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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.

World War I picture postcard showing one soldier reading a letter, and two others about to drop mail into a mailbox.
World War I picture postcard.

My Fellow Soldiers: Letters from World War I

April 6, 2017 – November 29, 2018
Through personal correspondence written on the frontlines and home front, this centennial exhibition uncovers the history of America’s involvement in World War I. The compelling selection of letters illuminates emotions and thoughts engendered by the war that brought America onto the world stage; raised complex questions about gender, race and ethnic relations; and ushered in the modern era. Included are previously unpublished letters by General John Pershing, the general who led the American Expeditionary Forces and a person who understood the power of the medium. In his postwar letter that begins “My fellow soldiers,” he recognized each individual under his command for bravery and service. Developed in collaboration with the Center for American War Letters at Chapman University, My Fellow Soldiers: Letters from World War I will be on exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum.

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.