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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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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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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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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Dead Letter Office

The dead letter office is no more. First established in 1825 to deal with illegible handwriting, damaged or separated items, incorrectly addressed mail and more, 55 regional dead letter offices, or mail recovery centers, existed at one time to decipher the mysteries of misplaced mail. These dead letter offices operated for nearly 190 years, with postal service staff serving as mail detectives to reunite people with their mail. One such center, the Mail Recovery Center in Atlanta, Georgia, still performs this function today, but times have changed, and not only in name.  While the mail detectives…

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Social Correspondence 2016

Welcome to Social Correspondence 2016 and belated Happy New Year! Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a day to reflect on the legacy of this remarkable man, and on the hope for a more peaceful world, with fairness and social justice for all. I wish each of you a healthy, peaceful and fulfilling year ahead. Fall and winter holidays are my favorite time of year, a time to enjoy family and friends, good food, and conviviality. It also is the time to reconnect with those we see less often through the ritual of the annual…

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Social Correspondence: 2015 in Review

As 2015 draws to conclusion, it is notable that the most read post of the year in Social Correspondence was Letters to Myself, the story of the amazing Alan Blackman and his exquisitely designed calligraphic envelopes featuring stamps from around the world. On Gratitude, published for Thanksgiving, attracted hundreds of readers, as did Letters from France 1917–1919; Office Supplies; Postcards from Notables; and Letters from Wisconsin. The commonality among these posts was that they focused, for the most part, on stories about people, as reflected in their letters. Many people write letters and/or send cards to…

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