Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Submarine Mail in New Mexico

This stamp was issued Jan. 6 in Santa Fe, NM, in observance of the Centennial celebration of New Mexico statehood. 
Leo Davis, WWII submarine veteran
affixes stamps to each cover.
One group, among many, who decided to do a little extra to celebrate was the New Mexico Council of the Navy League of the United States. This civilian support organization took the opportunity to highlight the USS New Mexico submarine by having it carry some special mail onboard. The "submarine mail" now makes a commemorative collectable.
The USS New Mexico Committee designed and produced a special cachet cover that features a photo of the submarine underway, and the commemorative postage stamp. It also features an insert with information about the Navy's 6th Virginia-class submarine and a special USPS-approved cancellation postmark.

The cachet envelopes were then overnighted to the Chief of the Boat, ETCS Eric Murphy who took them to sea.

The Commanding Officer, CDR George Perez, signed each cover, thereby certifying that each has been carried beneath the sea aboard USS New Mexico.
USS New Mexico

For more about the USS New Mexico visit the website:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Winning Score

Patrick and team receive the $5000 Juried Prize
Patrick Taylor, a video producer/director in the USPS Multimedia and National Events group at headquarters in Washington, DC, was part of the crew who recently received a Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking from the Sundance Film Festival Awards. More than 7,000 films were entered in the competition.

Taylor, who has his own production company, wrote and produced the score for “Fishing Without Nets,” a movie that details the lives of several Somalian pirates.

Sundance award
USPS Headquarters video producer/director Patrick Taylor

For more on the 2012 Short Awards log onto

Monday, February 27, 2012

Grand Canyon State

With the issuance of this stamp, the U.S. Postal Service commemorates the 100th anniversary of Arizona’s statehood. One of America’s last frontiers, Arizona became the 48th state in the Union on February 14, 1912.

Congress made Arizona a U.S. territory in 1863, but achieving statehood would take nearly 50 more years. Today, more than six million people live in Arizona, home to 21 Native American tribes with ancient connections to the land. About a quarter of the state is set aside for Indian reservations, including the Navajo Reservation, the largest in the United States.

The “Grand Canyon State,” is known for its stunning beauty and abundant natural resources. The stamp art celebrates this beauty with an original painting of Cathedral Rock, one of the colorful and much admired sandstone rock formations of Sedona, Arizona. Stamp artist and Phoenix native Ed Mell is well known for his distinctive modernist renderings of the Southwest desert landscape.

Friday, February 24, 2012

On the Campaign Trail

The New York Times recently ran a story about the role that mail has played in the election so far. It made the point that putting a printed piece in the hands of a voter is a valuable use of a campaign's advertising dollar.

"The decision makers in these campaigns know that the 'mail moment' grabs a voter’s attention more fully than any web, television or radio advertisement could possibly do," the Times concluded.

Ads on television are pointed, but mail pieces can be even sharper and carry a far longer shelf life than a fleeting 30-second commercial.

And standard mail can now be easily sent to every address using Every Door Direct. Want to get your message out to the masses? Mail it.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Return, Recyle, Reinvent Revenue

In Germany, the postal service plans to make some revenue by collecting old mobile phones, household electronic devices, used printer cartridges, and any other e-waste that is small enough to fit in one of their A4-size envelopes.

Gold, silver, copper and dozens of other valuable raw materials are hidden in every electronic device and waiting to be plundered. ALBA, the company that will recycle the electro-waste, projects that up to 80 percent of the materials in old electronics can be recycled. They are hoping to see 10,000 submissions per month, filled with consumer products that otherwise were destined for a landfill, or lying neglected at the back of a drawer.

Patrons can download a postage-paid label from the online site of the German Post, free of cost. Once labelled, possible treasures can be dropped into any post box, and will be sent to the ALBA recycling facilities.

The project, called "Electroreturn," will be supported for one year, after which the Post will examine whether the effort is worth continuing. If the estimated 83 million old mobile phones that are out of use but not yet disposed of return to the material supply chain, the project may prove itself worthwhile.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Universal Language

Photo courtesy David Van Allen,
USPS Eastern Area CPS
Richard Anderson has had a 41-year career in the business of communications without ever speaking a word.

Deaf and mute since birth, he started with the United States Postal Service sorting mail in the Cleveland Processing and Distribution Plant. Then jumped at the chance when a mail carrier position was offered.

“I enjoyed being a newspaper boy when I was young, so I really wanted to try carrying mail,” signed Anderson. 

The 62-year old estimated he has walked more than 500,000 miles delivering the mail. He shared some of the trials of a carrier including the heat and cold, a hornet's nest, and a dog that chomped his leg. But communicating was not a problem.

“Sometimes customers don’t know I’m deaf and try to talk to me. Since most people don’t know sign language, I always carry a pen and paper in my pocket so we can write what we want to say.”

Several letters from satisfied customers attest to his conscientious work ethic. There are also multiple awards including those for Special Achievement and Outstanding Handicapped Employee.

Anderson has decided to retire soon. When asked what led to his stellar record, Anderson replied, “I respect the customers and supervisors, whatever the rules are,” and he added that he’s sure to put a smile on his face for even the most disgruntled individuals.

A smile speaks in any language. 

Story in part thanks to The News-Herald in Cleveland,OH.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Off the Board

In memory: A statue of Katharina Henot (figure on the right) has been placed in Cologne following her execution

Katharina Henot is immortalized
in a stone statue on the city hall
tower of Cologne, Germany.

Katharina Henot was well known in Germany in 1627 when she was suddenly blamed for causing a plague of caterpillars, and burned at the stake for being a witch.

She was 57 years old, married, and the first female Postmaster in Germany. She never faltered in spite of being tortured, and denied all charges even as she was paraded down the street and strangled before being set fire.

On February 13th, 2012, Cologne city councillors heard new evidence that she was arrested on trumped-up charges in a political dispute, and 385 years after she died they have declared her innocent.

Katharina and her brother, Harger Henot, inherited a post office from their father. They were thought to have been embroiled in a dispute with the Imperial Court whose members wanted some of the profits. Particularly with Count Leonhard II von Taxis, who was trying to establish a single, central post office.

The Count was a fifth generation member of the Princely House of Thurn and Taxis. From about I290 the early ancestors of the family had operated courier services in the Italian city-states. The first generation founder had set up a horse-based message transport system which had proven to be so efficient that the Habsburg needed it to control their expanding empire. In I490 Emperor Frederick III offered a communications monopoly to the family. 

This would continue to expand and last for more than 350 years.The last Thurn and Taxis postal system was purchased by the Prussian government and nationalized in 1867.
the ancestor of the modern TAXIS
Taxis post coach.
The legacy of Thurn and Taxis mail delivery lives on in many ways. Today our word taxi derives from the post coaches they employed, and many are the same distinctive yellow that their coaches were painted. The post-horn from the Thurn and Taxis  coat of arms is still the logo of the German Post.
the Posthorn, todays logo of Deutsche Post AG

References can be found in many books including Walter Jon William' Elegy for Angels and Dogs, where the protagonist is the head of the Thurn and Taxis family. And the mail monoply of Thurn and Taxis is central to the plot of The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon, which deals with a secret rival mail system called W.A.S.T.E., developed by the fictional Trystero family.

Perhaps most telling is the winner of the prestigious 2006 Spiel des Jahres award, the Thurn and Taxis board game designed by Karen and Andreas Seyfarth. In the game, players seek to build postal networks and postoffices in Bavaria and surrounding areas, as did the house of Thurn und Taxis in the 16th century. 

In 1627, the game was also taking over as much mail delivery as possible, and Katherina Henot appears to have been pushed off the board.

Read more:

Monday, February 20, 2012

Post Office Landing

Fifty years ago John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth. As soon as his Mercury spacecraft Friendship 7 safely splashed down, the news of his historic mission was recorded across the nation by U.S. Post Offices.

For the first and only time in the country's history, the United States Post Office Department surprised the public with the release of a secret stamp celebrating Glenn's successful mission. The 4-cent "Project Mercury" postage stamp was revealed and immediately put on sale in 305 post offices within an hour of Glenn's triumphant return to Earth at 2:43 p.m. EST on Feb. 20, 1962.

The stamp was officially kept secret in case the mission failed. The call from Washington to put them on sale came at 3:30 p.m. EST. For Post Offices on the East Coast, such as Boston, that meant that customers had only a few hours before the offices closed to obtain first day postmarks. The most time was afforded at the station farthest west, Honolulu, Hawaii, where the stamps were released at 10:30 a.m.

As news of the stamp spread, the public began lining up at Post Offices to get them.  By the end of the first day 10,290,850 of the stamps had been sold. By the time the stamp was withdrawn from sale on June 6, 1962, more than three million had been postmarked on collectors' envelopes. At least 250,000 of the stamps were canceled at the official Cape Canaveral station.

For his part, John Glenn says he does not remember how he first learned of the stamps or where he first saw them. But he is very familiar with them now. "I have certainly seen enough of them since then," Glenn told collectSPACE. "I've signed thousands of those things."

Without a way to coordinate nationwide, collectors couldn't know if such "first day covers" existed for all 305 stations. To this day, 50 years later, as many as 20 cities are still missing examples. To see a list of missing cities visit:

Friday, February 17, 2012

Make Room for Danny

Legendary entertainer Danny Thomas, the founder of renowned St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, is being honored on a new USPS stamp. The stamp was officially dedicated at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN, and available nationwide today.

Thomas was a star of radio, film and television. From 1953 through 1964, he received five Emmy nominations for his starring role in Make Room for Daddy, winning in 1953 and 1954 for Best Actor Starring in a Regular Series. The show also received an Emmy for Best New Situation Comedy in 1953 and Best Situation Comedy in 1954.

In 1962, Thomas founded St. Jude with a mission to save the lives of children everywhere. Today, St. Jude is the only pediatric cancer research hospital where no family is ever turned away due to an inability to pay. Research at St. Jude has changed how the world treats leukemia, brain tumors, and sickle cell disease, helping push survival rates for childhood cancers from less than 20 percent in 1962 to almost 80 percent today.

Danny and comedian Jack Benny with the original architectural drawing of the hospital.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Miniature Mail

Image of direct mail samplesThey say the present generation likes their mail to be unique. That's good news for Lea Redmond’s tiny mass mailings which have helped get messages out in a big way.

Leafcutter Designs uses a miniature format to send uniquely designed wedding invitations, pieces of direct mail, product promotions — anything you might want to print — in a teeny, tiny format.

Redmond’s tiny letters are one inch wide and her miniature packages are two inches wide. She uses the U.S. Postal Service to deliver them in larger envelopes that include magnifying glasses to read the notices. She can fit up to 1,000 characters on a piece of paper that is 1 X 1½ inches.

“There is just something delightful and fun when you play with scale like this,” explains Redmond. “You definitely get people’s attention.”

The design of the mailings is customized to fit the needs of each customer, which range from individuals to multinational companies. One customer states the mailings resulted in nearly 9 percent of the recipients calling for a demonstration, and he adds there was a 30-percent hit increase on his website.

“People really like things to be sent in the mail,” Redmond said. “You can feel it and hold it in your hand. It comes across as more meaningful than something sent electronically. This is a labor of love for me and it’s really my delight to make these magical little mailings.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Missives En Masse

For Valentine's Day 1986, Ted Kooser wrote "Pocket Poem" and sent it to 50 friends, thus starting an annual tradition that would persist for the next 21 years.

Printed on postcards, the poems were mailed to a list of recipients all over the United States. He always dropped them at the Post Office in Valentine, NE, to be postmarked. He kept adding requests and over the years the list grew to number 2,700.

Kooser is happily married (his wife approved of the Valentines) and lives in rural Nebraska. He founded American Life in Poetry, which features poetry in a weekly column for newspapers. He also is a Presidential Professor of English at the University of Nebraska, a former U.S. Poet Laureate, and the winner of a Pulitzer Prize.

In 2007 he spent almost $1,000 on postage, and printing the post cards. That's when he decided to stop writing and sending Valentine's Day poems, at least for now. So he took the 20 years of Valentine poems and published them in a book in 2008.

Just a little poem, a little thought, not much really. Why would so many people sign up to get an original Valentine poem in the mail?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mail Exchange Leads to Ring Exchange

The U.S. Postal Service has issued a new edition in the popular line of Love stamps, just in time to embelish this year's valentines.

The graphic design features satin ribbons that spell out the word “Love” in a graceful, cursive script. These stamps are sure to adorn and embellish many sentimental greetings. They may even help an exchange of mail to have long lasting results.

Two people who participated in the post card exchanges at certainly experienced having their mail make a big impact. Their exchanges eventually led them to a Postcrossing meeting in the Ukraine a year ago.

Ivan and Natalia continued to meet and do things together, like a photography course, kayaking, and attending more Postcrossing meetups. Then last fall, they decided to get married and of course, they celebrated by sending out lots of post cards to their friends!

You never know where a piece of mail may lead you.....

Monday, February 13, 2012

Forever Healthy

To promote a healthy lifestyle, the Surgeon General and the American Heart Association joined USPS in dedicating the 2012 Heart Health Forever stamp.

The Heart Health stamp will be featured on an episode of “The Biggest Loser” to air on Tuesday, Feb. 14, at 8 p.m. EST. The episode also will include the announcement of a sweepstakes that promotes letter writing.

For an 11-week period, viewers are invited to watch, write and win by sending letters of encouragement to their favorite Biggest Loser contestant. Viewers may submit an unlimited number of separate letters addressed to one contestant at a time. Letters also can be addressed to previously eliminated contestants from this season. Letters will be drawn at random to win one of three prizes:
  1.     Grand Prize: One week, all expense paid trip for two to the Biggest Loser Resort.
  2.     Second Prize: Four weeks of Biggest Loser prepared meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) — delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.
  3.     Third Prize: Tickets for two with airfare to the Biggest Lose Grand Finale that will air in May 2012.
Sweepstakes information will be available on Feb. 14 at Post Offices nationwide and at this link the day after the show’s airing:

“Nothing touches the heart like a letter from a loved one,” said Postmaster General Donahoe. “We hope Americans will use our 2012 Heart Health Social Awareness stamps for writing letters to loved ones and friends."

Friday, February 10, 2012

Philatelic Match Making and Cherry Blossoms

"In the cherry blossom's shade there's no such thing as a stranger." 
                              ~ Kobayashi Issa, Japanese Poet

Eugenia Yuen Chi
Eugenia Yuen Chi, of Ontario, Canada, was married thanks to a postage stamp.

The stamp was from Indonesia, and it belonged to a gentleman by the name of Boen Tie Khouw, who was not interested in stamps. But he was interested in Eugenia Yuen Chi.

She was Chinese, from Hong Kong, and had something of a philatelic bent. He was Chinese, from Indonesia, and was in possession of various Indonesian stamps. It was the early 1960s, and both happened to be studying at the University of Windsor. A friend told Boen Tie to attract the girl’s attention by giving her a stamp, wise advice that eventually blossomed into 43 years of marriage and two daughters.

“My parents met because of a postage stamp,” says Vivian Khouw. “That was the icebreaker.”

