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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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: 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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Election Mail

Once again our mailboxes have been filled to overflowing with election mail, despite it being a non-presidential election year. In San Francisco, the local ballot measures address such issues as housing affordability and population growth, construction and height limits, stricter regulation of short-term housing rentals, and more. A few of these measures have been highly contentious and caused deep acrimony within the city. This year’s election mail was especially overwhelming in District 3, in the northeast corner of the city, where a hotly contested race for district supervisor took place. In social media postings by my…

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The Missing Postmarks

When did the postmark on our letters go missing? By postmark, I refer to the round circle that once included the date, time of receipt and location of the post office. Generally, the circle was stamped to the left of the cancellation, those wavy or straight lines that partially cover the stamp(s) to indicate that the stamp has been used. I was reminded of this absence recently by the marketing efforts of a certain coffee company promoting a new first edition blend, using a version of the classic circle. Although our first class, stamped mail still…

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The Post Office and the PPIE
Abundance Night.

The Post Office and the PPIE

Post offices and exhibitions go hand in hand. Imagine a World’s Fair and Exposition that covered 635 acres, much of it sitting on land that once was covered with water. That is what happened 100 years ago in San Francisco, when the city built the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE). This event took place in what is now San Francisco’s Marina District, a stately neighborhood with elegant homes and thriving businesses, popular with singles, young families and seniors, to celebrate both the completion of the Panama Canal and the city’s recovery from the great earthquake and fire…

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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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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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