Dr. David Hochfelder, assistant professor of history at SUNY-Albany will be the keynote speaker at How Commerce and Industry Shaped the Mails, the sixth annual Postal History Symposium, which will be September 16-18, 2011 at the Match Factory in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. After two degrees in electrical engineering from Northwestern University, David earned a Ph.D. in history at Case Western Reserve University. His research interests include the history of technology and business history; he is particularly interested in the relationship between technological innovation and social change. He was the assistant editor for two volumes of The Papers of Thomas A. Edison; David’s book The Telegraph in America: A History, 1832-1940 will be released by Johns Hopkins University Press in the spring.
The American Philatelic Research Library, the American Philatelic Society, and the Smithsonian National Postal Museum jointly produce the Symposia, which have been held annually since 2006. The format of the 2011 symposium will be similar to that of the Post Office Reform symposium in 2009,with the paper presentations distributed across three days allowing ample time between sessions for viewing the 150 frames of invited stamp and postal history exhibits, purchasing stamps, covers, and ephemera from the philatelic dealers, reading in the APRL, and conversing with fellow attendees. Hochfelder’s keynote address will be given at the banquet on Friday night. On Saturday evening, the United States Stamp Society, a Symposium co-sponsor for 2011, will host a banquet celebrating their 85th anniversary.
While the symposium will focus primarily on the United States, papers that examine or contrast the relationship between post office and business interests in other countries are welcome as well. The Call for Papers was distributed at the fifth symposium at the end of September; some proposals have already been received. The deadline for submitting proposals is May 1, 2011 and the selected papers will be announced shortly afterwards.
When historian Philip F. Rubio began work in the Denver Bulk Mail Center in 1980 he was acutely aware that his pay and benefits had been won a decade earlier in the Great Postal Wildcat Strike of 1970. After 20 years in the Postal Service, mostly as a letter carrier, he left to complete a Ph.D. in history at Duke University. Although originally motivated by a desire to tell the stories of the men and women whom he worked beside for two decades, Rubio combined his insider’s perspective with oral histories and extensive archival research to produce a groundbreaking labor history of the Post Office in the 20th century, There’s Always Work at the Post Office: African American Postal Workers and the Fight for Jobs, Justice, and Equality. While tracing the history of black employment in the Post Office since Reconstruction, Rubio reveals both the significance of Post Office jobs in the black community as well as the role of black activism “in shaping today’s post office and postal unions.”
Rubio will discuss his book and sign copies at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum (NPM) on Saturday, November 6th, at 1:00 p.m. If you are not able to attend, the lecture will be streamed live and archived on the public events page of the NPM.
To preview his book, use the “View Inside” tab; UNC Press provides access to the table of contents, introduction, chapter 1, and the index on-line. There is also a full text search function for this title. The price, from UNC Press, is typical for academic press titles – $65 hardbound, or $24.95 paperback plus postage.
On Saturday, October 23rd the Postal History Foundation in Tucson, Arizona will have an open house as part of the celebration of its 50th anniversary. The open house will include special exhibits, tours, activities for children, a book sale of philatelic literature, and special cachets. The Postal History Foundation was founded in 1960 by William (Bill) Alexander who moved to Tucson from Pittsburgh, PA where he had been Curator of Postal History and Stamps at the Carnegie Museum. Originally, the Postal History Foundation was called the Western Postal History Museum and was a department in what is now the Arizona Historical Society. The name change to Postal History Foundation occurred in 1990 to reflect a broader mission. That mission is to “is to promote an appreciation of stamp collecting and postal history through the preservation of philatelic collections, literature and documents, and the enhancement of youth education using stamps as teaching tools.” In October, 1996 a new library building opened with the assistance of a grant of $750,000 from the family of Peggy J. Slusser. The library is named the Peggy J. Slusser Memorial Philatelic Library. The library houses a collection of over 30,000 books, journals, catalogs, photos, maps, and other reference items related to the philatelic history of the United States, especially the Western States, U.S. postal history and worldwide philatelic history. With the hiring of Librarian/Archivist Charlotte Cushman the library has moved aggressively to automate its catalog and to digitize parts of its collection. Through an innovative federal grant the library’s catalog is available online as part of Pima County Public Library’s catalog (note: to get to the Postal History Foundation Collection, use the drop down menu on the search bar). It was great to meet and talk to Charlotte at StampShow 2010 in Richmond. More about the library’s special collections in later posts.
Last Thursday, I completed an eleven-day philatelic road trip that included the fifth annual Postal History Symposium and a stop in Bellefonte to prepare for next year’s Summer Seminar. This will be the first of several postings related to the trip.
Rather than various aspects of postal operations and reform that have occupied previous symposia, the speakers this year examined stamps from the perspective of “Imagery, Icons, & Identity.” To answer the frequently asked question of how the USPS selects stamp designs, John Hotchner led off the symposium with a history of the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee (CSAC), on which he served for 12 years. Most interesting to me was to learn that when Postmaster General Arthur E. Summerfield established CSAC in 1957 the committee included a representative from the U.S. Information Agency to advise on stamp designs for Cold War propaganda. This probably accounts for the Champions of Liberty and Credo issues.
If you’ve read my introduction in the most recent issue (3rd quarter 2010) of the Philatelic Literature Review, you know I’m not a stamp collector — but thanks to the symposium, I have my first stamp.
Steven Rod started off his presentation (“The Case of Thirty-five Esthetic and Political Messages: the Famous Americans of 1940”) by handing everyone in the audience a card with a Famous American stamp mounted on it. He paired us up, and had us talk about our stamp with a partner.
I was neither a stamp collector nor a historian, and my partner was from Denmark, but we nevertheless had an engaging conversation about the stamps’ designs.
Steven then began his talk about the stamps, shedding light on the issues we had discussed.
I was not the only non-collector in the room — the symposium drew a mixed crowd of philatelists, historians, museum professionals, and at least one librarian. Steven’s introduction got us all talking to each other.
At the end of his talk, Steven invited us to keep the stamps, which were duplicates from his collection: “For those of you who are not collectors, this can be your first stamp.”
Steven’s slides can be downloaded in PDF format from the symposium website.