Friday, March 30, 2012

New Orleans and Antietam

Continuing its commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the Postal Service is issuing a souvenir sheet of two stamp designs in April.

One stamp depicts the Battle of New Orleans, which was marked on April 24, 1862, by the heroics of Flag Officer David G. Farragut, soon to become the U.S. Navy’s first full admiral. It is a reproduction of an 1862 colored lithograph by Currier & Ives titled “The Splendid Naval Triumph on the Mississippi, April 24th, 1862.” It depicts Admiral David G. Farragut’s fleet passing Forts Jackson and St. Phillip on the way toward New Orleans.

The other stamp depicts the Battle of Antietam, the invasion of the North by Confederate General Robert E. Lee that resulted in the bloodiest day of the war on September 17, 1862. It is a reproduction of an 1887 painting by Thure de Thulstrup, and one of a series of popular prints commissioned in the 1880s by Boston publisher Louis Prang & Co. to commemorate the Civil War.

The background image on the souvenir sheet is a photograph of Union soldiers in the vicinity of Fair Oaks, Virginia, circa June 1862. It also includes comments on the war by David G. Farragut, James C. Steele, Walt Whitman, and the New York Times, along with some of Charles Carroll Sawyer’s lyrics from the popular 1862 song “Weeping, Sad and Lonely,” or “When This Cruel War Is Over."

The Civil War (1861-1865) claimed the lives of more than 620,000 soldiers. The stamp series will run through 2015.

What other Civil War items do you have in your collection? Comment here.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Green at the Top

USPS has won a major award in the field of sustainable rooftop design. The green roof at Morgan Processing & Distribution Center in New York, NY, is the 2011 winner of the RoofPoint Excellence in Design Award in the “excellence in water management” category.

The green roof at Morgan reduces the amount of contaminants in storm water runoff flowing into the city’s municipal water system. Columbia University in New York City currently is monitoring this sustainable roof and reports that among the benefits is a storm water retention rate measuring at 75-97 percent.

To read more about this innovative roof that is also providing an outdoor oasis for employees visit:

What other means of going green have you used? Comment here.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ten Years in the Making

Sue Claessen is a self-named read-a-holic who will start a novel at 10 p.m., finish it at 2 a.m., and be up for her job with the U.S. Postal Service at 5:30 a.m. Sue has dabbled with writing short stories while also penning newsletters for some hometown organizations. With the writing and publishing of “Making Tracks, C. L. Best and the Caterpillar Tractor Company," she is now an accomplished author.

Sue, a clerk at the Howard Lake, MN, Post Office, has worked for the Postal Service for more than 36 years. She and her husband Ed have been married and have lived on the same piece of rural land for more than 37 years. And Sue stuck it out for more than ten years of painstaking research, organization, drafting and documenting with the task of writing a definitive history of an American industrial icon.

Ed Claessen purchased his first Caterpillar in 1973 and has been researching and restoring them ever since. With Ed as the technical expert and research partner, Sue created a narrative that readers with a more general interest could enjoy. “The technical side was important to a certain degree, but I wanted the book to tell a good story, too,” she explained.

And a good story it is. The life and times of C.L. Best, who went from designing equipment powered by horses to imagining equipment powered by the sun. His improvements to the
track-type tractor concept allowed the Caterpillar Tractor Co. to become the world’s road builder and so much more.

Making Tracks follows Best from working for his father through starting and operating his own company to being chairman of the board for the Caterpillar Tractor Co. The story has it all: from fistfights in the boardroom to lawsuits and hostile takeovers; from California to Cuba, Russia and beyond and from designing and building tractors to raising cattle and mining gold.

For more information about Making Tracks, go to:

How do you spend your free time? Comment here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Going To The Sun

The new Glacier National Park stamp is the current postage rate for up to 1-ounce to Canada or Mexico, and also the 2-ounce domestic First-Class Mail rate.

A visitor at Glacier National Park walks past the enlarged stamp on display.
Brenda Ahearn snapped this photo on January 19 for the Daily Inter Lake.

Glacier National Park was established as a national park on May 11, 1910. Known to Native Americans as the “Shining Mountains,” the park preserves more than a million acres of forests, alpine meadows, lakes, rugged peaks and glacial-carved valleys in the Northern Rocky Mountains. More than 1,800 species of plants have been identified in the park to date. The park is also a haven for wildlife with 277 species of birds and 67 species of animals including the bald eagle, wolverine, lynx, mountain goat, bighorn sheep and wolf.

