Friday, February 26, 2010

Do you write letters?

"In this era of instantaneous communication, a handwritten letter is a rare and wondrous item."

So begins the mission statement of The Letter Writers Alliance, a group dedicated to preserving the "art" of letter writing.

They call it a "glorious cultural form."

There are many other groups who love mail and encourage letters -- Good Mail Day , Postcrossing, The Letter Exchange , and Viva Snail Mail, and The Missive Maven -- just to name a few.

What do you think? Do you write letters? Why or why not? Comment here. And take the poll on the upper right corner of the blog here.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Appointed rounds

The James Farley building in New York City , which served as the Main Post Office for decades, has this saying inscribed wrapped around the facade:

"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds"

This has been attributed -- wrongly -- as the Postal Service's official motto.

What do you think? Comment here.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

From Dead Letter office to Mail Recovery Center

In the early history of the Post Office, how to handle letters that were undeliverable as addressed became a vexing problem. They couldnt just be thrown away, becuae it would damage the advertised integrity and security of the mail.

In 1825, the Postal Department designated "dead letter offices" where clerks were authorized to open mail and try to determine where it should be redirected.

By the end of the 19th century, it wasn't uncommon for dead letter offices to handle as many as 23,000 pieces of mail a day.

About 40 percent of the mysterious pieces of mail were reunited with a sender or a recipient.

Later, as more valuables were coming to the dead letter offices, some hiring preferences were put in place. Retired clergymen were hired for their honesty and more women were added as they were thought to be better an analyzing complex and complicated addresses.

Today, with the Mail Recovery Center in Atlanta, the volume is much larger and the process much more complex.

Last year, about 82 million items were processed by the MRC. Of that total, 57 percent of items were determined to be of "possible value" and were returned or forwarded.

What is your experience with the Mail Recovery Center? Did they ever find something that has surprised you?  Comment here.

Read the Smithsonian article here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Everything from itty-bitty to a carrier city: New "Your Postal Podcast" released

The February edition of Your Postal Podcast features two stories from Florida: Tour the tiniest Post Office in the country and then learn about a town whose population is made up entirely of former letter carriers and their families.

You’ll also hear from the editor of a newspaper devoted to stamp collecting and get a summary of the latest national Postal news.

You don't need an iPod or MP3 player to listen, you can listen right from your computer at work or home. Just go to
Like all previous editions, YPP #21 can be downloaded free from the iTunes store or through any other RSS feeder. Click here to listen or for a transcript, click here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Missile Mail

You know about Air Mail. Did you know that at one point we toyed with the idea of "Missile Mail?"

The idea of firing rockets loaded with mail started in the 1930s by missile enthusiasts who were looking for practical uses for their devices. In fact, the first successful rocket flight in the U.S. was made in 1935 and contained a "a live cock, a hen, and 189 messages in envelopes.

An idea was spawned. Could mail be delivered around the world using guided missiles?

On June 8, 1959, a Navy submarine fired a missile to reach the Naval Auxiliary Station in Mayport, Florida. The missile carried 3,000 letters.

The idea never caught on. But maybe there are other ideas out there. How do you think we should deliver mail in the future? Comment here.

Friday, February 19, 2010

"It's in the mail"

Lord, thank you for the workers of the Postal Service and forgive us for excusing ourselves at their expense when we said it was ‘in the mail’ and we knew it was not.”

— Brother Carlton Puryear, during the Hodgenville, KY, Post Office renaming ceremony

What do you think? Have you ever used the excuse, "it's in the mail?" Comment here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Should living persons get a stamp?

Benny here. The Smithsonian magazine has an interesting article, suggesting that the Postal Service issue stamps that commemorate living subjects.

Currently, the only way to get a stamp is to be ... um, no longer here for at least five years.

That's why it took a few years for me to get my own stamp! But I got mine before Alexander Hamilton, so that's the most important thing.

There's an exception -- Presidents get a stamp right after their death.

Other countries waste no time getting living subjects on stamps. Designer Ralph Lauren has his own stamp in Jamaica. Grenada has a stamp with Cleveland Cavaliers star Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

Australia has no problem with living persons. Cate Blanchett, Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman all have their own stamps in the Australian Legends series.

The Smithsonian magazine believes that issuing these kinds of stamps would increase sales to collectors worldwide.

What do you think? Good idea? Bad idea?
What living person do you think should get their own stamp?

Comment here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Then and Now: What has changed from 1971?

