The 13th Maynard Sundman Lecture

August 18, 2016

Paul Lee: Parks, Postmarks and Postmasters: Post Offices within the National Park Service

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00:01

Alright, well, good afternoon everyone. Thank you very much for coming.

00:06

My name is Dan Piazza. I'm the Chief Philatelic Curator here at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum

00:11

and it's my very great pleasure this afternoon, it is now officially afternoon,

00:16

to welcome you to the museum on behalf of Allen Kane the director

00:20

who couldn't be with us this morning but also all of the museum staff

00:24

for the 13th in this series of Maynard Sunman lectures.

00:30

And we're also very pleased to have with us this morning many of the members and guests of the

00:34

American First Day Cover Society who are having their annual convention in Falls Church this weekend.

00:40

The Maynard Sundman lecture was established here at the

00:45

National Postal Museum by his sons Donald and David and we're very pleased

00:50

to have both Don and Dave here with us this morning.

00:54

[applause]

00:59

And I've and I've asked Dave just to come up and say a few words about about his father in the origin of the lecture series.

01:09

There is a nice little bio of my dad on the back of the program.

01:17

He was not a specialized stamp collector but he really loved stamp collecting and stamp dealing.

01:25

He he was born in 1915 and he was exposed to

01:29

stamps in 1927, the year that Lindbergh flew to Paris.

01:36

And right away, a friend of his showed him his grandfather's stamp collection my father was just amazed at

01:43

the colors and the shapes and everything.

01:47

And he kept asking him where he got those stamps and often the guy would say Mystic Stamp Company.

01:57

And so it's ironic that later we bought Mystic Stamp Company which was founded in 1923.

02:07

My dad did make one visit to to Washington and I have a photo of him with my brother Don and in the vault.

02:19

And he wasn't here, unfortunately, to see the wonderful William H. Gross Gallery be constructed.

02:25

But he really, really loved the museum and what it was all about.

02:29

And Don and I, while dad was still alive and very active, we decided it would be good to establish this talk

02:37

so you'd know how much we respected and regarded his achievements.

02:44

And so this is the 13th annual and I'm happy to be here, and it's great to see this great crowd. Thank you.

02:53

[applause]

02:59

And just as a side note, all of the previous Maynard Sunman Lectures are

03:03

archived on the museum's website all going all the way back to 2002.

03:08

So you can go on the postal museum's website, postalmuseum.si.edu and

03:14

just search "Sundman" and you'll find the page with all the previous Sundman Lectures.

03:19

Hours and hours of philatelic entertainment for you.

03:24

And then, I want to recognize the fact that Don Sundman, who's the chairman of the

03:29

museum's Council of Philatelists, has arranged for a very special surprise for those of you who are here today.

03:36

I will not give away right now what it is

03:39

but I will say that the program is key so everyone needs to have a event program

03:45

and we'll tell you at the end of the lecture what the special surprise is.

03:49

So you have to stay to the end of the lecture.

03:51

[laughter]

03:55

Okay we need a program up front please.

04:01

Anybody else need a program? And hang on to it, don't give it away.

04:07

Great. Thank you very much.

04:10

We're very pleased to have as our Sundman lecturer this year, Paul Lee.

04:16

And Paul's a fascinating guy who had a career trajectory that

04:20

I think a number of us here would envy,

04:24

and that is Paul originally prepared to be a high school biology teacher.

04:28

And he was a high school biology teacher for a few years.

04:31

And then in the summers he took summer jobs with

04:33

the National Park Service in places like Shenandoah National Park. and Rock Creek,

04:39

and there was a third one, I can't remember what the third one...

04:42

Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

04:44

And after a few years of doing that I guess Paul said,

04:48

why am I doing this high school biology teacher thing,

04:51

and why aren't I just full time with the National Park Service?

04:54

And so he did. And Paul had a very long career with the National Park Service as an interpretive planner,

05:00

which means that when you visit national parks and you see welcome centers,

05:05

orientation exhibits, media pieces, welcoming you to the park, and so forth.

