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Smithsonian National Postal Museum
Washington, DC
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Interests: people, postage and the post
Recent Activity
By Holly Chisholm, National Postal Museum Intern The exhibition, “Trailblazing: 100 Years of Our National Parks,” displays a number of objects connected to the parkland and national monuments in the Washington, D.C., area, including patriotic covers from World War II and blocks of the Iwo Jima (Marines Issue) stamp. The 3-cent stamp features Joseph Rosenthal’s famous photograph of the second Iwo Jima flag raising, an image from 1945 recently in the news after research concluded that one of the photo’s six men had been misidentified Raising the US flag for the second time atop Mount Suribachi by Joe Rosenthal; Iwo... Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at National Postal Museum
By Lynn Heidelbaugh, Curator “If you do not hear from me often you may know I am all right & just busy,” were the reassuring words that army nurse Greta Wolf sent to her family on October 28, 1918. Her hospital was indeed busy. The American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) was in the midst of its largest, and ultimately last, offensive. Just two days prior to Wolf’s letter, the hospital had a record number of 2,288 patients.[i] She wrote: “My ward has 112 patients and they are from all over. My, the boys have had some experiences over here.” In the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 6, 2018 at National Postal Museum
By Calvin Mitchell, Assistant Curator of Philately Despite concerns about racial discrimination in America, African Americans’ enthusiasm for supporting America’s entry in World War I was quite high in 1917. W.E.B Du Bois, one of the leading African American intellectuals of this period, rallied black support for the war effort in his memorable essay titled “Close Ranks.” Du Bois wrote: “Let us, while this war lasts, forget our social grievance and close ranks shoulder to shoulder with our fellow citizens and the allied nations that are fighting for democracy. We make no ordinary sacrifice, but we make it gladly and... Continue reading
Posted Feb 28, 2018 at National Postal Museum
By Holly Chisholm, National Postal Museum Intern 1903 Bright Angel Hotel cover; loan from Marjory J. Sente. In today’s day and age, hotels are inextricably linked to vacationing and travel. Hotels not only provide travelers with overnight lodging but also with amenities and entertainment services at famous locations around the world. At the same time, hotels can also be tourist destinations, using their lavish accommodations to supplement the more remote attractions found in nature. The current exhibition “Trailblazing: 100 Years of our National Parks,” contains hotel covers and stationary that highlight the Grand Canyon’s early years of tourism in connection... Continue reading
Posted Feb 22, 2018 at National Postal Museum
By Anne Snider, Purdue University PhD Candidate and National Postal Museum Guest Researcher Jugo 1921 first stamps with Aleksander and Peter I, Fig. 1 Yugoslavia has always been a multinational country; its people have different historical pasts and cultural traditions, including three main religions – Islam and two forms of Christianity, Roman Catholicism and Serbian Orthodoxy. These historical pasts were shaped by interactions with the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires that conquered and held portions of the northern and eastern regions of what later became Yugoslavia. After independence in 1918, successive Yugoslav governments dealt differently with the question of how to... Continue reading
Posted Feb 13, 2018 at National Postal Museum
By Jessie Aucoin, School Programs Coordinator Though it is hard to believe, the new year is almost here; the weather is colder and the nights longer. The excitement of the new school year has died down, and students and teachers alike have settled into their new routines. Perhaps it’s time to think about shaking things up a bit…perhaps it’s time to bring a student group to the National Postal Museum! After some departmental restructuring and reorganizing, our educational programs are back up and running! Add to that the launch of four new programs, and we have a total of twelve... Continue reading
Posted Dec 28, 2017 at National Postal Museum
By Lynn Heidelbaugh, Curator One of the most frequent questions I get asked as a curator is about care packages, namely, what did family and friends send to each other during one time period or another? The curiosity is understandable—who among us doesn’t want to peek inside the mail? It’s rather easy to take a look at historic letters and know what people were writing about, but packages by their nature are more ephemeral; the packaging was typically discarded and contents put to some use. Letters are one source that provide hints about what people mailed in packages. Thank you... Continue reading
Posted Dec 20, 2017 at National Postal Museum
By Holly Chisholm, National Postal Museum Intern In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, nature and health-related wonders were important attractions in American vacationing. The Industrial Revolution had constructed cities, factories, and railroads, but it had also brought rapid change to the American workplace and pollution to the surrounding environment. In the face of these changes, many Americans longed for the wilderness, venturing into the forests and canyons of the United States as a way of both reliving a simpler time and escaping the crowded city. Similarly, in the absence of genuine scientific cures, physicians of this era often... Continue reading
Posted Dec 11, 2017 at National Postal Museum
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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