An interesting quote from Jack Potter, where he spoke to the National PCC

“The law that birthed the modern Post Office 39 years ago didn’t come with all of the restrictions that are making it so hard to succeed today.
That law didn’t tell us what products we could and couldn’t offer.
That law didn’t tell us how much we could and couldn't charge, without reference to our universal service obligation.
That law didn't tell us that mail had to be delivered on six days rather than five.
That law didn't tell us we had to retain unnessary retail outlets.
That we had to divert billions of today’s operating dollars to fund benefits that may not be payable for another 10,25, 50 or 70 years.
Each of these limitations grew from other laws that modified our original operating charter.”

What do you think? Comment here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Snail Mail" -- Having fun

Photo courtesy of Missive Maven

Our poll is still active!  Go to the upper-right corner of Your Postal Blog and  tell us what you think about the expression, "Snail Mail."

Got a comment. Click here.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Will you be mine?

Benny here.

Valentine's Day is a pretty important day around the Franklin home. It's a day when I get to really dote on Mrs. Franklin, bringing her flowers and chocolate. She also loves Valentine's Day cards.  Last year, I made a "tactical error" when I sent her an electronic-card.

I never heard the end of that. Big mistake. Boys, don't do what I did!

And in case you didn't know it, the mail has had a big hand in shaping Valentine's Day. Here's a short history:

In the 1600s, Europeans were composing verses for their sweethearts. English verse writers immigrated to the U.S. and helped spark a valentine greeting rage. They came up with a collection of romantic verses and messages that could be copied onto fancy paper.

Esther Howland created the first commercially-made valentines in America. She didn't care for the English prose, so she created her own and sold about $100,000 a year in valentine cards.

Romantic greetings eventually became an art form, adorned with lace, silk, feathers and flowers.  Some were even perfumed.

Penny posts became the popular valentine from 1890 to 1917. Around that time, the Postal Service implemented these penny greetings, making it affordable to mail cards. 

Today, Valentine's Day is the second biggest day for exchanging cards.  Got a comment? Click here.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

First quarter blues

Benny here.
Well, I usually don't like to talk about bad news, but here it is.

The Postal Service ended its first quarter of fiscal year 2010 (Oct. 1-Dec. 30, 2009) with a net loss of $297 million. This compares to a loss of $384 million for the same period last year.

Mail volume for the quarter was 45.7 billion pieces, a decline of 8.9 percent.

The one bright spot was Shipping Services, with a volume increase of 2.5 percent.

What do you think about this? What can we do about it?  Comment here.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Lunar stamps eclipse expectations

According to Beyond the Perf, the Lunar New Year series has far exceeded expectations.

It all began in 1992 with the release of a Happy New Year!  that stamp celebrated the Year of the Rooster in the traditional Chinese calendar.

USPS sold more than 300,000 stamps in New York City and more than 2 million in San Francisco in just a few weeks.

That's nothing to cluck at.

So, ever since, we have been issuing stamps to coincide with other years in the Chinese calendar: Year of the Dog,  Boar, Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram and Monkey. See the slide show of the stamps here.

Once the series ended, it progressed to a new series, Lunar New Year. This year's stamp is the beautiful narcissus inspired version of the Year of the Tiger.

To see the artist's process for producing the stamp, click here.

Subscribe to Beyond the Perf here.

What do you think about the stamp series? Do your customers like them? Comment here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What's the oldest posting you've ever seen in a Post Office?

Benny here. As I get around the country and walk through Post Offices, I'm always amazed at some of the postings on walls. From "I Know my Goals" banners to "Two Pounds. Two Bucks. Two Days" posters to "A message from your Postmaster General Benjamin Franklin," it seems that some things never come down.

Does anybody have any really old postings that they just can't part with? Comment here, or better yet, send me a photo here.

Photo courtesy Judy Reeve

Monday, February 8, 2010

Snail mail. What do you think about the term?

Benny here. Something's been bugging me lately. It's the term "snail mail." From where I sit, I think we do a pretty good job of moving the mail. While can't compete with instantaneous sending and receiving, we've never been quicker.
  • We deliver 97 percent of our mail on time.
  • Most of our mail is delivered within three days -- coast - to - coast.
  • Just look at the speed of our processing
But really, snail mail?

For word lovers, (which I am), the term is what is called a "retronym," which is a term coined to differentiate an original term, previously used alone, from a more recently constructed term.

For an example, an acoustic guitar, which used to be called a plain old guitar, is now "acoustic" to distinguish it from an electric guitar. Similarly, "snail mail" as a phrase didn't come into use until the term "e-mail," short for "electronic mail,"  arrived on the scene somewhere around 1982.

Around 1983, the term "snail mail" was being slung around to describe anything that wasn't electronic.

