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Upcoming Exhibits

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, emphasize the importance of letters, and spotlight the creation and wondrous diversity of postage stamps.

Capital Traction Company trolley car
This U.S. mail streetcar, owned and operated by the Capital Traction Company, was used to process and transport mail in Washington, D.C.

Trolley Car Mail

May 19, 2017 – September 10, 2017
In 1892 St. Louis, Missouri added specially-outfitted cars to their mail vehicles. The service sped up mail deliveries, making it especially popular with businesses. Twelve other cities across the country jumped on board. By 1908 there were mail trolleys in Brooklyn, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Rochester, Pittsburg, Seattle and Cleveland. Electrically-powered trolleys offered the opportunity for clerks to use electrically-powered canceling machines on board. What was fast became even faster. Between trolleys and multiple daily deliveries in large cities, individuals or businesses could send and receive letters as many as three to four times a day! That may not sound like much in our age of texting, but it was extraordinary to individuals at the turn of the last century. Mail trolleys were a great success, but everything has its day. In 1913 Parcel Post Service began and instead of sacks of letters, clerks had sacks and sacks of packages to process. Far more in weight and volume than they could handle in the relatively tiny cars. About the same time the Post Office had begun using trucks to carry mail. Most cities stopped using mail trolleys between 1913 and 1919. Baltimore’s trolleys kept going until 1929, but after that, mail trolleys were no more.

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32c Dahlia stamp, 1995.

In the Garden: The Beauty of Flowering Plants on Stamps

October 20, 2017 – June 2019
This exhibition will highlight the variety of flowering plants commemorated on US postage stamps during the past 50 years and will explore artistic themes that emerged during this period. For example, the artwork will portray a variety of flowering plants found in gardens and public spaces throughout the United States and explore the symbiotic relationship between flowering plants, bees, birds and butterflies. The exhibit will display at least 30 pieces of developmental and final artwork used to produce at least 28 flora stamps. The use of stamp art in various phases of development will enable visitors to understand the role design artwork plays in the production of postage stamps. The artwork is borrowed from the renowned Postmaster General’s Art Collection which is on a long-term loan to the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum.