The national collection illustrates and invites research into United States philately and postal operations. It contains prestigious postal issues and specialized collections, archival postal documents and three-dimensional objects that trace the evolution of the postal services.
The National Postal Museum is divided into galleries that explore America's postal history from colonial times to the present. Visitors learn how mail has been transported and the wondrous diversity of postage stamps.
The Museum supports a wide variety of interdisciplinary research projects which address topics of importance such as current and future postal operations, as well as philatelic and postal history. Our efforts are a resource and point of reference for research and wider investigation by historians throughout the United States and the world.
The exhibits listed below are no longer available for view in the museum.
From Royal Mail to Public Post
October 21, 2016 – January 16, 2017
The United Kingdom’s postal service, Royal Mail, observed its 500th anniversary in 2016. To mark the occasion, the National Postal Museum presented a temporary display of original documents from 1635 and 1840, pivotal years in the expansion and evolution of the country’s postal network. These important documents chronicling postal reform in the United Kingdom were on loan from a private collection. In 1516, King Henry VIII knighted a government clerk named Brian Tuke and gave him the title Governor of the King’s Posts. Sir Brian developed a system of post roads connecting London with the four corners of England. This was a closed system, available only to the king and high-ranking public officials. Its postmen were royal messengers who carried official writs, summonses and orders for the government. Over the next three centuries, however, a series of reforms gradually opened the Royal Mail to public use.
(February 12, 2015 — February 15, 2016)
A chronicle of the African American experience told from the perspective of stamps and mail. Includes letters carried by enslaved Americans, mail to and from famous leaders of the civil rights movement, and a significant selection of original artwork for the USPS Black Heritage stamp series from the Postmaster General’s Collection.
(March 6, 2014 — January 4, 2015)
This exhibit looked at the relationship of the two countries through the study of stamps and mail. The sections about commerce and culture focus on the decades between 1860 and 1980, including very rare proofs of stamps from the China Bureau of Engraving and Printing (1912-1928). The section on community tells the story of Chinese Americans from the Gold Rush to today’s celebration of Lunar New Year.
(February 7, 2007 — April 8, 2014) Today about 2,000 postal inspectors are at work across the United States investigating crimes against the mail. Learn more about the inspectors and their job in this exhibit.
(March 22, 2012 — January 6, 2014) As the largest, fastest, and most glamorous ships of their eras, Hindenburg and Titanic share many similarities. As anniversaries of the disasters are marked in 2012—seventy-five years since Hindenburg burned and a century since Titanic sank—many questions remain unanswered. Original objects include mail, postcards, menus, photographs, keys from the Titanic post office, and the salvaged postmark device from the Hindenburg.
(September 22, 2013 — January 5, 2014) “Favorite Finds” brings together an assortment of philatelic articles shared by our Council of Philatelists, philatelic curators, and museum supporters. Each object comes from a different collection and has a different story. Our donors have graciously shared their reasons for holding these items so dear.
(July 20, 2011 — August 5, 2012) Art of the Stamp: Owney the Postal Dog featured Bill Bonds’s original painting of Owney that was produced for the stamp. It was accompanied by 6 sketches illustrating various poses of Owney that Mr. Bonds created as he developed his final portrait. In addition, 5 tags that were given to Owney on his many travels and selected by Bonds as background for his stamp art, were also included.
(August 8, 2010 – January 9, 2012) The National Philatelic Collection celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2011, making it the oldest intact national stamp collection in the world. Collecting History invites you to learn about the history of this national treasure and reflect on what the material within it can teach us about world cultures and the American experience.
(October 20, 2010 — July 10, 2011) On view was original art produced by Kadir Nelson for the creation of the Negro Leagues Baseball stamps, which pay tribute to the all-black professional baseball leagues that operated from 1920 to approximately 1960.
Abraham Lincoln Certified Plate Proofs
(November 15, 2008 — October 2013) Eleven certified plate proofs for postage stamps honoring Abraham Lincoln were on view in the Philatelic Gallery pullout frames. Certified plate proofs are the last printed proof of the plate before printing the stamps. These plate proofs are each unique, with the approval signatures and date. Issued from 1894 to 1959, the stamps feature a variety of Lincoln portraits.
(March 6, 2008 — July 6, 2011) The Victory Mail exhibit showcased the Museum’s collection of World War II V-Mail correspondence. V for Victory, a popular symbol of the Second World War, was the inspiration for the name of this new fangled correspondence style.
(November 12, 2007 — September 21, 2013) Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean, was an avid stamp and cover collector. On view were key pieces from her collection, including photographs and stamps commemorating her flights. She often flew signed pieces of mail that were then sold to philatelists to support her endeavors.
(May 27, 2006 — January 12, 2009) Called the “crown jewels” of U.S. stamp collecting, Miller's collection was donated to the New York Public Library in 1925 where it was displayed for more than 50 years. But after a theft in 1977, the collection was locked away until the National Postal Museum exhibit.
(November 16, 2006 — August 17, 2008) This exhibit presented works of art commissioned by the US Postal Service over the last 40 years. These paintings and drawings represent the work of 42 different artists and showcase an array of techniques and styles.
(November 11, 2005 — November 13, 2006) War Letters: Lost and Found featured original letters from the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam that were lost or abandoned and then rediscovered by strangers.
(March 15, 2005 — March 19, 2006) This exhibit revealed highlights from the wide-ranging Postmaster General's Collection spanning more than 150 years of US stamp-making, including not only stamps, but "behind-the-scenes" materials.
(April 6, 2004 — January 11, 2005) The National Postal Museum is pleased to present a selection of extraordinary materials from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's personal philatelic holdings. The Royal Philatelic Collection includes the world's finest and most comprehensive collection of British and Commonwealth stamps.
(October 8, 2003 — January 2, 2007) This exhibition surveyed the dangers faced by the nation's postal workers, honors their individual acts of heroism, and celebrates the U.S. Postal Service's involvement in a program that distributes pictures of missing children to tens of millions of homes each week.
(July 30, 2003 — February 26, 2004) On view were 100 original drawings and artworks that were used to create postage stamps, including entries for the famous Elvis stamp design competition.
Forwarding Address Required
(May 4, 2001 — October 17, 2005) Through the cards and letters exchanged between Japanese-American children sent away to internment camps during World War II and San Diego librarian Miss Clara Breed, the exhibition looked at the role of the mail as a civil liberty and witness to history. Miss Breed had grown fond of the children who had visited the library before the war and began corresponding with them in 1942, when she first gave each a stamped, addressed postcard. Correspondence continued throughout the war and until her death in 1994.
Posted Aboard RMS Titanic
(April 14, 2001 — October 30, 2001) The tragic sinking of the RMS Titanic has captivated our imaginations for decades. Among those who lost their lives when the ship sank were the ship's five postal clerks.
(September 30, 1998 — September 30, 2002) As Precious as Gold, continues in an online format. The exhibit examined the great Klondike Gold Rush and the unforgettable role of the mail carrier in providing contact between those so far from home and the families they left behind.
(January 30, 1998 — July 2, 1998) President Franklin D. Roosevelt enjoyed a lifelong interest in collecting stamps. FDR sketched the original designs for several United States stamps issued during his time in office.