Folk Art Mailboxes

Uncle Sam, camera, and red plane-shaped folk art mailboxes on display
These folk art mailboxes, once part of the Reaching Rural America exhibit, are no longer on display in the museum.

The tunnel-shaped mailbox is a familiar sight on America's rural roads. The basic design of this mailbox, first built in the early 1900s, remains much the same today. Equipped with a door that opens in the front, large enough for letters and small packages, the box has a signal flag attached to the side, which is raised to indicate to patrons and carriers when mail is in the box.

But sometimes a box is not just a box. Within the framework of postal requirements, rural Americans use their mailboxes to express their individuality.

In 1992 and again in 1993, the National Postal Museum asked rural carriers to be on the lookout for intriguing and especially creative rural mailboxes. Here are some of the mailboxes they found.


mailbox shaped like a white horse wearing a lei
This Arabian horse mailbox was created by Mrs. Cathy J. Berenberg of Kaneohe, Hawaii.

"Three years ago, I bought a book on how to carve a carousel horse... I was intrigued with the idea that a hollow horse could be functional as well as beautiful. While that thought was fresh in my mind, I noticed an Arabian at a nearby stable... Four months later Let's Dance was born."

smiling bear carving holding a mailbox
This bear mailbox was created by Darrell E. Jahnke of Abrams, Wisconsin.

This bear is located at a business that does chain saw carvings and sculptures.

mailbox shaped like a lobster trap
This lobster trap mailbox was created by Kenneth Reed of Warren, Maine.

"The wood trap holds a large size mailbox and the red claw takes the place of the signal flag. On the end of trap two wood fish made of mahogany. Red, white and blue buoy holds a wooden dory with traps and fisherman rowing. . . . White anchors on blue post hold the trap. Fourteen small painted wood fish move with prevailing winds."

mailbox shaped like a stick figure, with a thumbs up and a peace sign
This mailbox man was created by Thomas Fawbush of Battleground, Indiana. The photograph was submitted by his wife, Nena.

"My husband . . . seems to always have a project in the works. . . this winter his 'Mr. Peace to the World and Thumbs Up' mailbox was born. Out of scrap pieces of tubing and a discarded mailbox arose our blue-eyed, balding, front yard friend. He has certainly slowed traffic if not stopped it on several occasions since he took his place early this spring."

cactus made out of horseshoes with a mailbox connected
This Saguaro Cactus mailbox, made out of used horseshoes, was created by T.J. and Barbara J. Mertens of Brodhead, Wisconsin.

"The arm holding the mailbox has a set of mule shoes depicting the 'M' for Merters or the shape of mule ears."

mailbox shaped like a red Deering tractor
The Deering tractor mailbox was submitted by Gary Moran of Lima, New York.

"Replica of a McCormick Deering W 30 tractor from the 1930 era. I am restoring a real one at my home."