05:10

Paul was responsible for designing and implementing a lot of those in parks

05:15

all over the United States and even in some of the overseas territories.

05:19

And Paul's also a practicing stamp collector.

05:22

He lives in Colorado and he has an interest in philately and stamp collecting.

05:26

He volunteers with the Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library in Denver, Colorado.

05:31

And he has married his two passions for stamps and the parks, in his collection and now publication called,

05:38

Parks, Postmarks, and Postmasters: Post Offices within the National Park System.

05:43

And it was just such an opportune moment to have Paul come here and deliver the

05:46

lecture because the National Postal Museum has its own exhibition on display

05:51

until March of 2018 for the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service

05:55

called, Trailblazing. And if you haven't seen that, before you leave the museum today,

06:00

do try and get upstairs and take a look at it. Actually a number of the of

06:03

the parks that Paul will talk about in his presentation are also shown in the exhibition upstairs.

06:09

And so it was just a wonderful synergy a great moment to have

06:13

this lecture on this topic, and we are here actually in the anniversary month,

06:17

the actual anniversary date for the Park Service is next week August 25th,

06:21

so what a great way to celebrate and with with this lecture

06:25

and please join me in welcoming Paul Lee.

06:30

[applause]

06:40

Well thank you.

06:42

We put together a little video program at the Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library

06:50

that are on the library's website.

06:54

And one of our members got to read the script for the thing.

06:58

And he came up to me one day and he said, couldn't you have come up with a better title?

07:04

He said, say this and the subtitle really fast for a show.

07:10

And boy, you get your tongue tangled in a hurry.

07:14

So, we didn't rename it though.

07:17

Well I'm delighted to be here and to be part of the museum's

07:26

exhibit celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park System.

07:32

And I certainly would like to thank the National Postal Museum and the Sundman family for hosting this event.

07:42

And I'm just really proud to be a part of it.

07:46

The talk is based on the book, and it sort of

07:58

well it actually began about eight years ago at the Rocky Mountain philatelic library.

08:04

We were sitting around, as we do quite often, just sort of shooting the bull and talking about things.

08:13

And folks knew that I had worked for the National Park System service and they said,

08:19

gee Paul how many post offices are in the national parks?

08:22

So we started rattling off mostly the ones that still exist like at Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Yellowstone,

08:32

and a number of, all just the the National Parks, Grand Tetons for example.

08:37

But then someone mentioned, well don't they have one down at the, Lincoln's birth place?

08:43

And sure enough they do. They have one in the bookstore and it's been there since the national monument was created.

08:49

Well that got me to thinking about, gee, I wonder how many there actually are.

08:54

And then someone from the Colorado Postal History Society said, well you know there

08:58

was one up on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.

09:02

Has anybody been up there?

09:05

You're at 13,000 feet on a road that just kind of disappears on both sides.

09:10

It's kind of a white-knuckle drive but there was a post office there

09:14

until the 1950s when it when it finally closed.

09:18

It was obviously a summer only post office.

09:22

But we started rattling all these off.

09:24

And I figured gee, there must be an awful lot of them.

09:27

And so an eight-year research project got started that night.

09:32

And I quickly realized that well you really kind of have to have some some criteria.

09:40

Nice thing about collecting philatelic material and probably just about anything,

09:45

is you can always set your own rules.

09:48

You can use someone else's rules or you can just invent your own.

09:51

And so I kind of invented my own and I picked basically three criteria.

09:58

The first one was, I wanted to consider post offices that lie within the authorized boundaries

10:07

of National Park System areas, not just national parks, but any place,

10:14

and I'll qualify that in a minute, so an authorized boundary.

10:18

Here's an example.

10:20

This is from the brochure for Agate Fossil Beds.

10:22

Actually there's, Agate is mentioned upstairs.

10:26

And you'll see the dark green line which indicates,

10:30

and there's a little one over here a little piece of property they own that's detached,

10:35

but that's the authorized boundary.

10:37

And within that boundary you'll see a lighter green, sort of a greenish blue color, and that is land,

10:42

it's actually owned and managed by the National Park Service.

10:47

The white areas on either side, you can see there if you can read from the back of the room,

10:53

they're listed as private property and they indeed are private property,

10:58

privately owned and anybody that goes on that property needs the owner's permission to do it.

11:04

But what it also means is that if the owner of any of

11:08

these properties was willing to sell or donate all or part of the land to the park,

11:16

that could happen provided the park, if they were going to purchase it, had the money to do so.

11:22

So it's sort of a willing buyer, willing seller.

11:25

So that's basically what the authorized boundary means.

11:28

And on the one on the your left,

11:33

Agate Springs Ranch the post office was actually there.

11:38

It ran from 1899 until 1968 when it was discontinued.

11:45

That's the fancy word for closed.

11:52

So that was my first criteria, within the authorized boundary.

11:55

And you'd think that would be black or white. It's either in or out and that was really not the case in many cases.

12:03

There was an old road that went up and it actually formed

12:07

the park boundary and part of a town was on one side that was maybe in the

12:11

National Forest area and the other side of the town was in the National Park area.

12:18

So where was the post office?

12:20

So it was things like that that made this really not that crystal clear sometimes.

12:26

Criteria two was, I wanted areas managed primarily by National Park Service people, staff.

12:34

And now that may sound ridiculous.

12:38

Well of course park people manage parks the National Parks,

12:42

but there are a lot of categories of National Parks System areas that are really managed by other people.

12:49

A lot of the National Heritage Areas for example

12:52

are managed by sometimes many different people

12:55

from private landowners to other agencies, state, local, and federal,

13:02

I used what's known as the red book, because it's red.

13:08

And this is an older version actually from 2005 to 2007.

13:16

There's, you can actually get this online now which is a

13:20

boon sometimes and then sometimes it's kind of depressing that you did all this work

13:24

and now you can just go online and get it.

13:27

And not only that you can get the 2009 to 2011 version for nothing online.

13:35

But this is the one I use primarily, and practically wore it out.

13:38

It's in three parts, an introduction that

13:41

describes all the different categories of National Park Service land.

13:45

I use the second section. It's an alphabetical list of all of the areas and that are managed

13:54

by the National Park Service, park people, a superintendent, or a site manager,

14:02

or somebody like that that actually runs the place.

14:05

The third area are these other areas like Chimney Rock in north western Nebraska.

14:13

It's along one of the historic trails there.

14:16

It's listed as an affiliated area of the National Park Service

14:20

but it's run by the state park system of Nebraska so it's not in the book.

14:26

So that's the first two. The third one was that includes both current and former NPS areas.

14:36

You ever think the Park Service would actually give something up?

14:41

Well, here's General Grant National Park.

14:47

Well there isn't a General Grant National Park anymore.

14:52

Anybody know what happened to it?

14:56

You're close. You're very close.

15:00

Kings Canyon.

15:01

In 1940 it became Kings Canyon National Park.

15:05

So we didn't really give it away we just changed its name in 1940.

15:11

But this is a little different. Anybody know where this is?

15:17

I asked this question every time I give a talk like this back in Denver and they

15:23

sit and look and somebody said, gee is that Union Station?

15:27

And, not the one in Denver but the one here right next door, as a matter of fact.

15:34

In 1976, on July 4th, 1976, it officially became the National Visitor Center and it was run by the Park Service.

15:46

Upstairs in the main lobby, there was what was affectionately known as, The Pit.

15:54

They dug the floor out, except for a walkway around the around the edge.

16:00

They put in an 80 screen projection system, a rear screen projection system.

16:05

You would come in, you could stand on any of these levels and watch a program

16:11

aimed at getting you to visit the National Park Service areas in the city.

16:21

And it was not very successful.

16:25

Back in the '70s, I was here when all this was being built.

16:30

I never did get here when it was actually, well maybe once I got here when it was actually sort of operating.

16:36

But it wasn't very attractive to people.

16:38

People didn't want to come. This was not a very nice area of the city back in the '70s.

16:42

There was a lot of crime, a lot of drugs and so forth,

16:46

and a lot of homeless people found these nooks and crannies great places

16:50

to stay warm and sleep and cuss you out if you disturbed him.

16:56

And so people just didn't want to come.

16:59

And the tour companies didn't want to come either for some of the same reasons.

17:03

So it didn't work for that reason.

17:05

The other reason was, you'll notice these little white specks on the floor.

17:09

Well they once came from the ceiling.

17:12

The building was not in very good shape and the Park Service did not have money, enough money,

17:19

to do all of the maintenance and upkeep and restoration that was called for,

17:25

for the building, so because chunks of plaster were falling on visitors,

17:29

I don't know if one and he actually did but it was certainly a threat there,

17:34

after a few years the Park Service decided this was not going to work and they gave it up.

17:40

And Department of Transportation took it over and has

17:44

turned it into what you see today which looks a little bit better than,

17:49

in fact it looks a whole lot better than this.

17:53

There is a post office over there.

17:55

I wasn't really sure but I actually went over there last night and was directed

17:59

downstairs to, sure enough there is a postal station there.

18:05

And there was back in the '70s also and on dedication day there was a slogan cancel

18:12

for the opening of the National Visitors Center.

18:16

So, those were the three criteria.

18:20

Then the research started.

18:22

And I really am one who believes in start simple,

18:26

and then follow where it takes you.

18:28

And sometimes it takes you to some complicated areas

18:33

but the simplest thing I knew to start with were these brochures which are also now available online.

18:40

People used to collect these on eBay.

18:45

There were a lot of people who collected brochures and of course you probably a lot of you

18:51

probably have a drawer full of them from your travels and so forth.

18:55

But there's people who actually collect these.

18:58

But they all have a map inside and it's a great place to start,

19:02

gives you a general idea of how big the park is,

19:06

and are there any communities in their, former areas, and so you can kind of go from there.

19:12

Like I said, they're online now so if you go to NPS.gov there they are.

19:17

The other great source for research was the National Archives and fortunately in

19:22

Denver, Denver has one of the, I think, nine regional offices something like that,

19:27

in the country for the National Archives.

19:31

And I lived over there when I wasn't doing my own job, and consulted basically two records.

19:42

One, were the records of post office applications.

19:47

When people wanted to set up a post office,

19:50

now you gotta realize there's lots of exceptions to these,

19:53

they would fill out an application and submit it.

19:56

And what this tells you, told me, was where these post offices,

20:00

a little bit more about where they were located, what stream or body of water

20:05

they might be next to, what intersection of roads they might be close to,

20:10

what the nearest post office might be and how far away it was.

20:14

They also contained a map at least most of them did, not all of them, some of the

20:20

maps were very good, some looked like they had been drawn by you know a six-year-old kid,

20:29

and of course some poor adults who also drew like a six, and this might be an

20:34

insult to six year old kids, but some of the maps were very useful and some were

20:40

not in helping determine this, is this post office inside or outside the

20:47

current boundaries of the park.

20:51

The other records were the appointments of

20:53

postmasters because I was really curious, who ran these places? Who were they?

20:59

How long did the post office actually run?

21:03

So there there's a bunch of different records for that.

21:07

Here's one for example that's in the book place called Gaskill in Grand County, Colorado,

21:13

that's right in Rocky Mountain National Park and the

21:16

former town, or community of Gaskill now lies within the park boundary.

21:24

And it served a bunch of gold mines that were also in the park or near the park at the time.

21:31

Anybody here know a guy named Bill Bauer?

21:36

Yeah, Bill was quite a Colorado postal history guy and I only got to meet him once before he passed away.

21:43

And somebody introduced him, that I was working on this book.

21:50

And he, first thing he said is, you got Fairfax?

21:55

And I looked at him and said, where's that?

21:59

And he told me it's very close to Gaskill, it only lasted,

22:03

and again I know you can't read all this but, the Fairfax Post Office only ran for three years.

22:12

It only had one postmaster and I did discover that it ran out of a cabin,

22:16

a two-room cabin, one room was a store with a post office in it,

22:20

and the other room was where the guy lived.

22:23

And in three years it was all, well at least the post office was discontinued.

22:31

So here's a couple Gaskill covers from one of our

22:35

members at the Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library, actually the Colorado Postal History Association.

22:42

They're both, one has a manuscript canceled from 1882 for Gaskell,

22:48

the other has an octagonal stamp cancellation from 1886.

22:54

And that was the dates 1880 to 1886, and Gaskell only had one postmaster during those six years.

23:04

And this is what it looks like today. In fact I would say a good eighty to eighty-five

23:13

percent of the post offices in the book looked like this.

23:17

They're gone.

23:18

They served a function generally long before the park was established

23:23

for mining, for logging, farming, ranching, whatever it was.

23:28

And today they're gone.

23:34

Forms change. This is just, I don't know why I left this one in here actually,

23:39

it's just to show how later on around the 1930s the forms for appointing postmasters changed

23:45

and gave a little more information than the early ones.

23:49

And that's the Trail Ridge Post Office,

23:51

that one that was at 13,000 feet and closed.

23:54

It says it closed in, what does it say, December of 1953.

24:00

Well I guarantee you it closed in September, early September, probably,

24:06

of that year because the snow would have been as tall as this room.

24:13

So libraries, great source, and I do want to get in a plug for the library I volunteer for, the Rocky Mountain Philatelic.

24:23

Anybody from Colorado or been to this library? A few hands go up. Good, good.

24:29

And it's a great place not only for for the records that are kept here but also for the people.

24:36

This fellow, he, he collects national parks but not stamps, not covers,

24:50

he visits them and he keeps a list of all the parks that he visited.

24:54

And a few years ago he checked off the last one.

24:58

Although I kind of blew his joy by saying, well did you did you go to the one in American Samoa?

25:06

And he said, no. I think he did Alaska and all of the lower, the continent here.

25:15

But he got them all.

25:18

And people really are the key to this, names, and dates,

25:22

and boundary lines, and all that is, maybe fun for some people, and essential.

25:27

But the people are what are really important.

25:30

And I got to know a lot of the folks,

25:32

sometimes literally, sometimes just through records that are left behind,

25:37

like Maude Holzer who is a Postmaster at Mount McKinley National Park in Alaska,

25:44

it's now Denali National Park and Preserve, but it's not a post office it's a postal station.

25:52

And it's not in this old log cabin anymore.

25:57

Lee Medley was Postmaster of Rush, Arkansas and that's in the Buffalo National River.

26:06

And here he is, sort of a classic Postmaster, old country store.

26:10

He's sitting there in his bib overalls in front of his stove reading the paper

26:15

and there's the post office window and the boxes behind him.

26:20

And so many of the post offices were like that in the national parks.

26:25

Robert Stangle, I met Robert at Manzanar when he was a young man.

26:33

He worked for the War Relocation Authority and he worked with

26:38

Japanese Americans in the post office at Manzanar.

26:42

He's now well into his 90s.

26:43

I'm not even sure if if Robert is still living.

26:49

How many have been to Shenandoah National Park?

26:52

If you're from around here that's probably just about anybody.

26:55

Very popular area and one of the most popular hikes in Shenandoah is up Old Rag Mountain.

27:02

And what you don't find out too much about when you go there, other than

27:08

the fantastic views and the real interesting climb, is that there was a

27:12

little community there called Oldrag, one word.

27:15

And William Brown was again the only postmaster for for Oldrag.

27:24

And just here's a married couple Bert and Anna Mae Hill on Shaw Island, Wisconsin.

27:32

This is now Apostle Islands National Lakeshore and Bert was the Postmaster.

27:39

They ran, together, they ran a place for visitors to stay fed them,

27:44

and that was the experience, going out on boats at Apostle Islands.

27:52

Well to get a little more personal,

27:55

I ran across, well here's Dry Tortugas which some of you may know better as Fort Jefferson.

28:03

The official name is Dry Tortugas National Park.

28:06

They expanded the area to include other

28:08

islands in the general area and that led to the National Park designation but

28:14

this is Fort Jefferson and in my searches I found a cover,

28:21

I can't remember where I got it, but it says Fort Jefferson, Florida March 11th.

28:28

When? So I look at the stamp and it's probably Scott number 65.

28:35

That's just my guess, some of you probably know far better than me.

28:40

And that stamp was issued in 1861, '62, at least that's how it's listed in the Scott catalog.

28:49

So that kind of narrows it down.

28:50

It could be later than that, the actual, when it was mailed

28:54

but the stamp kind of narrows things down.

28:57

So I decided to put on my genealogy hat and find out a little more about this.

29:03

Who's Mrs. Dr. SG Morton from Philadelphia, Germantown?

29:12

Well I found Dr. Samuel George Morton around that time actually was earlier then.

29:19

He died in the early 1950s. He was a Craniologist.

29:27

I don't think there's too many of them around anymore but that was his profession.

29:31

But he kind of falls out of the picture here because he's he's dead by the early 1850s.

29:39

He's married. His wife's name is ,I better make sure I got it right here, Rebecca.

29:46

His wife's name is Rebecca.

29:48

So that's the Mrs. doctor, and their family consisted of a large number of kids,

29:54

the oldest which was James St. Claire Morton who was in the army

30:01

at least in 1860. He was an engineer and his job was going around to the various

30:07

coastal forts getting them ready for operation

30:12

and getting them ready to shoot their artillery.

30:17

He was transferred to Fort Jefferson in March of 1861. It doesn't say which day.

30:23

So it could be that our letter was mailed in March,

30:27

that's assuming he was there in early March and didn't arrive after March 11th,

30:33

and also, what month was the stamp issued? It was issued in 1861 but when did it come out?

30:43

So that's kind of unclear.

30:47

Oops, I went too far.

30:50

He's transferred in 1862, in May, he's transferred to Washington DC.

30:57

He's transferred there because he re-contracted malaria.

31:02

And while at Fort Jefferson, and I don't know why but, the doctors thought he'd be better off

31:08

in Washington, DC you judge that for yourselves.

31:17

But, anyway, he's here in 1862. His mother then we find out, dies in 1864.

31:25

Again it's not really that relevant, although it does establish a date.

31:29

He wouldn't have addressed a letter to her after that date.

31:34

And he himself is killed in Petersburg. So apparently he got over

31:38

his malaria and he was shipped off to Virginia

31:42

and ended up in the Siege of Petersburg and he died six months after his mother did.

31:49

So I kind of came to the conclusion that if I were betting on which March 11th,

31:54

I would probably pick March of 1862 but I'm open for argument on that.

32:00

It's just like it's the odds are that it was probably, he was probably writing his mother to let her know that

32:09

he was sick and he was being transferred to Washington, but who knows.

32:14

So a little bit of genealogy comes in.

32:17

So does sharing information and I'm sure even

32:20

with with you first day cover folks, sharing information with each other at

32:25

conferences like you're at or online or through emails and so forth,

32:30

I didn't know this guy existed it turns out he's got quite a collection of Yellowstone material.

32:38

He collects Yellowstone and he claimed to have the, what he considers,

32:42

the oldest Mammoth Hot Springs cancellation.

32:46

Again, a manuscript cancellation from Yellowstone and he, just without hesitation, said I'll send you a scan.

32:55

Don't tell me how detailed you want it.

32:59

And I got it in the mail. He said, please use it in your book, just give me a little credit for it.

33:06

The same is true with Marjorie Sente. "Sente"? Sente.

33:12

She lives in Arizona. She has a magnificent Grand Canyon collection.

33:17

You'll see some of her other stuff that she donated the museum to the museum upstairs.

33:24

She has the only known cancellation from Tolfree, Arizona.

33:30

And Tolfree was one of the post offices, again look at the dates,

33:34

three, about three years, was in the Grand Canyon on the South Rim.

33:40

It was basically a campground with tents.

33:43

But they had a post office and the Tolfree family ran it for a while.

33:47

Sort of came to a tragic ending, the family anyway, but you can read that in a book.