The term was used ast least once in the 1840's to contrast the already operating postal mail with the new instantaneous telegraph. The Philadelphia North American stated "The markets will no longer be dependent upon snail paced mails".

As an aside, one clever project called "Real Snail Mail" actually fits encoded chips on the backs of snails, encodes them with electronic messages, and then tracks their progress as they "deliver" their satche.. (see project here.) Their theme is "improving slowness."

What do you think? Offended by the term? Do you embrace it? Or do you not care?
Comment here and then take our poll on the upper right corner of the blog (click here).

Friday, February 5, 2010

Even more love is in the mail

Benny here. You know, I'm a great romantic. Although, I could never get Mrs. Franklin to go fly kites with me, I did send her other charming gifts like fruit from France, shoes from Pennsylvania, and a red trinket from my trip to Transylvania.

My nemesis Alexander Hamilton made my wife jealous when he gave Mrs. Hamilton a new carriage. But I got my revenge when I took all his money in a card game and he had to give me his horse for payment. That left his wife with a wonderful ornamental carriage for her front yard. Lovely.

These days I go simple. I think there's nothing finer than a card with a postmark from one of the love-named towns around this great country. Here's the list:

Bliss, NY, 14024
Loveland, CO, 80538
Heart Butte, MT, 59448
Juliette, GA, 31046
Loveville, MD, 20656
Loving, NM, 88256
Loveland, OH, 45140
Romance, AR, 72136
Romeo, MI, 48065
Valentine, NE, 69201
Valentine, TX, 79854

To get a love-themed postmark, mail your stamped, addressed Valentine’s Day cards in a larger envelope to:

Postmaster, (Town name)
Valentine re-mailing
City, State and ZIP Code

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Credit card offers -- making a comeback?

Credit card issuers sent out 180 million credit card offers to U.S. consumers last month, a 34% increase from the month before and had the highest monthly total since last December and the largest increase this year, according to Mintell Communication.
It's down signficantly from a year ago, but it may be a sign of the times.

Chase and American Express sent the most credit card offers. Each issuer had its most active mail month this year, as Chase more than doubled mail volume from Sept. 2009 and American Express sent nearly 40% more offers.

What do you think? Have you seen more credit card offers? Comment here.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Love is in the air?

Love is in the air, and in the mail again.
What could be finer than a love letter with a special postmark?

The city of Loveland, Colorado has kicked off its annual re-mailing program for lovebirds who want a special "Loveland" postmark on their Valentine's Day envelopes.

There are other remailing programs, including Valentine, Nebraska; Romance, Arkansas; Loving, New Mexico; Romeo, Michigan and Juliette, Georgia. But none are larger than the Loveland program.

To have valentines re-mailed with the Loveland postmark, enclose your pre-stamped, pre-addressed envelopes (envelopes should each have 44-cent postage; postcards should have 28-cents postage), add extra stamps/postage for heavier/odd shaped and square valentines, mail in a large stamped envelope or package with postage to:

Valentine Re-mailing
446 E. 29th St.
Loveland, CO 80538

Deadlines for re-mailing and delivery by Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, 2010:

* Valentine cards/envelopes destined for re-mailing outside of the U.S. to  U.S. military troops stationed overseas, or to other countries and international destinations, should be in Loveland by February 4, 2010.

* Valentine cards/envelopes destined for re-mailing within the U.S. and outside of Colorado should be in Loveland by February 9, 2010.

* Valentine cards/envelopes destined for re-mailing within the state of Colorado should be in Loveland by February 12, 2010.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


Across the U.S., more than 37 percent of households own dogs with an average of nearly two dogs each.
That adds up to a total dog population of just over 72 million.

Is this too many dogs? How many do you have on your route or in your neighborhood?
Comment here.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Postcards are unique snapshots of America

Benny here. I have always loved postcards. There’s never been much room to spill much ink, so I could write a few words, write out an address and stick a stamp and be done. The front images can be beautiful, whimsical or just informative.

Back in my day, you had to have an envelope. I once got a letter once from Alexander Hamilton after he visited his mother-in-law. “Wish you were here,” he wrote. This would have fit perfectly on a postcard.

In 1873 the Postal Service sold pre-stamped postcards that sold for a penny and those were the only cards that could be mailed until 1898, when the restriction was lifted and postcards of all types began to flow into the system.

Did you know that postcards have been made out of wood, aluminum, copper and cork?

Collector’s Weekly has a nice page that talks about the history of postcards and they highlight WW1-era Silk postcards that had a printed message, wrapped around cardboard and sent in see-through glassine paper envelopes. Check it out here.

What’s the best postcard you’ve ever received? Comment here.