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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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By Nancy Pope, Curator and Historian One of the two containers used to hold the envelopes on the Regulus I missile flight. Both containers are in the National Postal Museum’s collection; one is currently on exhibit On June 8, 1959, the U.S. Post Office Department went way beyond their standard mail transportation systems. They did not use horses or dogs, trains, trucks, planes or trucks. They used a Regulus I nuclear missile. For the sake of the trial, the nuclear warhead was filled not with bombs, but with two red and blue metal containers holding 1,500 envelopes each. In the... Continue reading
Posted Jun 8, 2019 at National Postal Museum
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By Nancy Pope, Curator and Historian Happy Bike to Work Day! Helping carriers bring mail to our homes and businesses has seen postal officials experimenting with a variety of vehicles. There have been four-wheeled vans, trucks and the boxy Long Life Vehicles; three-wheeled Mailsters; and two-wheeled motorcycles and bicycles. Carriers have used bikes to help carry the mail since the 1880s. Some bikes had baskets to carry the mail, and when they did not, carriers pedaled along with leather mailbags strapped over their bodies. Rural letter carriers were responsible for purchasing their own clothing and equipment, including vehicles. Carrier newsletters... Continue reading
Posted May 17, 2019 at National Postal Museum
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By Nancy Pope, Curator and Historian Our annual Train Day Celebration is this Saturday, May 11th from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. This year is extra special, as it marks 150 years since the railroad was completed. But why does the National Postal Museum celebrate the start of the Transcontinental Railroad? Learn more about the history of the cross-country railroad and its relationship with the Post Office Department. 150 years ago, officials in Promontory Summit, northern Utah territory, drove a “golden spike” into the tracks in celebration of the connection of the Transcontinental Railroad, opening up the country to moving... Continue reading
Posted May 8, 2019 at National Postal Museum
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By Deborah Fisher and Kellen Diamanti Editor’s note: The National Postal Museum is happy to welcome back guest bloggers Deborah Fisher and Kellen Diamanti. Fisher and Diamanti spent many hours in the National Postal Museum’s library collecting information for their book about the famed Inverted Jenny, entitled Stamp of the Century. In a two part series, the authors introduce some of the people they met along the way! American Philatelic Society, 2018. Researching a book as eclectic as Stamp of the Century gives one a good, friendly reason to look up interesting strangers. Since our book about the Scott C3a... Continue reading
Posted May 1, 2019 at National Postal Museum
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By Nancy Pope, Curator and Historian Clum with his first wife, Mary, in Tombstone, AZ. In 1898, the cry of “Gold” rang out with the discovery of the precious metal in Alaska. Before long thousands of stampeders, mostly Americans, were making the treacherously long journey into the Klondike gold fields. Their families yearned for news of the adventurers, who also longed to keep in touch with home. But the Post Office Department had little presence in the territory at the time and so dispatched a postal inspector to create a functioning mail system. This inspector was one of the most... Continue reading
Posted Mar 5, 2019 at National Postal Museum
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Top: 3¢ Centennial of Baseball stamp, 1939. Right: 6¢ Grandma Moses American Folklore Series stamp, 1969. The first professional baseball club in America – the Cincinnati Red Stockings – was established in 1869. Two years later, in 1871, the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players was officially formed, thereby becoming baseball’s first “major league.” In commemoration of these two significant sesquicentennials of baseball history, the National Postal Museum is excitedly preparing for a new exhibition which will be open from 2020 through 2022. For many Americans, it isn’t truly summer until they hear the first crack of the bat... Continue reading
Posted Feb 20, 2019 at National Postal Museum
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By Calvin Mitchell, Research Associate Marian Anderson—one of the greatest concert and classical singers of the twentieth century—was honored on a stamp issued by the United States Postal Service on January 27, 2005. She was the first female singer and the eighth woman to be honored in the Black Heritage Stamp Series issued annually by the U.S. Postal Service since 1978. During the first day ceremony for the stamp, Deputy Postmaster General John M. Nolan proclaimed the stamp “a powerful reminder of her unprecedented contribution to music and to her great sacrifice for justice.” The ceremony was held in Washington,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2019 at National Postal Museum
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By Nancy Pope, Curator & Historian 2018 marks the centennial of airmail service in America. Initially, the planes flew just one route to and from New York to Washington, D.C. (with a stop in Philly to refuel). But Post Office Department officials were determined to add another route from New York to Chicago, Illinois despite tremendous danger and a lack of supporting infrastructure. In a three-part series, Nancy Pope shares the captivating history of these pioneering flights. Catch up on Part I - A Difficult December: Setting Up a Route - and Part II - A Difficult December: Planes and... Continue reading
Posted Dec 18, 2018 at National Postal Museum