33:54

We're going to get the questions here in just a second but,

33:57

speaking of questions, one of the one of the ones that I get asked a lot is,

34:02

which park has or had or has the most post offices?

34:11

What do you think? That's a hint right there.

34:20

Shout it out.

34:23

No.

34:25

No, not a national park.

34:30

The body of water is another hint, okay.

34:37

New River Gorge National River through West Virginia.

34:44

This portion that lies within the park boundary has at least, from the book, more post offices than any other site.

34:53

I got something like 56 post offices.

34:58

This area was very, very rich in coal, and there was a coal mine, a mile, almost,

35:08

I mean there were just so many coal companies.

35:10

The only way through, and you can sort of see a road cut on the left-hand side of the river, that's, it's a railroad.

35:18

It's the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad and that was really the only way to get through the New River Gorge.

35:26

But all of the post offices along the river and just about every coal company had their own post office,

35:35

relied on that railroad to get the mail in and out.

35:38

Of course that was they got the coal in and out too.

35:41

Or in a few cases the timber, because there were a few timber companies in there too.

35:46

But 56 of them and I don't know if I got them all.

35:54

Oops, I went to wrong way.

35:57

Most of the posts, well there's a few post offices, two, that still run.

36:02

And if you travel Amtrak on that line you can go to a couple of them that are still, Prince, West Virginia.

36:12

The old Pince store still has a post office that operates.

36:17

This was Thurmond, West Virginia and it I closed about six years ago and the building still stands.

36:24

I think somebody took the flag down finally but that was the post office right next to the tracks.

36:34

Another, Gaskill only this was McKendree, West Virginia. It had a post office.

36:42

Pretty bad cover, the only one I've ever found, and I think it's 1916.

36:51

And it's about all you find in most of these places are things that didn't decay very fast.

36:58

All right wrapping it up.

37:00

Here's some weird ones.

37:01

Where's this?

37:04

Somebody said it I think.

37:07

The Ahwahanee Hotel in Yosemite National Park.

37:14

Swank place. Nice place.

37:17

If you'd been there in 1941 to '45 thereabouts, the lobby would look like this.

37:29

It was being used as a Navy convalescent hospital.

37:34

And I think there's more about that upstairs too.

37:37

And it did have a post office and I think they have one up there too.

37:43

And at the end of the war the hospital closed down, they put the stuff back.

37:48

Took them about a year or two to get everything straightened up and opened up to the public again.

37:54

But that's what the Ahwahanee was during World War II.

37:59

So was Fort McHenry but that was World War I.

38:00

Fort McHenry in Baltimore was sort of the same deal.

38:05

And another one. This is kind of ending this on a sad note, I suppose.

38:11

Some people collect crash mail.

38:15

Airplanes crash and have crashed since they started airmail,

38:20

and sometimes they find the remains and sometimes they don't.

38:26

This was a Transcontinental and Western Air flight from San Francisco to

38:32

Winslow, Arizona and it crashed on a mountain in Yosemite National Park.

38:37

It took them about four days to find the site.

38:41

All lives were lost on the flight but they did find a mail sack and the mail was fairly damaged,

38:48

so they took it to the main Yosemite Post Office and there the mail was sorted through,

38:55

repairs were made, these seals were applied, and the mail was then sent on its way.

39:02

One of our members at the Rocky Mountain philatelic library

39:08

purchased this and, again, gave me scans to use in the book.

39:14

So that's it.

39:16

I really appreciate the opportunity to be here.

39:21

And I'm honored that I was selected to be part of this really great lecture series.

39:28

And I hope I've given you some

39:31

insights to resources you probably won't hear too much about in the National Parks when you visit them.

39:37

And rightly so, because most of these places were set aside

39:43

for far greater reasons than the fact that there was a post office there at one time.

39:49

But it's part of the story and I thought it would be fun to tell.

39:53

So thank you for coming.

39:56

[applause]

40:03

You can stay here because we do have time for some questions.

40:06

Okay.

40:07

If you're willing to take some?

40:10

I am.

40:11

Over here?

40:13

[unintelligible]

40:26

It's it's not terribly easy, in fact I worked at Shenandoah National Park twice,

40:33

once as a Seasonal and then again as Permanent Ranger for for a number of years.

40:42

My first two kids were born in Shenandoah National Park.

40:46

Shenandoah National Park has a law, or something.

40:51

Anyway, they cannot purchase any more land. It's written they cannot buy more land

40:59

but they can trade and it still happens.

41:01

If you look at the boundary of Shenandoah, it's just looks like spaghetti, goes way out in the valley in

41:10

some areas in other cases not much more, much wider than Skyline Drive.

41:15

But, so they can trade with a willing trader. They can't, and that happens so you never

41:23

know, you know, that you might put something like this in a book and it's

41:27

in the park and a couple years down the road, a piece got traded.

41:32

Now it's not.

41:34

So it's a thing that's very much in flux and it's hard to determine.

41:43

Yes, sir?

41:44

[unintelligible]

41:47

Yeah there's several as a matter of fact.

41:50

A lot of the fish camps had a post office at one time

41:55

and I don't know if the one still exists or not.

42:00

There was one at Rock Island. I don't think it exists anymore.

42:06

I don't think they have one and it would have only been a seasonal one anyway since the park's closed part of the year.

42:14

But several of the fish camps had a post office for their,

42:18

and a lot of the fish camps also doubled as tourist recreational fishing.

42:22

So they had tourists there. So you will see in the book that there's a number of

42:27

post offices listed for Isle Royale.

42:32

Ya?

42:33

[unintelligible]

42:59

Yeah.

43:03

[unintelligible]

43:43

Yeah.

43:44

[unintelligible]

44:14

Good, good point. I would add that Mesa Verde and,

44:24

does Crater Lake still have one that's open?

44:27

Yes, yeah, I thought so.

44:29

They are on the bubble every year, every time people start discussing closing post offices

44:38

those two pop up and for some reason they've hung on and they've managed to keep their their post offices open.

44:48

But it may be in our lifetime yet when we see those go by the way.

44:53

But that's just an aside from what you were saying.

44:58

[unintelligible]

45:19

What is the northernmost post office in a national park?

45:25

Is it the Gates of the Arctic?

45:28

That was what popped in my mind first, Gates of the Arctic has a post office.

45:33

Anaktuvuk Pass? Does that sound familiar?

45:39

Anaktuvuk Pass is only accessible by plane and but there are people who live there.

45:47

There are Native Americans who live there and then there's a park ranger or two that lives there

45:54

and they have a post office and they're very happy to send you one if you want to cancellation from from there.

46:00

They probably don't have too much mail to deliver but yeah there's that.

46:07

I would say that's the northernmost.

46:13

Okay.

46:14

Thank you.

46:16

[applause]

46:23

Okay so now to the treat that I promised you at the beginning of the lecture,

46:28

Don Sundman has very kindly provided a number of copies of Paul Lee's book that will be distributed at random to you if

46:38

on the back of your program you find a red dot

46:42

in the lower corner of your program.

46:46

If you find the red dot come on up and collect your book.

46:52

Otherwise thank you very much for coming.

46:56

And the AFDCS meeting will continue in the Discovery Center.

The Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum hosted the 13th annual Maynard Sundman lecture Thursday, Aug. 18, from noon to 1 p.m. Admission was free. “Parks, Postmarks and Postmasters” combined the real-life drama and human interest of the people, places, and events that created our national park system with a study of the post offices and postmasters that connect them to the outside world.

About Paul Lee

Paul Lee portrait

Speaker Paul Lee was born in West Virginia in 1944. After earning degrees from Wittenberg and James Madison universities, he became a high school biology teacher and held summer jobs in Rock Creek, Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains national parks. He eventually left teaching and became a full-time National Park Service (NPS) employee. As an interpretive planner, Paul developed dozens of visitor centers, exhibitions and media presentations at NPS sites in the U.S., American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands. He retired in 2000 and lives in Colorado, where he volunteers at the Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library in Denver.