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Erin Blasco
public programs coordinator at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum
Recent Activity
Girl scouting is a significant part of women’s history. More than 59 million American women participated in scouting during their childhood, including many prominent figures in fields ranging from acting to politics. No wonder that Girl Scouting is represented on commemorative postage stamps from around the world. This summer’s Celebrate Scouting stamp issue, coinciding with the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the first American Girl Scout Troop in 1912, “pays tribute to scouting organizations for the opportunities and pleasures they have provided millions of youths worldwide,” according to Beyond the Perf. Continue reading
Posted Jun 1, 2012 at National Postal Museum
A stamp marked “Magyar Posta” is from Hungary. “Deutsche Post” is from Germany. But stamps purporting to be from Tatooine or Alderaan, fictional planets from the Star Wars saga, are pure fantasy. That didn’t stop London-based graphic artist Stefan van Zoggel from creating postage stamps from the high tech world of droids and the Millennium Falcon. He even designed a fictional postmark featuring R2-D2 as postmaster general. Stamp images © Stefan van Zoggel, from website of Stefan van Zoggel. The US Postal Service has issues its own Star Wars stamps, though they probably don’t pay for enough postage to be... Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2012 at National Postal Museum
Finding the “first” is a default mechanism for uncovering an interesting story. Elaine Rawlinson, first female stamp designer, was a first in more ways than one. Elaine's 1-cent George Washington stamp, issued on April 25, 1938, became the fundamental basis for the designs of the rest of the Presidential Series, one of the most famous stamp series in history and fondly known to philatelists as the “Prexies.” Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2012 at National Postal Museum
Many visitors to the National Postal Museum see our Alaskan dog sled, used by mail carriers Ed and Charlie Biederman in the 1920s and 30s.The dog sled’s fragile and empty appearance makes you wonder what did it carry? Why was it important? A sled like this is “one of the small reminders of a whole system of transportation and communication,” says William Schneider, author of On Time Delivery: Dog Team Mail Carriers, a book chronicling sled dog mail transportation that will be released in April 2012. Continue reading
Posted Mar 6, 2012 at National Postal Museum
Owney is joining the ranks of the beloved characters now telling their story via e-book. The adorable portrayal and animated illustrations invite readers to discover more about this globe-trotting dog. He crisscrossed the country in the 1890s riding on mail train cars and collecting tokens for his harness along the way. Continue reading
Posted Feb 8, 2012 at National Postal Museum
This month, the U.S. Postal Service announced that living figures would be considered for commemoration on postage stamps. Its invitation to suggest names of living individuals in sports, entertainment, and other professions to the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee elicited all-caps cries for a stamp portraying Lady Gaga, or perhaps Bruce Springsteen. Continue reading
Posted Nov 22, 2011 at National Postal Museum
Earle Ovington was the Post Office Department’s “First Aeorplane Mail Carrier,” but he wasn’t the first person to get airborne with the mail. John Wise flew mail by balloon in 1859. Fred Wiseman “unofficially” carried mail in February 1911, coincidentally the same day as an airmail flight in India. In September 1911, Ovington was officially sworn in as an airmail carrier before climbing into his fixed-wing plane and flying from Garden City, New York to the nearby town of Mineola with a heavy sack of mail. As a person and a pilot, Ovington was a unique character and his September 23, 1911 flight has an interesting story. Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2011 at National Postal Museum
Owney the Railway Mail Service dog traveled again this week! The old dog is getting a “makeover” to preserve and improve his appearance in preparation for a new exhibit and the release of his US postage stamp. Read on to learn about how trip to the taxidermy studio and the creatures he's met there! Continue reading
Posted May 18, 2011 at National Postal Museum
Owney the dog, rail-riding mascot of the Railway Mail Service, has been a faithful fixture of the Postal Museum atrium, guarding the train car and delighting visitors since 1993. This summer, the traveling mutt will hit the road again and this week is your last chance to wish him “happy travels” until his return. This week, Owney will leave exhibit to undergo conservation work. He returns in July to a new exhibit, festival, and the first day of issue ceremony for his postage stamp. Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2011 at National Postal Museum
Today, March 25th, is the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, in which a dropped match on the 8th floor of the factory sparked a fire that killed over 100 people trapped inside. The blaze took place on a sunny day in Greenwich Village, New York, where many witnessed this horrific event. One witness was particularly affected. Frances Perkins was 31 years old and worked at the National Consumers League, an organization dedicated to fighting child labor and bad working conditions. Of particular interest to Perkins was fire safety and fire hazards in factories and retail stores. She went on to become the first female Secretary of Labor and was commemorated on a US postage stamp in 1980. Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2011 at National Postal Museum
Susan Lendroth is the author of Calico Dorsey, Mail Dog of the Mining Camps, released by Random House in fall 2010. She lives in California and has written three other popular children's books. Susan's book not only touches on postal history but also a "mail dog" not unlike the museum's own Owney, mascot of the Railway Mail Service. I grew up in southern California about 20 minutes from Knott's Berry Farm. When I was a young kid, you could wander the western-themed amusement park for free, paying only for individual rides and attractions. Many a summer night my father drove... Continue reading
Posted Mar 2, 2011 at National Postal Museum
It’s not that Buffalo Bill Cody had a problem telling the truth. He simply liked to insert himself into history. Continue reading
Posted Feb 24, 2011 at National Postal Museum
