Office Supplies

A trip to an independent office supplies store is one of the small pleasures in life, especially if you are familiar with San Francisco’s Patrick & Co. Patrick’s was founded in 1873, and not only has it been a city fixture since the late 19th century, it also has remained a family-owned business for over 140 years. The Fox Plaza store, which was so near and handy to where I work and was the perfect place to browse on my lunch hour, closed earlier this year, a loss to the Civic Center neighborhood. That said, there…

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Postcards: Notes from Notables
Port Authority Bus Terminal, New York City Harvey Milk Letters to Susan Davis Alch

Postcards: Notes from Notables

By Tim Wilson With summer upon us, our thoughts turn to vacations. Beaches, perhaps. Points of interest. Ports of call. And where there's travel, there are often postcards--short notes to let our friends at home know that they are in our thoughts while we're having a fabulous time. Postcards fall under the general category of correspondence but they are their own enigmatic form of communication. Concise. Often fragmented. Occasionally cryptic. They are scattered throughout the Hormel Center's archival collections. Here we've selected some examples that offer glimpses into the activities of Alice B. Toklas, Harvey Milk,…

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Letters to Myself: Alan Blackman

Alan Blackman has had a long and storied career, as an artist, calligrapher, typeface designer for Adobe, lettering arts instructor, and three years working for the U.S. Post Office at San Francisco’s Rincon Annex. By his own account, however, his most significant work is Letters to Myself. Letters to Myself was a personal project first undertaken by Blackman in 1968. His then 11-year old son Stephen lived across the bay in Berkeley, east of San Francisco. Through his work in the postal service, Blackman became familiar with “first day covers,” letters affixed with a stamp on…

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New Stamps

The U.S. Postal Service has been busy again issuing new stamps, and now there are even more stamps to enjoy. There is a stamp to celebrate Lunar New Year, an ovation to Maya Angelou, a Vietnam Medal of Honor stamp, a Special Olympics stamp, stamps featuring water lilies, vintage roses and tulips, and more. But it seems that the best is yet to come. Among the new stamps, let’s first take a look at the timeless and ever popular Elvis. The latest Elvis stamp will be dedicated on Aug. 12 at Graceland in Memphis. Priscilla Presley…

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Books About Letters

Letter writing and books seem to go hand in hand. Generally, people who write are readers. And people who love to read often aspire to be writers. Because letter writing is one of the most fundamental ways of writing, there are many genres of books about letters and letter writing. The epistolary novel, a story that unfolds through a series of letters, is not an uncommon device, and dates back to the late 15th century. From Bram Stoker’s classic gothic horror novel, Dracula, first published in 1897, to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,…

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Letters from France: Deployment

Joseph Bosque, a Sergeant in the U.S. Army during World War I, was deployed on May 20, 1918 from Camp Merritt, New Jersey to Marseilles, France. Although he was not permitted at the time to reveal his destination, he left prearranged clues in his letters to his sweetheart back home in San Francisco, Annie Corbett. On May 16, 1918 he signed one of his final pre-deployment letters by saying, “Au revoir, ma chère, Joe.” In his final stateside letter, he wrote a brief message, which he signed, “Yours affectionately, Joseph.” The use of his full name…

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Letters from France 1917 – 1919

This story of love and separation during the First World War came to me quite by accident. My colleague Jennifer Greenlee and her family have been looking for an archive that could become an appropriate yet accessible permanent home for 140 letters written between 1917 and 1919. The letters, written by her grandfather Joseph Bosque to his sweetheart (and later his wife, Jennifer’s grandmother), Annie Corbett, described his experiences during Army basic training in Jacksonville, Florida and later, from his post in France. As noted by Jennifer’s late cousin Tom Bosque, who published a compilation of…

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Mail Trucks: Next Generation

Mail trucks now roam the streets of San Francisco and other towns and cities in the U.S. on Sundays. In fact, this past Sunday, a mail truck drove right up to the front of my house, where the postal carrier hopped out and slid a package under the gate. But don’t expect to receive a birthday card from your best friend or a letter from your cousin on a Sunday anytime soon, as this new delivery service is limited only to packages from Amazon. The U.S. Postal service delivers mail and packages to every address in…

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A Stamp Brouhaha

Postage stamp errors have been plentiful since pre-paid stamps were first introduced in the U.S. in 1847. Stamp mistakes often are related to spelling, color, using an incorrect image, or perhaps printing an image upside down. None are more likely to cause a brouhaha, however, than factual inaccuracy. It is highly unlikely that the U.S. Postal Service intended to create a controversy, but a recently released Forever commemorative stamp has caused such a brouhaha. Issued on April 7, the stamp pays tribute to the late poet, writer, singer, producer and actress Maya Angelou. Ms. Angelou died…

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National Card and Letter Writing Month

The United States Postal Service kicked off National Card and Letter Writing Month on April 1. “Letter writing improves social and penmanship skills. More importantly, it helps create lasting memories with the people you care about most,” said U.S. Postal Service Judicial Officer William Campbell at an event held in Washington, D.C. This year the Postal Service, in collaboration with Scholastic, is encouraging classroom activities that teach children to write. The occasion of National Card and Letter Writing Month was marked by the issuance of a colorful new From Me to You Forever stamp. The stamps…

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