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Articles from Smithsonian  Magazine Online

Smithsonian magazine is the Smithsonian Institution's membership magazine. Since the National Postal Museum opened in 1993, the magazine has celebrated the museum and its collection in a number of ways. Listed below are links to Smithsonian magazine observations by Secretaries of the Institution and articles celebrating items in the Museum's collection.


Mystery Solved: A Michigan Woman Says She Mailed Civil War Letters to the Post Office

Smithsonian curator Nancy Pope learns how and why these letters showed up in the mail 153 years later.
By Nancy Pope
November 2016


Newly Discovered Letters Bring New Insight Into the Life of a Civil War Soldier

A mysterious package holds long-lost correspondence from a young Union infantryman.
By Franz Lidz
November 2016


A Brief History of Children Sent Through the Mail

In the early days of the parcel post, some parents took advantage of the mail in unexpected ways.
By Danny Lewis
June 2016


Get Stuck on New York's Pop Culture With These Historic Stamps

A new exhibition at the National Postal Museum spotlights Gotham’s cultural impact.
January 2016


The History of the Christmas Card

Borne out of having too little time, the holiday greeting has boomed into a major industry.
By John Hanc
December 2015


A Brief History of Sending a Letter to Santa

Dating back more than 150 years, the practice of writing to St. Nick tells a broader history of America itself.
By Alex Palmer
December 2015


Have Bad Handwriting? The U.S. Postal Service Has Your Back

Don’t worry, your Christmas gifts and cards will make it to their destination, even if your writing looks like chicken scratch.
By Mollie Bloudoff-Indelicato
December 2015


The Remarkable Story of the World’s Rarest Stamp

The rarely seen, one-of-a-kind 1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta, which recently sold for a whopping $9.5 million, gets its public debut.
By Alex Palmer
June 2015


Previously Seen on a Tiny Postage Stamp, These Beautiful Portraits of African-Americans Go on View

The artists who made them bring enormous dedication and talent to the artwork that adorns the nation's mail.
By Saba Naseem
February 2015


The Lost Map of the Hindenburg

Seventy-five years after the tragedy, a curator at the National Postal Museum made a discovery that shed new light on what happened to the doomed dirigible.
By Beth Py-Lieberman, Ryan R. Reed
December 2014


Anthrax Letters, Now on View, Represent the Serious Threats Faced by the Post Office

The National Postal Museum's "Behind the Badge" exhibit explores the history and legacy of the United States Postal Inspection Service.
By Natasha Geiling
July 2014


Celebrating 20 Years of the National Postal Museum

A new gallery opening in September highlights some of the most famous stamps in American history.
By G. Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution
July 2013


Document Deep Dive: A Firsthand Account of the Hindenburg  Disaster

Frank Ward was a 17-year-old crewman when he saw the infamous disaster, but his memories of that day are still strong, 75 years later.
By Megan Gambino
May 2012


Found: Letters from the Hindenburg

A new addition to the Smithsonian collections tells a new story about the legendary disaster.
By Abigail Tucker
May 2012


Military Mail Stories at the Postal Museum

A new exhibition covers the history of mail in the military.
By Joseph Stromberg
December 2011


Mr. Zip and the Brand-New ZIP Code

When the Post Office debuted the ZIP Code, they introduced a friendly cartoon to be its lead salesman. 
By Joseph Stromberg 
November 2011


A Rare Pony Express Artifact

A Rare Pony Express Artifact: A letter that took two years to reach its destination evokes the hazards of the Pony Express. 
By Owen Edwards
May 2010


From the Castle - FDR's Stamps

A National Postal Museum exhibition includes postage stamps that President Franklin D. Roosevelt helped design. 
By G. Wayne Clough
November 2010


“The Lost Symbol” in Stamps

First, we heard that bestselling writer Dan Brown visited the Smithsonian for book research. Then, when “The Lost Symbol” came out, we checked his version of the institution for accuracy...
By Megan Gambino 
December 2009


“Best of the Decade” with Postal Museum Curators

As a new decade approaches, we here at ATM thought it a good time to reflect on the last—asking Smithsonian curators to weigh in on their favorite exhibits and acquisitions since 2000...
By Megan Gambino 
December 2009


The Case of the Disappearing Mailboxes

Nancy Pope, a curator at the National Postal Museum, started getting phone calls two years ago from reporters asking about the removal of standard, four-foot-tall blue mailboxes from street corners. She heard from newspapers in small towns......
By Megan Gambino 
August 2009


FDR’s Stamp Collection: A Childhood Hobby He Took to the Oval Office

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a passion for stamp collecting, a hobby he had cherished since childhood. A new exhibition at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum highlights his philatelic interests...
By Jordan Steffen 
August 2009


Nutcrackers at National Postal Museum

Meet the real-life Herr Drosselmeyer. Glenn Crider of Mechanicsville, Virginia, like the famed godfather in The Nutcracker story, is a clockmaker turned toymaker, known especially for his custom-made nutcrackers...
By Megan Gambino 
December 2008


Airmail Letter

Stale Mail: The nation's first hot-air balloon postal deliveries barely got off the ground. 
By Owen Edwards
August 2006


John Lennon's First Album

A recently acquired stamp collection opens a new page on the teenage Beatle-to-be. 
By Owen Edwards
September 2005


Special Delivery

In the 1900s, health officials believed that puncturing supposedly disease-infested mail and then fumigating it slowed the spread of illness. 
By Ed Leibowitz
February 2004


We’ve Got Mail

You expect to see stamps in the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, and there are indeed tens of thousands of them—American and international, beautiful and rare. 
By Lawrence M. Small, Secretary
May 2002


No Return Address

To the "detectives" who solve the mysteries of errant mail, every letter is a human tale. 
By Sue Allison
July 2000


Dispatches from the Past

An exhibition at the Postal Museum commemorates the centennial of the Klondike/Alaska gold rush. 
By I. Michael Heyman, Secretary
October 1998


Stamps – What an Idea!

New commemoratives look like our first stamps, which were slow to catch on in 1847. 
By John Ross
January 1998


Pushing the Envelope

At the National Postal Museum, envelopes are as critical a part of history as the letters inside. 
By Michael Kernan
October 1997


The Inverted Jenny

How an upside-down biplane on a 24-cent stamp, now on display at the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum, seemed to jinx early attempts at carrying the mail by air. 
By Edwards Park
July 1996