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By Nancy Pope, Curator & Historian 2018 marks the centennial of airmail service in America. Initially, the planes flew just one route to and from New York to Washington, D.C. (with a stop in Philly to refuel). But Post Office Department officials were determined to add another route from New York to Chicago, Illinois despite tremendous danger and a lack of supporting infrastructure. In a three-part series, Nancy Pope shares the captivating history of these pioneering flights. Catch up on Part I - A Difficult December: Setting Up a Route - and stay tuned for Part III! To make an... Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2018 at National Postal Museum
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By Nancy Pope, Curator & Historian 2018 marks the centennial of airmail service in America. Initially, the planes flew just one route to and from New York to Washington, D.C. (with a stop in Philly to refuel). But Post Office Department officials were determined to add another route from New York to Chicago, Illinois despite tremendous danger and a lack of supporting infrastructure. In a three-part series, Nancy Pope shares the captivating history of these pioneering flights. The airmail service that began on May 15, 1918 and was transferred over to the Post Office Department’s control on August 12, 1918... Continue reading
Posted Dec 11, 2018 at National Postal Museum
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By Emma Auburn, Advancement Associate #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season by bringing people together around the values of giving back. This day connects diverse groups of individuals around the world to celebrate and encourage giving. Your annual gifts allows the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum to broaden access to everyone. Your generosity allows us to present our collections in new ways while preserving them for the future. Donors like you give us the opportunity to dive deeper into our research and scholarship to share. By having you as part of our community, we are strengthened as a museum. To join... Continue reading
Posted Nov 27, 2018 at National Postal Museum
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By Nancy Pope, Curator & Historian On November 28, 1918, a group of aviation fans and the Superintendent of the US Airmail Service held the first Thanksgiving dinner on board an airplane. At 1 p.m., the group took off in a three-ton Handley Page bomber that had been transferred to the Post Office Department. The plane, which was intended for use carrying mail on the upcoming New York and Chicago route, instead carried a group of men and a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. The day’s Thanksgiving feast was set out on a table prior to being loaded into the Handley Page... Continue reading
Posted Nov 22, 2018 at National Postal Museum
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By Scott W. Devine, Paper Conservator In preparation for the exhibition John Lennon: The Green Album – which runs through February 3, 2019 at the National Postal Museum – John Lennon’s childhood stamp album recently received a thorough condition assessment. Following its acquisition in 2005, the album underwent extensive conservation treatment in order to stabilize the cover and binding. Since then, the album has been maintained through a systematic, broad-based program of collections care. In addition to being housed in a custom made enclosure in a climate controlled storage area, each time the Lennon album is handled for loan or... Continue reading
Posted Nov 15, 2018 at National Postal Museum
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By Emma Auburn, Advancement Associate The Smithsonian National Postal Museum celebrated its 25th Anniversary back in July, but we are celebrating all-year-round our silver anniversary! With more than 6 million objects in our collection, the Museum is able to tell unique stories from America’s history. We asked members of our community, including staff, visitors, council members, volunteers and donors, to share what their favorite object from our collection and their responses varied from as small as a postage stamp to as large as a bus! Each person chose an object that captures America’s compelling stories and collectively reflect the diversity... Continue reading
Posted Nov 5, 2018 at National Postal Museum
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By Nancy Pope, Historian and Curator Arthur Summerfield, PMG 1953-1961 On October 20, 1960, a new kind of post office opened. The Providence, RI post office dedicated on that date was not a run of the mill facility. When Postmaster General Arthur Summerfield was appointed in 1953, he found a Department in dire need of modernization. Between the Great Depression and Second World War, the Post Office had gone decades without funding beyond necessities. Mail volumes were exploding in the post-war era. Summerfield and the Department were playing catch up. Summerfield was an enthusiastic supporter of finding new ways to... Continue reading
Posted Oct 22, 2018 at National Postal Museum
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By Nancy Pope, Curator and Historian “Wild Bill” Hopson was one of the Post Office’s most popular pilots William Hopson flew the mail for the Post Office Department from 1920-1927. After a brief stint out of the New Jersey fields, Hopson was assigned a permanent spot on the Omaha-Chicago route. Nicknamed “Wild Bill,” Hopson was one of the best loved and most colorful of the airmail pilots. Before flying the mail, he navigated the wilds of New York City as a cab driver, but flying was his great love. Like most of the airmail pilots, Bill often had one eye... Continue reading
Posted Oct 18, 2018 at National Postal Museum
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By Scott W. Devine, Paper Conservator Blind Reading: The Dead Letter Office Album is a small, leather bound scrapbook assembled sometime after 1883. The volume contains twenty-one clippings from the front of envelopes postmarked between 1883 and 1884. The clippings include difficult to read addresses that were deciphered by clerks in the Dead Letter Office. Once the correct address was known, the letters were sent on to their destination with a request to return the envelope, which was then mounted in the album with the correct address written on the back of each album page. Although the exact purpose of... Continue reading
