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.
“Mail-order Brides” is a term that has undergone many representations. As it suggests, at one time, mail was how strangers “met” to arrange a possible marriage. From the American West to first decades of the 20th century, mail made those connections. But just what was this process all about?
During the Great Depression the Farm Security Administration sent photographers across the country to document the lives of everyday Americans. These photographs, housed at the Library of Congress, reveal how America’s postal system was an integral part of our citizens’ daily lives. Learn more about some of these photographers, their work, and a listing of postal-related photographs in that collection.
Epistolary novels use letters to tell a story. Hundreds of authors have found their way into telling a story by sharing their characters’ correspondence. Even as letters have made way to emails and text messages, the idea of using written messages to tell a story continues. Learn more about this unique story telling methodology.
In the mid 1800s the best way to travel from New York to San Francisco was by steamer to the Panamanian isthmus, across Panama by land, and hailing a second steamer to finish the trip. Learn how the U.S. Post Office Department helped create this passage and how the discovery of gold in California kicked the entire system into overdrive.
In the second half of the 19th century New York City was a battleground between pious reformers and the ills and sins they believed were destroying the nation. A leader in that struggle was Anthony Comstock, who enlisted the aid of the Post Office Department in his battle against obscenity, vice, and . . . lotteries? You may know of his fight against the first two, now learn about his struggle against the evils of the lottery.
As postmaster general under Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War, Montgomery Blair was in the public eye during a very turbulent time in United States history. While generally a forgotten figure, his contributions to the United States postal system were enormous and long lasting.
On January 1, 1913, the Post Office Department inaugurated their parcel post service. Prior to that date, only packages weighing four pounds or less could go through the postal system. Farmers and others complained that private express company rates changed with little notice, were too high, and difficult to determine. The new parcel post system was met with enthusiasm and more than a few challenges to the idea of what could, or could not be mailed.
An official service since 1902, Rural Free Delivery brought the world into rural American homes. It also created a new, specialized market of the growing numbers of rural letter carriers. Rural carriers were contacted by companies looking to reach into a community market as well as businesses advertising goods and tools to the carriers themselves. In the end most of the young companies did not survive the rush to claim rural carriers’ loyalties. But the first decades of the 20th century’s rural mail service offer a fascinating look at commercial opportunities and challenges.
In 1963, the United States Post Office Department (POD) launched an advertising campaign on a grand scale. This memorable campaign made Mr. Zip one of the most easily recognized figures in American advertising.
The nation needed a postal system that could meet its surging need. To answer that challenge the Post Office Department had to integrate new machines and systems into an organization that was second only to the military in scope and numbers. It would not be easy.
Postal workers have had a long history of involvement in group activities outside of work hours. This project endeavored to begin compiling an account of what organizations have, and still do, exist, and why.
The American Railway Mail clerks were the elite of the Post Office Department. This website is in dedication of their work with the Railway Mail Service (RMS), and highlights not only a history of the RMS, but the personal oral histories of some clerks who spent the “best times of their lives” braving the rails.
This article explores the fascinating history and lives of female postal workers from the American Revolution to the present. A number of women share their postal stories in the site’s third section, “In Their Own Words.”
This article explores the unique history and experience of African Americans in America’s Postal Service, illustrating that the United States Postal Service has been both a place where African Americans were discriminated against, and a place where many African Americans found opportunities for advancement.
Hurricane Katrina has raised an immediate need for information about recovery of personal documents, photographs and other collectable items. The National Postal Museum would like to share some resources from the Smithsonian Center for Archives Conservation and others below with our website visitors.
This article explores the place of letter writing in American history, revealing through the words of its citizens the nature of American life and documenting the country’s search for a uniquely American identity.