A Trip to the National Postal Museum
Historic postal rail car, National Postal Museum

A Trip to the National Postal Museum

A recent trip to Washington D.C. provided me with the opportunity to revisit the National Postal Museum.   One of the Smithsonian’s treasured institutions, the National Postal Museum, conveniently located next to Union Station, is free and open daily to the public. It is a treasure for children and families, philatelists, and anyone who is interested in U.S. history and the role of the post office in the development of the country. It is through the National Postal Museum that I learned the story of Owney, the scruffy dog from Albany, New York who became infatuated with…

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The Epistolary Novel

Epistolary adj epis·to·lary \i-ˈpi-stə-ˌler-ē, ˌe-pi-ˈstȯ-lə-rē\  1 :  of, relating to, or suitable to a letter 2 :  contained in or carried on by letters 3 :  written in the form of a series of letters an epistolary novel – Merriam-Webster Dictionary What exactly is an epistolary novel? As Jenny Baum of the New York Public Library notes in a blog post, the word epistolary “is one of those words that are just fun to say or think about.” But not everyone knows what the term means. Readers, however, are familiar with the epistolary novel, even if…

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The Art of the Handwritten Letter
Box of memories includes handwritten letters from a Great Aunt in the 1980s

The Art of the Handwritten Letter

A handwritten letter, while far from extinct, is nonetheless becoming increasingly rare. Three years ago I launched Social Correspondence with the goal of encouraging people to write more letters.  Postings on the site may often be off-topic, but communicating with one another remains of top importance. This post is dedicated to the art of the handwritten letter. Recently my mailbox held a surprise, a handwritten note from my older daughter, who currently lives in the UK. “A mother like no other,” the big cat and little cat on the cover illustration told me. The surprise was…

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Cherish Your Valentines
Window display Patrick and Company February 2017

Cherish Your Valentines

Love is in bloom again as we approach Valentine’s Day.  Paper hearts and romantic cards are flourishing in all manner of stores - card shops, stationery stores, office supply, grocery, art, and drug stores; wherever, in fact, greeting cards are sold. So, get out your valentines, heart stamps and red pens and be ready to write some notes and lick some envelopes. Many people consider Valentine’s Day a modern day plot by card-makers, card shops, and other retailers to make more money. The cynics rue yet another symbol of commercialization. But a store-bought card is not…

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Endings: Finding a New Future
Dandelion, 55 Potrero Ave. closed Fall 2016

Endings: Finding a New Future

2016 was a year of endings. Mostly, we think of beginnings as we approach a new year, but it is equally important to examine those things that now lie only in the past. Often, they reflect our values, contribute to our history, and reflect our sense of personal self. Some endings are self-evident. Farewell to the integrity and quiet dignity of President Obama and his beautiful family. Farewell to the talented, too numerous to name, musicians, actors, artists, journalists, intellectuals and loved ones lost in 2016, who, through their extraordinary contributions, made our lives richer and…

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Magical Mailboxes

It’s here again already - National Letter Writing Day is Sunday, Oct. 9. And what a pleasure it is when a real letter arrives in the mailbox. A letter separate and distinct from the usual junk mail that flows through the mail stream, which is now exponentially increased by the proliferation of election-related ads and flyers. Decades past, if one had a mailbox at the post office, the front of the box might have been made of glass, especially if the post office was very old. These mailboxes often included a combination lock, though usually a…

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The Benefits of Gratitude

Perhaps one of the most prolific writers of thank you notes that I have known is the late Marjorie Stern. She was a master of expressing gratitude through letters. Born in 1915, Marjorie was a do-gooder, a lover of fine books and Asian art, and most importantly, an activist. The great granddaughter of San Francisco’s first reform rabbi, Marjorie knew how to get things done. One of her most cherished, long-held dreams was to build a modern, new Main Library in San Francisco. This dream came to fruition 20 years ago, but in order to make…

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Love Letters from Wisconsin Lumber Camps

By Catherine Roberts Life in the Wisconsin lumber camps in the 1920s, revealed through letters written to my Aunt Lois from 1924 – 1925, was not easy. The letters, preserved for nearly a century in a Milady of Quality Chocolate Covered Brazil Nuts box, tell a story about the everyday news and concerns of this long-ago way of life Aunt Lois, of course, was young and pretty, but not all of the letters addressed to her are love letters. One letter, postmarked January 14, 1924, is from a lumber camp outside Hannibal, Wisconsin. My aunt must…

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Dead Letter Office: A Reader’s Response

Ian Jackson of Berkeley, CA, has collected and privately published limited edition compilations of historical quotes on a variety of letter writing topics under the title The Imperfect Correspondent in Historical Perspective. The collection first started with the subject of the tardy response to a letter. “I do not always answer letters promptly,” he said, “so I began 20 or 30 years ago to collect excuses for late replies.” With the collector’s zeal, The Imperfect Correspondent includes letters written in French, Italian, Spanish and English, ranging from as early as the 16th century to the early…

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Love letters from Wisconsin, 1923-1925

By guest writer Catherine Roberts What is the interest in a small box of letters written to my Aunt Lois about 90 years ago?  I find history, a big mystery, and stories that connect me to my family and Wisconsin. As I get older I become more curious about the early lives of my mother and her five sisters. Genealogy interests me not at all, but I love the stories, and now it is too late to ask. I have nothing like these letters. What happened to this serious romance? Why did my aunt, and then my…

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