Kalispell, MT, Postmaster Richard Burley dedicated the stamp. Joining Burley was Superintendent of Glacier National Park Chas Cartwright, and the Kalispell Middle School girls choir singing “America the Beautiful.” The stamp was designed by Art Director Ethel Kessler of Bethesda, MD, featuring a photo by National Geographic Photographer Michael Melford. The stamp art shows Logan Pass, the highest point on the park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road.

What's your favorite national park? Comment here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Service With A Smile

Mitchell, SD, recently wished a fond retirement to postal carrier Jim Schorzmann.

Schorzmann, 57, was known around town as “The Smiling Postman.” He delivered mail in the Mitchell area for more than 26 years. Well-wishers filed into the VFW to grab a bite, talk over old times and wish their postman well. All signed his guestbook and a few dropped off a gift. He met them at the door and gave them what they came for — liberally distributing his trademark smiles while exchanging hugs and numerous thank-yous.

“That’s all I did. I just smiled and waved at everybody,” Schorzmann said, astounded at the outpouring of goodwill that drew about 100 people to his party. “I can’t believe how many people remember you because of that.”

It was a gesture that was simple, yet profoundly appreciated. Those who attended Schorzmann’s retirement party said his smiles and waves gave their days a boost.

"It was just a family tradition I picked up and passed along," Schorzmann said. “My dad always said about smiling and waving, ‘It doesn’t cost a dime to be friendly’ — that was his motto,” Schorzmann said.

A smile and a wave. So simple, yet to those Schorzmann served on his various routes over the years, it meant a lot.

Can you think of a time when a smile brightened your day? Comment here.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Everyday Heroics

In 2001 the PMG Hero Program was started to recognize the selfless acts of so many USPS employees. Every day carriers, clerks and others are a watchful presence in their communities where they serve.

In the nine years since it was started the awards have gone from 220 to 400 per year. Below is one example of how our employees make a difference.

Tom Sankoski was resently presented the Everyday Hero Award. Pictured are, St. Petersburg, FL, Manager of Mail Processing Gil Grim, Supervisor of Transportation Operations Brad Abbott, Tractor Trailer Operator Tom Sankowski and St. Petersburg Officer in Charge Bill Bishoff.

On the evening of January 18th, Tractor Trailer Operator Tom Sankowski was traveling Northbound on the Howard Franklin Bridge when he noticed that a pick up truck pulling a lawn service trailer had stopped on the four lane highway.

The driver of the pick up had jumped out of the vehicle and was frantically waving his arms in the air. Traffic had slowed down, but no one stopped to help. Tom put on his flashing hazard lights, same to a stop and safely exited his vehicle to see what was wrong. The passenger of the pick up was in severe distress and was having a seizure.

Tom quickly jumped in to assist. He turned the passenger on his side and cleared his passage way to allow him to breathe. Tom also called 911 and waited for help.

Tom’s quick action likely saved the life of the passenger. He went above and beyond to assist someone in need. And he's just one of many. Visit to see more.

Do you know a postal hero? Comment here.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Legends of the West

mislabeled photograph

Unveiled in December 1993, the Legends of the West stamps promised to be an extremely popular issuance—but no one expected them to create one of the most infamous stamp errors in U.S. history.

One of the stamps honored Bill Pickett, a celebrated African-American cowboy credited with the invention of bulldogging, or steer wrestling. To create the portrait, stamp artist Mark Hess used a famous photograph that bore a clear inscription identifying Pickett. The photograph had been featured in several magazines and exhibitions, and countless books about the American West also identified the handsome cowboy as Bill Pickett.

Unfortunately, the man in the photograph was not Bill Pickett.

In January 1994, the Pickett family informed the Postal Service that the photo depicted not Bill but his brother, Ben. Stunned, the Postal Service announced the recall and destruction of the five million stamp panes that had been shipped to hundreds of post offices. The error soon became national news. While researchers frantically verified the other stamps, Mark Hess painted the correct face onto the existing artwork, using a 1923 poster publicizing the cowboy’s starring role in the film The Bull-Dogger.

But just as the new stamps were hitting the presses, the Postal Service discovered another error. Some clerks had sold 183 of the incorrect stamp panes, accidentally creating a collectible so rare and valuable that most collectors would never be able to afford one. To give the public a chance to own the incorrect stamps, and to defray reprinting costs, the Postal Service made the controversial decision to sell 150,000 of the faulty panes through a lottery.

