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Smithsonian National Postal Museum
Washington, DC
Email Us: NPMBlog@si.edu
Interests: people, postage and the post
Recent Activity
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In 2018, the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum will collaborate with the Women In Military Service For America Memorial Foundation (Women’s Memorial) on an exhibition highlighting four women who served their country during World War I. The exhibition, which will feature their letters and artifacts (such as original uniforms) from the Women’s Memorial collection, will explore their personal accounts of wartime experiences and examine their perspectives on life, service, and duty during a time of great change for the professionalization of women’s work and the country at large. While the National Postal Museum will host the exhibition in our new Franklin... Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2017 at National Postal Museum
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By Nancy Pope, Historian and Curator More than a century before the Continental Congress named Benjamin Franklin our Postmaster General, a Boston tavern owned by Richard Fairbanks was designated the colonies’ first post office. On November 6, 1639, the Massachusetts General Court named Fairbanks’ tavern as a post office for letters coming into or going out of the colony to overseas posts. According to the court, this was: “for preventing the miscarriage of letters; and it is ordered, that notice be given that Richard Fairbanks, his house in Boston is the place appointed for all letters which are brought from... Continue reading
Posted Nov 6, 2017 at National Postal Museum
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By Motoko Hioki, Public Programs Manager In anticipation of Veterans Day, please join us in honoring past and present military personnel by celebrating the history and art of correspondence at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. This rich history is on display in our exhibition “My Fellow Soldiers: Letters from World War I,” which brings back to life the powerful and heartfelt letters between family, friends and service members during the war. In addition, we have planned many wonderful activities for children including a flag ceremony, a letter writing workshop, a family history booth, a poppy-making station, and guided gallery tours.... Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2017 at National Postal Museum
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By Ren Cooper, Marketing Assistant The National Postal Museum (NPM) is pleased to announce the opening of its newest exhibition “Beautiful Blooms: Flowering Plants on Stamps." On view October 20, 2017 through July 14, 2019, “Beautiful Blooms…” highlights the indigenous flowering plants, bees, birds and butterflies as celebrated on U.S. postage stamps from 1966 through 2007. Graced with an abundance of life, nature stamps are some of the most popular issuances in the American commemorative philatelic program. Featuring the flora and fauna of various states and regions, these stamps likewise recognize the creation of vital wildlife refuges and raise awareness... Continue reading
Posted Oct 19, 2017 at National Postal Museum
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By Nancy Pope, Historian and Curator October 1, 1896 was a banner day in America’s postal history. In West Virginia, wagons set out for the first time to pick up and delivery mail in rural America, heralding what would become the popular and still operating Rural Free Delivery service. In New York City and Washington, D.C., the somewhat less successful Collection and Distribution wagon service began with fanfare. Stories about the Rural Free Delivery service abound on the museum’s website. It is the less known tale that gets attention today. Postmaster General William Wilson’s (March 1895-March 1897) administration was behind... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2017 at National Postal Museum
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By Motoko Hioki, Public Programs Manager Lately, coffee shops have finally started to sell pumpkin spiced flavored beverages. That fact alone forces me to face the reality that fall has arrived. But because of the weather in the DMV area, I am in denial that it is actually true! How can it be fall, when it's still so hot? At any rate, I can at least reminisce about a fun memory at the National Postal Museum this summer, and pretend that the season hasn’t changed yet. On Saturday, July 29, the museum hosted a Dog Days of Summer Family Festival... Continue reading
Posted Sep 20, 2017 at National Postal Museum
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By Katie Burke, Museum Specialist Do you have questions about stamps, stamp collecting or the history of the postal service? Would you like to find out what our curators love about their jobs, or which exhibits have been their favorites? Well, now’s your chance – it’s “Ask a Curator Day”! Ask a Curator Day, a worldwide Twitter Q&A, with over 1,500 participating museums from 58 countries, is taking place tomorrow, Wednesday, September 13. Several of our expert curators will be on hand from 9 AM to 4 PM EDT to answer all your questions, so start thinking about what you’d... Continue reading
Posted Sep 12, 2017 at National Postal Museum
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By Holly Chisholm, National Postal Museum Intern Front and back of scorched Kilauea postcard, postmarked March 12, 1913. “Trailblazing: 100 Years of Our National Parks” is a two-year temporary exhibition currently on display at the National Postal Museum. The exhibit features a variety of objects that narrate the century-long relationship between the National Park Service and the United States Postal Service, including two postcards that have been scorched in the fissures of Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano. Visiting Hawaii’s volcanoes in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—both before and after their designation as a National Park in 1916—was an adventurous experience.... Continue reading
