March 17, 2010

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

A happy St. Patty's day to all you wonderful readers, both those that are Irish and just Irish for today! In celebration of this wonderful day, the Quo Vadis blog is giving away free bottles of J. Herbin green and orange ink, really.

Sláinte (cheers)!


March 16, 2010

National Postal Museum, Part II: Characters

Once you actually go through the historic lobby of the the National Postal Museum, you enter a large atrium, around the sides of which are the entrances to side rooms. Each side room focuses on different eras, methods of delivery, and persons important to the history of the United States Postal System. The exhibits on postal figures were some of my favorites, as they really deepened my knowledge of individuals that I though I already knew a lot about. For starters, history classes frequently highlight Benjamin Franklin's accomplishments as a scientist, founding father, and French envoy, students rarely learn very much about Franklin's role as the first Postmaster General of the United States.

Another character that gets lots of exhibit space in the museum is Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This may be well known by older Americans, but I had no idea that FDR was into philately! In fact, he was so well known as a stamp collector that he was often given gifts of stamps by foreign diplomats. Above is a reproduction of a campaign poster for FDR, hung above the President's stamp collection box. Just before the President's death, a friend had offered to have the box recovered, as a gift. After Roosevelt's passing, the friend returned the box to the Roosevelt family, so the mail tags you see on the box are original from that trip through the post. Below is a picture of another gift given to the Roosevelt, a shelf that the President put on casters and used to wheel about his books of stamps.

In another part of the FDR exhibit, placards explain how the President used postage stamps as a means of improving the national mood during the Great Depression of the 1930s. It was under Roosevelt that colored stamps were first introduced, in wonderful greens and pinks. So into stamps was the President, that he even designed a few himself. It's amazing what you learn when you actually take the time to read the plastic cards next to everyday looking objects.

At the far end of the atrium, there is a walk-through exhibit all about postal inspectors and the perpetrators they catch. I didn't feel quite right taking pictures of mail bombs and the whackos that send them... so I instead took this picture of a poster that gives pointers on how to identify a dangerous package. All around this poster are stories of train robbers (that stole mail carried by train), the unabomber, and the postal inspectors that spent much of their lives pursuing them.


March 11, 2010

Correspondence as Memories

[click image to view full size]

While blotter paper sits on the back burner, I would like to share with you another zine submission that I received. This submission is from Jackie over at Letters & Journals, titled "Correspondence as... Memories."

Thanks Jackie, for your wonderful reflection on the lasting power of letters!

March 10, 2010

Mail Mary: A Postal Mystery

A little philatelic humor via GirlZootZilla:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Mail Mary
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Reform

LaFayette Brewery, Inc. Vintage Letterhead

In response to The Missive Maven's latest letter to me, the one with the cool rubber stamps, I sent back a letter written on paper printed with my most recently refurbished vintage letterhead image.

I'm especially proud of this new letterhead, from the LaFayette Brewery in LaFayette, Indiana. I think it's a really high quality image, and it should scale and print much better than previous letterheads I have posted.

This letterhead is now available for download in the Vintage Letterhead Image Archive. Also in the archive is a new image that has been available for a couple of weeks. While I didn't post about this new image, I did announce its addition on Twitter.

March 9, 2010

Rubber Stamp Awesomeness

It came as no surprise to me that these peachy keen rubber stamps came to me via a letter from The Missive Maven. She's constantly acquiring smart new letter writing accouterments.

March 5, 2010

Friday Night Favorite Reads

Unwritten Letters Project, I have no idea how I haven't come across this before!

Jiminy Clickit at Bleubug

Mailer's Postmark Permit #1 at

Sailor King Cobra. Hisssssss. at Leigh Reyes. My Life As a Verb.

Etch-A-Sketch Redux at Front Room Press

March 4, 2010

National Postal Museum, Part I: Victim of "Modernization"

All last week I tweeted with excitement about my day trip to the National Postal Museum here in Washington, D.C. Finally, on Friday, I was able to spend several hours at the museum, snapping pictures and ogling gorgeous stamps, reading letters of significance and learning about postal inspectors. While it was not my first trip to the museum, it was certainly my most enjoyable visit (probably because I was there alone and could take my time reading all the placards that interested me). Because the museum has so many pieces that I think will be of interest to you, dear readers, I have decided to break up the record of my most recent visit into multiple posts.

Originally the main post office serving the District, the museum building was designed in the Beaux Arts style, and was completed in 1914. The above two pictures are of how the lobby area would have looked when the building opened. On one side of the grand hallway are post office boxes, and on the other, mail windows where clerks would receive outgoing mail. And, in the middle of the grand lobby, wonderful, ornate marble counters.

Wait, back up, you might be saying - how it would have looked? Yes, that wasn't a typo. While it may not surprise you that the building had to be restored when the Smithsonian took over it's operations and turned it into a museum in 1993, it was not for the reasons you might think.

As it would happen, the lobby area was renovated in the 1950s. According to the docent leading the tour I was on, it had less to do with improving fixtures and increasing efficiency, than because the marble floors and plaster ceiling were held to be "dated," and in dire need of modernization. So, in the grand wisdom of our forefathers, the ceiling of the lobby was dropped, the lighting replaced with what look to be fluorescent light bulbs, and, again according to the docent, the marble covered with formica. Below is a picture of the lobby area taken during that (what I call) dark time.

While all of the original plaster work was destroyed during the modernization process, the lobby area has been restored with very well crafted and sculpted replicas. And, by golly, if you didn't read the placards, and ignored the fact that people were snapping pictures with digital cameras, you might just be able to make yourself believe it was 1914, and you were there to buy a sheet of 3 cent stamps to mail off a bundle of letters. Shoot, you might even want to complain about the rate hike, up from 2 cents, because of the war.

In the next post on my museum journey, we'll move into the exhibits! To find out more about the National Postal Museum, visit the museum website and take a virtual tour of the exhibits.

March 3, 2010

Etiquette Mystery!

Yesterday, I clicked on a link from @craneinsider, who I follow on Twitter, to his blog post about celebrities and people in the fashion industry sending written notes of congratulations to a magazine in celebration of its 10th anniversary. The magazine's slideshow of cards showed many examples where individuals had crossed out their names on their personalized stationery, Peter (aka The Crane Insider) indicated in his post that this was an indication that the note was of the most personal nature.

When I followed up with Peter, it became clear that neither of us (nor Google, for that matter) seemed to have a source for that rule of etiquette. But, clearly, people use the strikethrough on their personal correspondence.

So, I plead to you, dear readers, for assistance, have you heard of this practice? Do you have a source for the rule in etiquette? Both Peter and I are dying to know!