Stamp collectors and Wild West historians alike will always remember the Bill Pickett error, but for proponents of historical accuracy the incident had an undeniable bright side. Years of error resulting from a single mislabeled photograph were finally corrected, thanks to the widespread publicity that only a stamp can command.

What other Wild West stamps would you enjoy seeing? Click here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Scrambled Letters

Can you read this letter?
Automated mail sorting machines couldn't.
And that's where Remote Encoding Centers come into the process.

Thousands of workers operating 24 hours a day go through mail trying to decipher where the mail is supposed to go. Some handle as many of these mysteries as 8,000 a day.

The data conversion operators don't see the actual envelopes. They have an image taken by a machine that could not read it at a processing facility somewhere across the nation. They look at it onscreen where they can zoom in on images, rotate them or do whatever it takes to figure it out.

Sometimes it's just the ZIP Code that can't be read, other times the ink has smeared. But most often it's plain old bad penmanship. Advice for not having your mail end up here? Take your time writing an address.

How good is your penmanship? Click here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Work Like A Dog

It's been a hard day's night,

and I've been working like a dog.

~ The Beatles

Dogs are more than just best friends — they can also be superb coworkers. The U.S. Postal Service celebrates the enduring partnership between dogs and people with the Dogs at Work issuance.

A set of four stamps depicts four hard-working canines: a black Labrador retriever is a guide dog assisting a woman who is blind, a yellow Labrador retriever is a tracking dog on the trail of a scent, a Welsh springer spaniel is a therapy dog visiting an elderly woman in her home, and a German shepherd is a search and rescue dog standing in a field, ready to tackle the next assignment.

The 65-cent denomination is the rate for 2 oz First Class Mail.

What do you think about the Dogs At Work stamp? Click here

Friday, March 16, 2012

Postal Blarney

Bill Barkemeyer of Topeka, KS, gets
in a festive Saint Patrick's Day mood.
Interestingly, there are two letters that St. Patrick wrote which still survive. His short account of his life and mission remain the best source of information about him. Another example of the historical value of letters.

For fun here are some Post Offices with Saint Patrick Day names:

Clover, SC 29710
Clover, VA 24534
Erin, NY 14838
Erin, TN 37061
Green, KS 67447
Green, OH 44232
Ireland, IN 47545
Ireland, WV 26376
Limerick, ME 04048
Saint Patrick, MO 63466
Shamrock, OK 74068
Shamrock, TX 79079

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Everybody's Got A Price

Everybody's got a price: Whats yours?

Mike Causey recently asked this question.  He points out that buyout season is upon us. January, February and March are the months that buyouts are most cost-effective for Uncle Sam. Last year, 21 federal agencies offered buyouts to more than 30,000 federal workers. They ranged from 6,500 eligible in the Air Force to as few as 33 employees of the Army Material Command. 

Causey warns that when and if a buyout offer comes, you will likely have a short window of time in which to decide, and then leave. If there is a stampede, you may face a first-come-first-serve situation. For more thoughts on what to consider read Causey's article at

So what would you do if the boss offered you $25,000 before deductions to take regular or early retirement? Whats your tipping point?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

One Thousand Posts -- My How Time Flies!

It's been a long and winding road, but we've made it.
Today marks the 1,000th post at Your Postal Blog.
 At the beginning of this journey we had a vision of something … different. We wanted a little news, a little information and a lot of interesting dialogue. And we wanted fun. Over the years, we've been able to meet those goals, always looking for the "other side" of postal news.
Our readership, friends and status has grown.
Thank you.

Benny Blogger and friends.

Have a comment about Your Postal Blog? Click here.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Al the Letter Carrier -- A Your Postal Podcast exclusive

Al the Letter Carrier has been a huge hit, giving USPS a marketing edge with its "if it fits, it ships" campaign.

On this month's,  Your Postal Podcast , you'll be treated to an exclusive behind-the-scenes visit to the Hollywood set where the latest Postal Service commercials were filmed. The ads star the Mike Bradecich, who portrays the likable and engaging letter carrier.

