Thanks to a tip from L.W.A. member Anna, I learned of the Leicester City Arts & Museums Service project to post letters written by Captain John David Hills from World War 1. They are transcribed from journals kept by his mother from that time and annotated as well. He wrote as often as he could, often multiple times a day, using whatever materials he had. The blog publishes the letters 100 years to the day after they were written. The letters span from 1915 - 1918 and Captain Hills also wrote a book which can be read online as well. Thanks for sharing Anna! Remember to share your letter writing news with us via comment, a letter or electronic mailing!
It should come as no surprise that there are many things that fascinate me about the United States Postal Service. Everything from minute differences in perforation on stamps to giant, automated machines for sorting mail, to how letter carriers effect their community... just everything is so interesting! Recently, I fell down a little rabbit hole involving Franklin Delano Roosevelt and New Deal workings as they influenced post office design in New York. Dutchess County is known for its stone buildings; so much so that there is an exhaustive website dedicated to them and how they came to be. Among these buildings are five post offices: Poughkeepsie Post Office, Rhinebeck Post Office, Hyde Park Post Office, and Wappingers and Ellenville Post Offices. These Colonial Revival structures were made with local stone and stone from older buildings and walls from around the area that had gone into disrepair. FDR was passionate about this:
"We are seeking to follow the type of architecture which is good in the sense that it does not of necessity follow the whims of the moment but seeks an artistry that ought to be good, as far as we can tell, for all time to come. And we are trying to adapt the design to the historical background of the locality and to use, insofar as possible, the materials which are indigenous to the locality itself. Hence, fieldstone for Dutchess County. Hence, the efforts during the past few years in Federal buildings in the Hudson River Valley to use fieldstone and to copy the early Dutch architecture which was so essentially sound besides being very attractive to the eye."
There are a bunch of cited documents where FDR is actively campaigning for the use of stone in the projects. My favorite is a back and forth between Treasury Secretary Morgenthau and the Supervising Architect of the Rhinebeck P.O. Louis A. Simon.
Morgenthau: The President of the United states is very much disturbed because he hears that the Rhinebeck Post Office—they’re not going to use old stone wall, that they’re planning to open up some stone quarries. And his instructions are that they should use old stone wall.
Simon: Well, Mr. Secretary, here’s what the situation is. We sent Stanley-Brown up there and he found that we could get quite a little stone from the old building that…
Morgenthau: Well, listen, you better write me a memo on it. And the President wants old stone wall.
Simon: Yes, I see how the thing came about. Mr. Shipley (Arthur Suckley) who is the owner of the place, said that he’d rather not use the old French wall off his place, but there are plenty of more old stone walls all over Dutchess County.
Morgenthau: Well, are you going to use old stone wall?
Simon: Sure we are.
Morgenthau: Well, for God’s sake do, please.
Simon: Yes, we certainly are.
Morgenthau: And no new stone.
Morgenthau: Well, the country is saved. O.K.
To someone like me, that exchange is delightful.
The Hyde Park P.O. and the Rhinebeck P.O. also feature murals by local artist Olin Dows. You can see an extensive gallery of the murals from the Rhinebeck P.O. here. I started this research journey at the murals and found out everything else after looking into how they got put there in the first place. I only learned of the murals because of a Tweet I received. I love hearing from our informed and interesting members. Write to us! Send me a Tweet! Leave us a comment!
Recently, I received an electronic missive from L.W.A. member Joan C. She had just seen an article that mentioned the "Smallest Post Office", a 40 square foot structure once on Lilac Road in Valley Center, CA. She grew up right near there and thought it was neat.
The claim gave me pause. I thought that the Smallest Post Office was Ochopee Post Office in Florida. Turns out, the tiny Everglades P.O. is the smallest post office in current operation. The one from California was decommissioned in 1912. The building, all 40 square feet of it, now resides in the Valley Center History Museum.
Thanks for the fun research project, Joan, and the history lesson!
P.S. The Bridal Veil Post Office is also quite small, but at 140 square feet, it is almost double the size of the one in Ochopee.
Member Samuel is always sending us great links, like this one for an archive film all about the Royal Mail. It's fantastic. I have a soft spot for old films like these and having it be about a postal service is just icing on the cake for me. Thanks for sharing, Sam! P.S. If you like watching things, another member tip came in that CBS Sunday Morning will have a segment about stamp collecting this coming Sunday. Thanks to Joan for that one!
While reading an article on the BBC about Charles Dickens' personal post box, I discovered The Letter Box Study Group or The LBSG. They are an independent, self-funded volunteer organization dedicated to recording and cataloging the United Kingdom's over 100,000 letter boxes, some of which date all the way back to the reign of Queen Victoria. They produce a quarterly newsletter for members and have annual meetings. They have published a guide to box types are working on a definitive register entitled The Guide to British Letter Boxes.
From their site:
"There are letter boxes everywhere! Strolling in the fresh air down a sunny country lane, seeking out a picturesque box set in an ivy-clad wall, with the chance of a new discovery around every corner, is highly pleasurable: but then, in its own way, is recording the pillar boxes on the pavements of our bustling cities.
