Stories of the Week

Letter writing may be on the wane, but each week, stories turn up from around the globe on letter writing, the postal service, handwriting and other related topics, both as features and as news stories. Here is a sampling of such stories published Aug. 24 - Sept. 6. Postal Service's big delivery edge: no parking tickets. SFGate.com, Sept. 6, 2014. FedEx and UPS are unhappy at the U.S. Postal Service plan to slash prices during the holidays. The postal service already has an advantage, say the competitors: they don’t have to pay parking tickets. Illegal parking…

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The Hanx Writer

The Hanx Writer, actor Tom Hanks’ typewriter app for the iPad, was the number one free download in the Apple iTunes Store upon its release late last month. With the app, one can type on a virtual typewriter, accompanied by sounds of a vintage keyboard. The default typewriter model is one chosen from the extensive personal collection of typewriters owned by Mr. Hanks. For a modest purchase, one can download additional vintage typewriter keyboards, using the Hanx 707 app. The Hanx 707 also includes added functionality, such as the ability to work on multiple documents simultaneously,…

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Wanted: War Letters

  Dear Readers, This is to ask for your help and contributions to an upcoming post. Do you have in your possession any treasured letters written during a war by a friend or family member in the armed services that you would like to share, either in excerpts or in total? It could have been written during the Iraq or Afghanistan wars, or during a war in the past: Korean War, Vietnam, World War I or II, Civil War, Revolutionary War or other. Please share only correspondence that you are willing to share with other readers…

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Jury Service: A Social Contract

Each of us, as a member of a democratic society, is party to a social contract that requires us to respond to a summons to court to serve on a jury. Recently, I served as a juror in a criminal case that was tried in San Francisco. There are many levels of communication in a jury trial. When called upon as a potential juror, the first correspondence one receives is the summons, which is sent by U.S. Mail. A jury summons in San Francisco may come as a result of holding a California State Driver’s License,…

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How To Save a Post Office

  The people of Berkeley, across the Bay from San Francisco, know how to put up a good fight. Their most recent battle is to save their historic post office building from being sold by the United States Postal Service. Berkeley, as is often the case, is going against the grain. Post office buildings and postal sorting centers around the country have been consolidated, sold, leased and downsized as the U.S. Postal Service struggles with monumental debt. Different jurisdictions react to these sales in different ways. Palo Alto, another Bay Area city, made an offer to…

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Social Correspondence @Twitter

Can 140 character messages be a real form of correspondence? Does Twitter have personal communications value beyond news and marketing? Curious as to what role it can play in social correspondence, I recently became a registered subscriber, ready to explore this social networking and microblogging site. Twitter is one of my workplace neighbors. In what is known as the mid-Market area of San Francisco, near the Civic Center, significant change has taken place in recent years, change that continues to transform a neighborhood. This once blighted area, victim of a now defunct freeway constructed over six…

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Indiscreet Letters

This has not been a good week for the legacy of Warren G. Harding, 29th President of the U.S., 1921 –1923. Harding’s failures as President have been extensively documented. His short-lived administration was rocked by corruption and scandal overshadowed his accomplishments, resulting in his rankings being consistently the lowest of all of the U.S. Presidents. And now his indiscreet letters have been revealed. The Library of Congress has unsealed his previously unpublished letters to his mistress, Carrie Fulton Phillips, the wife of one of his close friends. The letters, mostly written prior to his Presidency, are…

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The Telegram

, More than thirty years before Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone, Samuel Morse found a way to transit messages through electrical pulses across a series of wires. It was 1841, and communication by Morse code became the foundation for the telegram system, and later was adapted for radio communications. Throughout history, telegrams have played an important role. President Abraham Lincoln used telegrams to communicate with his Generals during the Civil War. According to George Mason University’s History News Network, “When Lincoln arrived for his inauguration in 1861 there was not even a telegraph line to…

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Gratitude: The Art of the Thank You Note

Despite the accelerating demise of the personal, handwritten letter, the art of bread and butter letters and thank you notes appears to have continuing life. Expressing gratitude sometimes can be difficult, but even a brief note of thanks is always welcome, and one of the most meaningful and important communications we undertake. While social usage evolves over time, good manners are timeless. In Your Best Foot Forward: Social Usage for Young Moderns (McGraw Hill Book Company, Inc., c. 1940) by Dorothy Stratton and Helen B. Schleman, the authors advise that “You are expected to write a…

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Early Letters of Harvey Milk

San Francisco celebrated Pride in big style this past weekend, a fitting time to pay tribute to the late gay activist and internationally famous icon, Harvey Milk, with a look at letters from his early, pre-political life. Harvey Milk was born in New York in 1930, nearly 40 years before Stonewall and 42 years before his move to San Francisco that changed the course of history. Through his letters, written 1956–1962 to his good friend, Susan Davis Alch, a picture emerges of a young man preoccupied with universal concerns: love, work, money (mostly, lack of), where…

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