Mike Bradecich takes a break from filming his latest USPS commercial in Los Angeles
This month’s other feature story celebrates a New Hampshire mail handler’s half-century of service to the USPS. You’ll also hear a brief roundup of recent postal headlines.
For a transcript of the program, please click here. If you’ve missed any previous editions, you’ll find them all at the Your Postal Podcast website. Shows can also be downloaded free at the iTunes Store or you can subscribe via RSS.
Please click here to share your comments or ideas for future podcasts.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Mental Health Mail

Two recent studies appear to indicate that writing letters can have a profound effect on the mental well-being of both senders and recievers.

Steve Toepfer, associate professor in Human Development and Family Studies at Kent State University, has always been interested in the power of writing.

His latest research examined the effects of writing letters of gratitude. A sample of 219 undergraduate students who ranged in age from 18 to 65, filled out a battery of questionnaires on three primary qualities of well-being: happiness (positive affect), life satisfaction (cognitive evaluation) and depression (negative affect). They returned to the research lab three more times about a week apart. The experimental group wrote a letter of gratitude each time while the control group did not.

Results show that gratitude appears to be a powerful resource that can produce positive effects. As a tool for mining that resource, writing letters also has a cumulative effect. If you write over time, you’ll feel happier, you’ll feel more satisfied, and if you’re suffering from depressive symptoms, your symptoms will decrease. For the group that did not write letters but filled out the questionnaires, their well-being did not change.

To read the online article from the Journal of Happiness Studies, visit

Benjamin Loew, a graduate research assistant in the psychology department at the University of Denver, co-authored the results of a recent study published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress.

A research team surveyed 193 married Army soldiers at Fort Campbell, KY, who had returned in the past year from an overseas tour that included combat. They evaluated each soldier for PTSD symptoms, their exposure to combat and their marital satisfaction. They also quizzed each soldier on the frequency and types of communication they had received from home while they were deployed.

They found that happily married soldiers who received frequent communication that the team described as delayed - written communication and care packages - had fewer PTSD symptoms than those who'd received more instant communications, such as phone calls, video chats and instant messages.

To read a summary on the U.S. News & World Report Health Day webpage, visit

Friday, March 9, 2012

Losing Your Zip

Michael Eckers is shown at the Eagle Center,
a world class raptor rehab center in Wabasha, MN.

Michael Eckers began his postal career as a letter carrier in San Diego, CA. He completed it 30 years later when he retired as the Dodge Center, MN, Postmaster. Michael also served in the Navy during Viet Nam, and is now the author of five books.

He uses those three decades of postal service in his latest book, Losing Your Zip. It's a collection of humorous anecdotes taken from first hand experience, including the original exam he took where they tested 5000 people for 500 jobs.

This is a light hearted look at what goes on behind the doors, and the counter, at a Post Office. He dedicates the book to "the millions of postal employees who have really 'delivered the goods' throughout our nation's history."

American military history being a passion since his teen years, Eckers' other titles have been non-fiction history books about WWII and the Civil War. He also does public appearances and reenactments.

Michael Eckers favorite saying is, "History is something to look forward to."

Author, and former Postmaster, Michael Eckers
dressed as General Sibley on a battlefield reenactment.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Bombed With Mail

Operation Cornflakes was a World War II Office of Strategic Services PSYOP mission which involved tricking the German postal service into inadvertently delivering anti-Nazi propaganda to German citizens.

Some leaflets had been airdropped previously, but weather and counter-intelligence had diverted many before they could reach their intended audience. Now the Allies would use the Reich's postal system itself as a means of distribution.

Sergeant Nick Los loads a fake
German mailbag into a leaflet bomb. 
Every aspect of the German postal system was replicated, down to the smallest details. OSS operatives across Europe prepared the materials. Groups in England and Switzerland printed propaganda letters and forged stamps. A group in Rome printed envelopes with more than two million legitimate names and addresses. Even proper cancellations were applied.

When all the materials were ready, loaded mail bags were handed over to the 15th Army Air Force, which was given the task of delivering them behind enemy lines.

The mail bags were stuffed into specially constructed bomb casings, fitted with detonator caps linked to a control in the cockpit. The pilots could push a button to eject the bags, leaving the bomb canister on board so the Germans wouldn't be alerted to the drop.

After allied fighter-bombers would attack leaving the derailed train and its cargo of mail scattered over the area, then a second wave of bombers would drop fresh mail bags around the train.

Cleaning up the mess caused by the attack, German postal workers recovered the bags and delivered their contents - unaware of the materials hidden within.