There is an appeal in recording and helping preserve relics of a bygone age. Many of our letter boxes have done service for over a hundred years; but it is also a living study. New boxes, sometimes of new designs, are being installed at new locations all the time. Recording and studying these is as much a part of the Group's work as the boxes of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. We look forward as well as back.
Back in October Vanessa Sorensen had a Passenger Pigeon Origami Party where people got together and made 400 paper pigeons. The event was part of a celebration of Martha, the last passenger pigeon that died in captivity at the Cincinati Zoo 100 years ago.
Hello, lovely Martha
I missed this event by a long shot, but I wanted to participate in some way. Fold the Flock are the creators of the lovely origami pigeons and have a free download available on there site. (Scroll down to the bottom for the download. Here is a video on folding instructions.) I've been wanting to do some sort of paper craft for my holiday decorations and this fit in just perfectly.
I could see these pigeons working great for holiday mail, enclosed in a clear envelope/pouch and mailed as is. I love mailing folded items that pop-up to be 3D. I hope this gives you some ideas for home decor or seasonal mail. If you make anything with the origami pigeon, please leave a link in the comments or tag us on Twitter and/or Instagram. We'd love to see what you are creating.
I'm working on the sets for our upcoming R.S.V.P. packages* and I found this video from the BBC's Stop/Start program on the last manufacture of carbon paper in Britain to be facsinating and appropriate. (Hint Hint.) I'm sure some of you remember carbon paper; I'm equally certain some of you have no clue what it is. I hope you all enjoy the video linked here.
Jack at Cascadia Artpost is always sending me incredible things. His latest mailing is a postcard celebrating the work and archive of Michael Bidner. Released as a commemoration for the artist's 70th birthday, the card features a biography, artistamp, cancelation and reproduction of Bidner's original work. Michael Bidner is credited with coining the term "artistamp" and had a collection of over 10,000 stamps at the time of his death in 1989. I thought you, readers and members, would enjoy learning about him and his work; so I've shared the card with you. Enjoy! ~Donovan
L.W.A. member Sam sent me a link to this treatise on letter-folding from The Collation, a blog of the Folger Shakespeare Library. (That just happens to be one of my favorite places in Washington, D.C. If you are there, be sure to check it out.) In this post, Heather Wolfe and Jana Dambrogio discover through careful examination and trial-and-error how letters in the mid-1500s were sealed using a triangular scrap threaded through a folded letter.
They've also tried their hands at other styles of keeping letters secure before the invention of the envelope as we know it today. From the blog:
"Jana refers to this process of securing a letter for sending as letterlocking, a process by which a substrate (such as papyrus, parchment, or paper) is folded and secured shut to function as its own envelope. According to Jana, who coined the term, letterlocking is part of a 10,000 year-old tradition, ranging from Mesopotamian clay bullae to tamper-resistant tri-fold paper wallets for long-term storage of bitcoin. Variations exist in cultures throughout the world to manipulate the material substrate on which information appears to ensure secure communication."
There's a whole YouTube page showing different "letterlocking" how-tos, which is fantastic! Thanks for sharing such a facsinating link, Sam!
In this era of instantaneous communication, a handwritten letter is a rare and wondrous item. The Letter Writers Alliance is dedicated to preserving this art form. Prepare your pen and paper, moisten your tongue, and get ready to write more letters!
May 28th (Thursday)
Chicago, IL Letter Social
Uncle Art Gallery 7-9pm 1359 N Maplewood Ave
Join us and our typewriters to write some letters together. We will have mail art supplies, stationery, and a few of our old-fangled typing machines available for your use. Free!
May 30th (Saturday)
Chicago, IL OBSCURA DAY 2015
L.W.A. Clubhouse Several time slots available
Enjoy exclusive access to the Letter Writers Alliance Club House in celebration of Obscura Day. You'll see the inner sanctum of operations for the letter writing organization and have an opportunity to write letters and postcards using vintage typewriters.
Your ticket includes free supplies and typewriter time. Donovan, the Letter Writers Alliance typewriter expert, will be on hand to answer questions, troubleshoot cranky machines and make pithy comments. Come join us and type a letter or two!
Tickets: $5 Purchase options available soon!
June 6th (Saturday)
Chicago, IL Postcard Party
606 Opening Celebration, 10am-6pm
Humboldt Blvd between Cortland & Wabansia
Write some postcards and explore the new Bloomingdale Trail with us. Free!
June 7th (Sunday)
Chicago, IL Mix & Mailology
L.W.A. Clubhouse 3:30-5pm
Old Fashions and Wax Seals, two old-timey things we love. Learn the secrets of mixing an excellent Old Fashion and making the perfect wax impression on your envelopes. We will also have other wax-like experiments for your mail art pleasure. Our solutions, both alcoholic and artistic, will surprise you. All materials, including liquid forms, will be provided.
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July 12th (Sunday)
World-Wide L.W.A. Book Club
Join Kathy, Donovan, and a special guest Margaret Haas (of Paper Pastries) via live video while we discuss Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. Discussion and further info can be found on the Goodreads book group page. Event Page
The L.W.A. was established in 2007 by Kathy Zadrozny & Donovan Beeson. These two ladies manage every aspect of the Alliance, from design, to packing orders, to maintaining the website. The L.W.A. is a labor of love and we are happy you have joined us in sharing a love for letters.