Posted Sep 5, 2017 at National Postal Museum
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By Patricia Raynor, Loan Coordinator E.R. Norling “Logging,” 1938; image courtesy of the Kitsap County Historical Society & Museum. This summer, I gave a presentation on New Deal post office murals in the Pacific Northwest at the Labor and Working Class History Association’s (LAWCHA) annual conference in Seattle, Washington. The LAWCHA is a non-profit association whose members research the labor movement in North and South America. As I have written about New Deal post office murals during my career, the organizer of a session on art and work in the 1930s contacted me about speaking on this topic. I also... Continue reading
Posted Aug 22, 2017 at National Postal Museum
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By Maggie Sigle, Volunteer and Intern Coordinator Smithsonian internships are learning experiences guided by a mentor which provide benefits relating to an intern’s education and career goals. They allow people to experience working in a museum, from the excitement of doing their own research and creating their own programs, to the practical knowledge of what a meeting between many departments is like (and in fact what all those departments do). This summer, the National Postal Museum (NPM) welcomed 9 interns. They were chosen from hundreds of candidates and are working on projects that cover a wide range of the many... Continue reading
Posted Aug 9, 2017 at National Postal Museum
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By Nancy Pope, Curator and Historian On June 19, 1958, at the height of the Cold War, nuclear submarine U.S.S. Nautilus (SSN-571) sailed into the Chukchi Sea bounded by two points of Alaska. The crew were under top-secret orders to be the first submarine to cross under the North Pole. The trip was oddly designated “Operation Sunshine.” Frank Holland (left) and John Krawczyk (right) marking some of their envelopes on board the USS Nautilus The crew began to realize that they might not be able to complete their task. As crewmember John C. Yuill later recalled, “It’s hard to realize... Continue reading
Posted Aug 3, 2017 at National Postal Museum
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By Ren Cooper, Marketing Assistant 2011 Owney commemorative stamp; courtesy of USPS. Inspired by our beloved mutt Owney, world-traveler and informal postal mascot from 1888-1897, the National Postal Museum will host the Dog Days of Summer Family Festival this Saturday, July 29th and you’re invited! Join us from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm to get to know Owney’s story and hear about his travels across the world. You’ll also gain an understanding of the role that other animals, such as mules, play in our postal system. Explore a wide variety of activities throughout the museum, including a scavenger hunt, Owney-puppet-making,... Continue reading
Posted Jul 25, 2017 at National Postal Museum
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By René Rodgers Editor's note: In honor of National U.S. Postage Stamp Day, the National Postal Museum is pleased to welcome guest blogger René Rodgers, Curator of Exhibits & Publications at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. July 1 was National U.S. Postage Stamp Day, a day to celebrate these miniature works of art and their important role in correspondence and communication. While letters and messages have been sent throughout history, the first ever pre-paid postage stamp was issued in the United Kingdom on May 6, 1840. This stamp bore the profile portrait of a young Queen Victoria and was... Continue reading
Posted Jul 10, 2017 at National Postal Museum
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By Ren Cooper, Marketing Assistant Here at the National Postal Museum, we love letters. Obviously! As poet and cleric John Donne once wrote, “…more than kisses, letters mingle souls.” One of our steadfast security officers came upon an unexpected object that had slipped into a crack within the mud wagon: a letter. How fitting for a museum dedicated to the preservation, study, and presentation of postal history! The mud wagon is part of the National Postal Museum’s Moving West exhibition, which details how the development of overland mail routes helped drive settlement of the newer territories between the Mississippi River... Continue reading
Posted Jun 19, 2017 at National Postal Museum
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By Nancy Pope, Historian and Curator Editor’s Note: Benjamin Franklin stands proudly in the Atrium of the National Postal Museum, overlooking what has been named the Franklin Foyer*. A picture of this statue was recently used as a photo-clue in a Jeopardy! category AT THE SMITHSONIAN NATIONAL POSTAL MUSEUM on May 24th, 2017. Postal Historian Nancy Pope shares with our readers the details of Franklin’s journey to become America’s very first Postmaster General. By the time Benjamin Franklin was named the nation’s Postmaster General (PMG) in 1775, he had already served with William Hunter as co-Postmaster General under the British... Continue reading
Posted Jun 6, 2017 at National Postal Museum
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By Deborah Fisher and Kellen Diamanti Editor’s note: The National Postal Museum is happy to host guest bloggers Deborah Fisher and Kellen Diamanti, who recently spent time in the National Postal Museum’s library collecting information for their forthcoming book about the famed Inverted Jenny, entitled Stamp of the Century. Potomac Park polo ground, 1916. Third assistant Postmaster General Alexander Dockery was the first government official to cope with the flood of mail inspired by that problematic first airmail flight from the Potomac Park polo ground in Washington, D.C., on May 15, 1918, and the bi-color 24-cent “Jenny" stamp created for... Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2017 at National Postal Museum