No matter where you live, you can join us tomorrow at 1 p.m. ET to enjoy a talk about the philately of New Zealand from 1855-1955, a country located at great distance from precious stamp-making supplies. Innovative methods were born of necessity, leading New Zealand's postal service to use ingenious techniques to recover and reuse materials, inadvertently adding to the richness of the country's philatelic material. Robert P. Odenweller will speak on this topic at the 9th Annual Maynard Sundman Lecture here at the museum, but many people will tune in online to watch the live webcast. Continue reading
Posted Feb 4, 2011 at National Postal Museum
At the close of 2010, the National Postal Museum welcomes a new crop of Volunteers who are poised to give tours and lead activities in January 2011. Prompted by a talented but thin weekend docent crew, the staff recruited volunteers to fill the empty slots. We welcome a new group of experts who are passionate life-long learners and thrilled to bring the stories of the museum to our visitors. Continue reading
Posted Jan 5, 2011 at National Postal Museum
Catherine Golden is Professor of English at Skidmore College and author of Posting It: The Victorian Revolution in Letter Writing. During the current recession, many of us are thinking of cutting back on Christmas cards to save on postage. Ironically, the coming of the Penny Post in England in 1840 had the opposite effect: the affordable, uniform penny rate catapulted the sending of Christmas cards designed to raise charity for the poor. In 1843, the Christmas spirit undoubtedly visited postal reformer and father of the Christmas greeting card Henry Cole, nicknamed Old King Cole, as well as Charles Dickens, whose... Continue reading
Posted Dec 20, 2010 at National Postal Museum
In additional to all the traditional elements (buffets of craft supplies, a small army of Postal Museum volunteers, an ink stamp station, a glitter station, and a stencils and rubbings station), this year’s workshop included a new feature designed by Doukas: a “menu” of different options for folding and customizing holiday cards, transforming them into ornaments, pop-ups, pockets, and other fun shapes. We’re providing the menu here in the hopes that these ideas inspire your own holiday cards. Continue reading
Posted Dec 7, 2010 at National Postal Museum
In order to tan and preserve animal furs, skins and other textiles, it was common practice in the 1800’s to use soaps and compounds made of arsenic, mercury, lead and other heavy metals. Arsenic was considered a great insecticide and some say it even smelled pretty nice, too. Scientists saw the application of these metals as improvements to the short-lived results of such “preservatives” as herbs and spices. However, we all now know the health hazards associated with accumulative and direct contact to arsenic, lead and mercury (ever wonder how the Mad Hatter got his famous moniker?), so fast-forward 200 years. What does this mean for staff working with natural history specimens in museum collections and specifically for Owney the dog and his handlers? Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2010 at National Postal Museum
On November 7, 1940, just two days after the election that President Franklin D. Roosevelt won for his third term, he signed Executive Order 8587 abolishing the civil service application photograph. This was no minor matter. The NAACP and the historically-black National Alliance of Postal Employees (NAPE, formed in 1913 after blacks were excluded from the Railway Mail Association) had been campaigning against the use of the application photograph since the Wilson administration began using it in 1914 to screen out as many African American applicants as it could. And the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), at the time still battling to keep Jim Crow branches out of its organization, had voted at its 1939 convention to support abolition of the discriminatory application photograph. Continue reading
Posted Nov 3, 2010 at National Postal Museum
During a recent research trip to London, I visited the National Portrait Gallery, hoping to view John Alfred Vintner’s 1879 official portrait of Rowland Hill (1795-1879), founder of the Penny Post and inventor of the postage stamp, the Penny Black. Hill became a nationally known figure overnight when he set in motion a revolutionary 1840 reform that changed postal services in the UK and around the world. Yet few remember him today. Continue reading
Posted Sep 16, 2010 at National Postal Museum
Although they may lack physical beauty and monetary value, the 1959 St. Lawrence Seaway Opening stamps have tales to tell. Issued in both the US and Canada, hundreds of the Canadian versions of the stamps contained a printing error in which elements of the stamp are “inverted” in relation to one another. In a tale of intrigue and mystery, inverts were stolen, lost and recovered. Continue reading
Posted Sep 15, 2010 at National Postal Museum
Today Owney, (yes, a real dog) will take a rare excursion away from his post and will return to his usual spot tomorrow morning. The unofficial mascot of the Railway Mail Service is having his tags counted. Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2010 at National Postal Museum
Yes I am a deltiologist and proud of it! The definition of a deltiologist is a person who collects postcards as a hobby. Continue reading
Posted Aug 24, 2010 at National Postal Museum
The ink stains on my hands may have finally faded, but fond memories of the Pens & the Post festival remain. Presented in partnership with the Pen Collectors of America, the program focused on fountain pens, handwriting, and postal history. Continue reading
Posted Jun 17, 2010 at National Postal Museum
Today marks the birthday of the monarch who expanded the British Empire and became the face of the Penny Black, giving birth to a postal Empire. Continue reading
Posted May 24, 2010 at National Postal Museum
When a Postal Museum volunteer, brought a handful of World War II era pens to a Postal Museum museum program, something magical happened. Kids, parents, and grandparents at the letter writing table were thrilled to write their letters with authentic pens from the era. Grandparents shared stories of their school days while kids marveled at the way the pens felt in their hands. “Everything I write seems more important,” one young visitor said as he worked on his letter, enjoying that distinctive scratching sound that today’s pens just don’t make. Clearly, pens and the post go hand-in-hand. A partnership was born between the Pen Collectors of America and the National Postal Museum. “Pens & the Post: Collect, Correspond, Celebrate!” was born. Pens and the Post will be a dynamic family festival featuring a multitude of hands-on activity stations and a roster of workshops taking place throughout the day, presented in partnership with the Pen Collectors of America and Fahrney's Pens. It takes place on Saturday, May 29th from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Continue reading
Posted May 20, 2010 at National Postal Museum