Posted Sep 13, 2018 at National Postal Museum
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By Ted Wilson, Registrar Having worked at the National Postal Museum before it even opened in 1993, Registrar Ted Wilson is replete with knowledge and stories about the museum and its objects. In anticipation of the upcoming exhibit of musician John Lennon’s childhood stamp album, Ted describes how this extraordinary item became part of the museum’s collection. “John Lennon: The Green Album” opens on September 7th, 2018, at the National Postal Museum, the same day USPS releases the new John Lennon commemorative postage stamp. W. Wilson Hulme II, National Postal Museum Curator of Philately 2002-2007. In June 2005, Wilson Hulme... Continue reading
Posted Sep 4, 2018 at National Postal Museum
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By Hannah-Claire Allgood, Education Intern In Historic Preservation, students and professionals are asked to find the context and original purpose of a structure. Without that understanding, there is too much room for error and confusion in the preservation treatment process. The building’s background is its foundation for creation. Similarly, a stamp’s foundation is the context it was designed in. Applying my background in Preservation, I began investigating stamps and the years surrounding their release, looking for connections. Just over 30 years ago, the United States Postal Service (USPS) unveiled The North American Wildlife Issue at the 1987 Canadian Association for... Continue reading
Posted Aug 13, 2018 at National Postal Museum
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By Luke Tokman, Katzenberger Art History Intern The National Postal Museum is pleased to host our very first Katzenberger Art History intern Luke Tokman. Luke is working this summer on a project with our Research Chair Susan Smith, titled “Are Stamps Art?” My goal this summer is to create a comprehensive bibliography of every reference to postage stamps as art or design objects since 1840 (when the Penny Black – the first stamp* – was released). I’m hoping to better understand how stamps have been discussed over time by the philatelic, art, and design communities. 5c Crusade Against Cancer stamp;... Continue reading
Posted Aug 1, 2018 at National Postal Museum
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Chief Yeoman Ruth (Woodworth); Creveling Courtesy Ruth (Woodworth) Creveling Noble Collection, Gift of Carol Dieckman, Women’s Memorial Foundation Collection By Lynn Heidelbaugh, Curator Eighteen-year-old Ruth Estelle Woodworth joined the US Navy on March 30, 1917, the same month the military opened enlistment to women for the first time. It was all possible because of an unintentional loophole in the Naval Reserve Act of 1916. The act authorized the enlistment of qualified “persons,” but did not specify any gender requirement for volunteers. By spring of 1917, the war raging in Europe had begun to profoundly affect the interests and principles of... Continue reading
Posted Jul 20, 2018 at National Postal Museum
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By Laura Baker, Curator at College Park Aviation Museum 1917 portrait of Charles Townley Chapman. Pilots, mechanics and photographers- oh my! Airmail required multiple people to keep the mail soaring through the air, but one of the most captivating jobs of them all was that of Charles Townley Chapman, a photographer at the College Park Airfield during the advent of America’s airmail service. He froze time with his breathtaking and treasured photographs of airmail from 1917-1919. Charles Townley Chapman, or C.T.C as his family remembers him, was born July 15, 1891 in Kensington, Maryland. A passion for photography runs deep... Continue reading
Posted Jul 17, 2018 at National Postal Museum
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By Calvin Mitchell, Assistant Curator of Philately Reflecting on her years in the White House, Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson, the wife of President Lyndon Johnson, wrote in her diary: “…Using the White House as a podium---hopefully---to thank, to applaud, to advertise, to rally citizens to action in improving our environment, gives me joy.” This statement characterizes her style and political determination which she cultivated over decades alongside her husband while he served in the U.S. Congress, as Vice President, and as President. Although Lady Bird left the White House 49 years ago, her legacy continues to flourish through her multiple... Continue reading
Posted Jun 29, 2018 at National Postal Museum
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By Holly Chisholm, National Postal Museum Intern Letter written by actor John Wayne showing his support for a Walt Disney commemorative stamp (click to enlarge). On December 15, 1966, the world mourned the loss of Walter Elias Disney, America’s well-loved animator, film producer, and theme-park entrepreneur. Following his death, tributes from around the world honored Disney and his legacy of beloved characters, including the 6-cent Walt Disney commemorative stamp issued by the United States Post Office on September 11, 1968. While postal regulations at the time stated that any non-presidential individual honored on a commemorative stamp must be dead for... Continue reading
Posted Jun 11, 2018 at National Postal Museum
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By Jessica Henn, Collections Assistant, Women In Military Service for America Memorial Foundation While working on the In Her Words: Women’s Duty and Service in World War I exhibition, currently on display at the National Postal Museum, I read many documents belonging to the four featured women. None quite resonated with me as much as the diary of Army nurse Lulu Belle (Wolfe) Smith. I took to calling it “a very slow and ill-detailed romance novel.” The story unravels gradually, with details slowly being revealed over weeks and months. One must sift through days of mundane details to get to... Continue reading
Posted May 22, 2018 at National Postal Museum