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By Manda Kowalczyk, Preservation Specialist Happy Preservation Week! Founded in 2010 by the American Libraries Association (ALA) to bring awareness to the need for preservation of collections in libraries, museums and other cultural institutions, this year’s Preservation Week theme focuses on textile preservation. Although we have a large philatelic collection at the National Postal Museum, we also care for vehicles, a dog and objects worn by postal workers like badges, mailbags and uniforms! Recently we acquired a uniform consisting of a shirt and trousers worn by Vivian Campbell who was a sales and associate clerk at the Peach Springs Post... Continue reading
Posted Apr 27, 2017 at National Postal Museum
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By Nancy Pope, Historian and Curator “Pop” Hanshue passing a mailbag to Fred Kelly, one of Western Air’s first pilots. The two seats in front of Kelly could hold passengers in addition to mail. But it was the mail contracts that financed the company’s growth. The Post Office Department operated the national airmail service from 1918 to 1926. That year they began turning control over to private operators. The transformation of government run airmail service to privately operated lines signaled the beginning days of America’s commercial aviation industry. Routes flown within the United States were designated as CAM (Contract Air... Continue reading
Posted Apr 17, 2017 at National Postal Museum
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By Ren Cooper, Marketing Assistant The National Postal Museum is pleased to announce its newest exhibition My Fellow Soldiers: Letters from World War I which opened today, exactly 100 years after America declared war on Germany and joined the Allied forces in their fight against the Central Powers. Once considered the war to end all wars, this international conflict redefined nations and ushered in the modern era. More than 17 million military personnel and civilians are estimated to have perished; overall casualties total approximately 38 million. Notwithstanding these staggering statistics, My Fellow Soldiers… uses original letters to examine WWI through... Continue reading
Posted Apr 6, 2017 at National Postal Museum
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By Matthew White, Director of Education The National Postal Museum’s (NPM) Department of Education & Visitor Services is always a creative, bustling, and productive place. Team members can be found planning and hosting public events, training volunteers, preparing curricula and craft supplies, or leading school children around the museum. It’s not only what we do, it’s what we love to do! February is particularly busy for the department due to Valentine’s Day and Black History Month, which we celebrate and honor each year with topical programming. This February was remarkable not only because our programs achieved record-breaking attendance numbers for... Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2017 at National Postal Museum
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By Nancy Pope, Curator and Historian Letter carriers on strike outside the main New York City post office Just before midnight on March 17, 1970, a letter carriers’ local disobeyed national leadership and voted to strike. The National Letter Carrier’s Union, Branch 36, had been discussing the action for days. Frustrated, they decided to act on their own – a wildcat strike. Issues of poor pay and working conditions affected postal workers nation-wide and before long a number of employees across the U.S. joined the strike. Workers were frustrated by low pay that left seven percent of New York City’s... Continue reading
Posted Mar 23, 2017 at National Postal Museum
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By Nancy Pope, Historian and Curator Postmaster General Arthur E. Summerfield’s official portrait by Thomas E. Stephens. Arthur E. Summerfield, born March 17, 1889, was the 57th Postmaster General of the United States, serving from 1953 to 1961 under President Eisenhower. Summerfield had served as the Republican Party’s chairman prior to Eisenhower’s election. And, as was an unspoken tradition of the time, Eisenhower rewarded one of his party’s major players with the position of Postmaster General. While that tradition did not always work out well, Eisenhower could not have made a better choice. Summerfield became Postmaster General at a time... Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2017 at National Postal Museum
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By Ren Cooper, Marketing Assistant 2017 marks the centennial of America’s engagement in World War I, also referred to as the Great War. The National Postal Museum will present a special exhibition to commemorate and reflect upon this anniversary. My Fellow Soldiers: Letters from World War I features personal correspondence to and from the front lines, thereby illuminating accounts of love, life and death in the tumultuous time of war. The presence of General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces overseas from 1917-1918, can be felt throughout the exhibition. “My Fellow Soldiers” is the opening line of... Continue reading
Posted Mar 1, 2017 at National Postal Museum
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You’re invited to the National Postal Museum’s annual Valentine’s Day Card Workshop! Join us this Saturday, February 11th from 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Continue reading
Posted Feb 9, 2017 at National Postal Museum
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The National Postal Museum is happy to host two guest bloggers – Deborah Fisher and Kellen Diamanti – who recently spent a chunk of time in the National Postal Museum’s library collecting information for their forthcoming book about the famed Inverted Jenny, entitled Stamp of the Century. Continue reading
Posted Jan 19, 2017 at National Postal Museum