first position and for releasing the slide to move downward into the pocket when the magnetic means is in the second position.

Patent Citations
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Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US4063681 *May 6, 1976Dec 20, 1977Tong Frank CMail box signalling mechanism
US4089460 *Apr 15, 1976May 16, 1978Mellard George KMailbox signal
US4154392 *Jul 17, 1978May 15, 1979Oscar J. GalstadDoor operated mailbox signal
US4290549 *Aug 17, 1979Sep 22, 1981Getz Jr JohnSelf-dropping flag for mail boxes
US4344559 *Oct 6, 1980Aug 17, 1982Widham Ernest GSignal devices for rural mailboxes
US4382540 *Jul 14, 1980May 10, 1983Kelly James BDouble-door security rural mail-box
US4447005 *Mar 25, 1983May 8, 1984Kelly James BDouble door security rural mailbox with automatic signalling means
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US4899683 *Dec 21, 1987Feb 13, 1990Antonino CuffaroOccupancy marker
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Classifications
U.S. Classification232/35, 232/17, D99/32
International ClassificationA47G29/00, A47G29/122
Cooperative ClassificationA47G29/121
European ClassificationA47G29/12R2