Photo used with permission of Sergeant Major Herbert Friedman from the website:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Dr. Strange and Women's History

Highslide JS
March is Women's History Month

Doctor Jackie Anderson Strange joined the U.S. Post Office Department as a temporary clerk in 1946 while still in college. She worked her way up through the ranks - often as the first woman in many managerial positions - serving as Postmaster and Post Office Operations Manager. A number of district and regional managerial positions followed, and in 1985, Strange was promoted to the second highest job in the Postal Service, Deputy Postmaster General. She is the only woman to ever serve in that capacity.

After her retirement from the Postal Service she served as CEO and President of Senator Bob Dole's Foundation for People with Disabilities. She has received numerous awards including an honorary doctorate degree from her alma mater Georgia Southern University.

In 2011, Dr. Strange received the Woodrow B. Seals Laity Award from the Perkins School of Theology for service in the church, community, and world. She has published a book entitled, "Ms. Deputy Postmaster General; How Trusted Leadership, Courage & Innovations Impacted the Postal Service".

You can hear Dr. Strange speak about her postal job at this link;

In 2011, she helped dedicate the Mark Twain stamp. You can view photos from that event at this link:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Art For Morale

Canvas mural, "Postman in Storm," is located in Independence, IA.
First installed in 1938 and restored in 2000.
Used with the permission of the United States Postal Service®. All rights reserved.
One of the many beautiful murals located in Post Offices throughout all 50 of the United States. As part of the New Deal, between 1934 and 1943, the Postal Service commissioned 1,200 murals and 300 sculptures.

Produced under the Treasury Department's Section of Painting, unlike the Works Progress Administration Art Project that was directed toward providing economic relief, this art was placed to help boost the morale of people suffering the effects of the Great Depression.

Dallan Wordekemper is a USPS Federal Preservation Officer. Since he joined the Postal Service in 2003, Wordekemper has repaired or restored more than 200 of these murals at post offices.

"These are unique murals for the communities and they stay in the communities," Wordekemper said. recently reported that Wordekemper holds one of the cool jobs in government.

For information about postal guidelines for photographing New Deal Art in postal facilities view:

Monday, March 5, 2012

Transparent Mailbox

                             Original caption, 12/17/1948, Tuscon, AZ:
"Mails In. Jane McIntosh happily reads her mail after retrieving it from a plastic mailbox. The devices, which are made in Tuscon, enable the owner to see whether the postman left anything worthwhile without going to the trouble of opening it."

Transparent is the latest buzz word, but this see-through mailbox probably would not be a big seller in this age of privacy concerns.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Achieving a Summit

Doug Rhoades, a USPS Logistics & Distribution Specialist in Phoenix, AZ, made a goal to conquer Mount Kilimanjaro. He planned to make the climb in July 2011 to honor the passing of his mother who had lung cancer. Unfortunately, his plans went awry when he was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer himself. 

In March 2011 he started 12 weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Once his treatment was complete he could only walk small amounts of time, but he began training again and eventually built up his strength. In October 2011, with his son Josh by his side, he achieved his goal placing a photo of his mother at the summit sign.

Tanzania 2007 Kilimanjaro Mountain stamp Kenya

Thursday, March 1, 2012

On Your Way

If your travel plans will take you outside of the United States, a passport is a must. Remember to check the expiration dates of your entire family’s passports well in advance of your departure date. U.S. passports are issued to adults for 10 years and to children under the age of 16 for 5 years. Your passport may be valid, but your child could be carrying an expired one.

The passport book provides the traveler with the identification and proof of citizenship for all international travel, whether by air, land, or sea. The passport card is a travel document that can be used for entering the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry. It cannot be used for international air travel.

USPS makes it convenient to apply for a passport, and you can even get your photos made there. March 10th will be Passport Day in the USA with some locations having extended hours. Visit  to locate a Post Office near you that offers passport services.

Tips for Traveling Abroad:
  • Sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program so the State Department can better assist you in an emergency. It's a free online service at
  • Leave copies of your itinerary, passport data page, and visas with family or friends so you can be contacted in case of emergency.
  • Country-specific information, travel warnings, and travel alerts are updated regularly and are accessible through the State Department’s travel information website at
  • If your U.S. passport is lost or stolen while you are overseas, report it immediately to the local police and to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. A consul can issue a replacement passport. Links to contact information for U.S. embassies and consulates may be found at
For more information visit Get You Home at: