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- Dead Letter Office Blind Reading album
Dead Letter Office Blind Reading album
- This red, leather-bound scrapbook titled “Blind Reading” was assembled after 1883. It contains twenty-one clippings from the front of envelopes postmarked between 1883 and 1884. The envelopes inside bear markings of “illegibly addressed,” “misdirected,” “returned for better direction,” “no such office in state named,” “no post office named,” “no state named,” “no such street . . .,” and “unclaimed.” With their intended destinations practically obscured, postal clerks directed letters such as these to the Dead Letter Office, where specially trained clerks carefully worked to decipher the nearly illegible handwriting, the scant information, and the simply incorrect or missing addresses. Such challenging addresses were termed 'blind readings'.
- Each envelope in the scrapbook has the additional mark, “Deficiency in address supplied at Dead Letter Office” that proves these mysteries had all been solved. When clerks cracked a particularly challenging mail mystery, they forwarded the mail along with a letter requesting that the envelope be returned for the Dead Letter office’s collection. With the envelope pasted into the album, the correctly decoded address was written on the reverse page, like the answers to a trivia game.
- The construction of this unsigned album is identical to one in the United States Postal Service’s collection attributed to Clara M. Richter (c.1845-c.1899). Richter worked as a Dead Letter Office clerk for over thirty years, eventually served as chief of the Office’s foreign mail. In this role she was one of the senior female employees in the office alongside women such as Mrs. Patti Lyle Collins (1845-1913), who wrote articles about the Office's unique duties and gained notoriety for her postal work at the turn of the twentieth century. It is unknown if this volume belonged to or was created by Miss Richter.
- Cushing, Marshall Henry. Story of Our Post Office. Boston: A. M. Thayer & Co., 1893.
- Heidelbaugh, Lynn. “Solving Mail Mysteries,” Smithsonian American Women: Remarkable Objects and Stories of Strength, Ingenuity, and Vision from the National Collection, Eds. Victoria Pope and Christine Schrum, Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Books, 2019. Page 70.
- https://postalmuseum.si.edu/remembering-the-dead. Accessed January 28, 2021.
- Data Source
- National Postal Museum
- Object number
- Associated Organization
- Post Office Department
- Archival Material
- paper; leather; gilt; adhesive; cotton thread
- Height x Width x Depth: 4 1/2 × 7 3/4 × 3/4 in. (11.43 × 19.69 × 1.91 cm)
- United States of America
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- National Postal Museum Collection
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