On March 24th the Postal Service will celebrate the friendship between America and Japan with the Cherry Blossom Centennial issuance.One hundred years ago the city of Tokyo gave 3,020 cherry trees to the city of Washington, D.C. Since that spring day, Washington’s cherry blossoms have remained an ever-renewing source of pleasure and pride. Today the National Cherry Blossom Festival typically draws more than a million visitors. For more about the unusual panoramic stamp visit

For more about Eugenia Yuen Chi visit

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Send Some Scent

To encourage people to express their love through letters, Taiwan is issuing a souvenir sheet with roses as motifs. Customers will be engulfed by several senses when they purchase these stamps because along with evocative artwork that symbolizes the different stages of love, Chungwa Post is printing them with scented ink for the first time.

While other stamps may use sweet smells in an effort to sell stamps, Brazil's first scented stamp was used to bring awareness to the damages of forest fires. A set of 4 stamps smelling of burnt wood featured an anteater, a flower, leaf, and a burnt tree trunk, each of which indicates what is at risk when a forest burns.

The Brazilian postal authorities also issued a stamp scented with the aroma of coffee. Brazil accounts for much of the world's supply of coffee beans to caffeine junkies everywhere.

The end-product of a different bean was honored by the Swiss -- chocolate. Swiss chocolate is world famous for its smoothness and richness of flavor. The stamp, which came in a foil-wrapped booklet, much like a chocolate bar, only smelled like chocolate; it tasted like plain old stamp glue.

China issued a stamp with the aroma of sweet and sour pork, probably their most widely recognized meal, in celebration of 2007 the Year of the Pig.

What scents would you like to see on USPS stamps?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Zoo Railway Mail

First day celebration in 1961
In Portland, OR, the Zoo Railroad Post Office was a unique part of local history. Complete with it’s own cancellation device, the mail can be deposited on the train and transported to the Portland Post Office. 

Until the late 1970s, most mail in the United States was carried on trains. While in transit, mail was canceled on these trains using rubber stamps denoting the railroad.

In 1961, the Washington Park and Zoo Railway became one of the first recreation railroads to have its own cancellation stamp. With the demise of the Railway Post Office, the zoo railway is the last operating United States railroad with its own authorized railway postal cancellation to continuously offer mail service.

The locomotive of the Zooliner has a postal mail slot on the side of the cab, and mail boxes are located at the Zoo and Washington Park stations.

First day cancellation

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Daily Household Habits

HGTV has a brand new magazine, and in the February/March edition the editor reflects on some household habits they conducted polls about. Among the findings quoted are:

Glasses in your kitchen cabinet: 59% say store them upside down, 41% say right side up.

Dog sleep in your bed: 51% say they let the pooch sleep in their bed, 49% say no dog in bed!

A whopping 81% said they open their mail immedately, versus 19% who let it pile up.

This is good news. Not only did 81% of respondents open their mail immediately - a fact that should interest mailers of all kinds - but it was a given that opening your mail is still a household habit.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Victorian Internet

"The Atlantic Telegraph is the instantaneous highway of thought between Old and New Worlds." ~Scientific American, 1858.

In January 1838 Samuel Morse demonstrated the telegraph device that used electric impulses to transmit encoded messages over a wire for the first time at Speedwell Iron Works in Morristown, NJ. It would revolutionize long-distance communication more than anything since the printing press.

In 1843 Congress appropriated $30,000 to fund an experimental telegraph line from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore. On May 24, 1844, after the line was completed, Morse made the first public use of his telegraph by sending a message from the Supreme Court Chamber in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. to the B&O Railroad outer depot in Baltimore.

The Americas' first telegram, transmitted via a repeater:
"What hath God wrought", sent by Samuel F.B. Morse in 1844.

By 1862 the transcontinental telegraph joined the east and west lines in the United States at Salt Lake City, UT. In the early 1870's a patchwork of telegraph networks, submarine cables, pneumatic tube systems, and messengers combined to deliver messages within hours over much of the globe.

The Song of the Talking Wire, 1904,
Henry F. Farny (American, 1847–1916), oil on canvas
Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, OH

In his book, The Victorian Internet, Tom Standage discusses the similarities between the telegraph and the Internet. He states that time-traveling Victorians would not be impressed with our Internet. They would surely find space flight and routine intercontinental air travel far more impressive technological achievements because they already had their own internet.

Morse's invention reached the height of its popularity in the 1920's. Telegraph messages were largely replaced by cheap long-distance phone service, faxes and email. Western Union delivered its final telegram in January 2006.

Today the use of mobile phones and text messages extends the telecommunications changes started by the telegraph. They're really not as new as we might think. And hard copy mail has continued from the late 1800's on up through today's forms of technological messaging. The mail is still here, and it's still relevant.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Its a Postal Pallet World

The Postal Service has been trying to round up missing equipment - trays, tubs, pallets - because it costs about $50 million each year to replace them. Postal Inspectors have found locations with several thousand stockpiled all across the nation.

When you become aware of it, you start noticing them everywhere. The photo at right is actually a screen in a nursing school classroom. The subject on screen was about the various equipment parts and pieces being stored, but in the middle of the photo, on the bottom shelf is plainly a United States Postal Service tub. Why is it being used to hold medical equipment?

The photo at left is some USPS pallets that were reclaimed from a farm in Nebraska where they had been put to use as a make-shift fence.

What's the most unusual place you have ever seen USPS trays, tubs or pallets?

If you see postal equipment that has gone astray call the Hotline to report it at 1-866-330-3404.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The ZIP Dimension

It's hard to believe that ZIP Codes (Zoning Improvement Plan) have only been in use for about fifty years. They were one of the most important breakthroughs in modern communication. 
But when they were rolled out in 1963, it was a novel and challenging concept for many Americans to get used to.

The ZIP Code is now often taken for granted, though it still is vital for the automation of mail service. And it has implications beyond the delivery of mail. For instance, mail volume per ZIP Code is one factor used by the U.S. Census Bureau to estimate population changes between decennial census enumerations.

ZIP Codes were not created randomly. There is an order and a structure to the system intended for efficient sorting. So what would happen if you were to connect all the ZIP Codes in the US in ascending order?

Robert Kosara used Ben Fry's zipdecode applet, and Jeffrey Heer's prefuse toolkit for a little programming exercise of connecting the dots to create his Zipscribble map of the USA. The result is very interesting. The patterns and density distribution are readily apparent.

Samuel Arbreson took it another step further and used the Zipscribble Map to discuss the possible fractal dimension of ZIP Codes.

For more on ZIP Codes visit these websites:

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Post Office Retrofit

In Kearney, NE, a Post Office is serving as the official home of more than 175 years of works by artists who were born in Nebraska, have lived in Nebraska, or have some connection to Nebraska.

The Nebraska Art Collection was first created in 1976, but lacked a permanent home. A state-appointed commission settled on the historic post office building. Built in 1911 and slated for demolition, the Neoclassical architecture, marble interiors, and spacious, well-lit rooms attracted the attention of museum officials. The Museum of Nebraska Art (MONA) was dedicated and opened to the public in October, 1986.

In observation of the 100th anniversary of the MONA building, an exhibition was launched in 2011 featuring photographs that document construction. Many of the pictures are by Solomon Butcher, famous for his sod house images. By the time of the construction, Butcher and his son had a photography studio in Kearney. They were contracted by the Federal Government to record the construction.
The materials for the exhibition were donated to MONA in 2010 by the United States Postal Service. Historic photographs are on public view for the first time. Accompanying archival schematics and correspondence about the construction process are included. Viewers are able to see the progress of the construction, and get a sense of the labor-intensive methods used to build such a stately structure.

The original Kearney Post Office is a work of art itself. What better way to refit and reuse it than as an art museum?