One of the benefits of being fortunate enough to work here at the APRL is that every once in a while an opportunity comes along to attend an event that is truly unique to the world of philately. One such opportunity came recently with the chance to attend the Mister Rogers first day ceremony this past Friday, March 23, at the WQED-TV PBS Studios in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Category: Just for fun
Fiction with Philatelic Themes
Before I started working at the APRL in December, the majority of my knowledge about stamp collecting came from Terry Pratchett’s book, Going Postal. As a teenager I was a huge fan of Pratchett’s humorous fantasy books set in the fictional Discworld, and Going Postal was one of my favorites. When I arrived at the APRL I was glad to see that the book was included in the library’s collection.
The story of Going Postal concerns Moist van Lipwig, a con artist who receives a job as the Postmaster General of the non-functional Ankh-Morpork Postal Service. As postmaster general, Moist introduces postage stamps, delivers decades of undelivered mail, and competes with a visual telegraph company. The following excerpt is a conversation between Moist van Lipwig and his employee Stanley Howler (likely named after Stanley Gibbons) after Moist invents the first postage stamps. Continue reading “Fiction with Philatelic Themes”
ZIP codes and unintended consequences
Most postal historians know that ZIP codes were created by the U.S. Post Office Department in 1963 to make the delivery of increasing volumes of mail more efficient. These Zone Improvement Plan codes were never intended to be used for anything but mail delivery. They were created with the post office in mind, not neighborhoods or communities.
However, they’re frequently used as a proxy for neighborhoods for statistical purposes. For example, if you visit the U.S. Census Bureau’s American FactFinder, the search box prompts you to enter a state, county, city, town, or zip code.
A recent article from ThoughtCo. examines the use of ZIP codes as proxies for neighborhoods and the implications (along with some fun facts about ZIP codes).
The USPS Remote Encoding Center
As the Postal Service handles the holiday mail, Smithsonian.com looks at the Remote Encoding Center and how its staff work to decipher addresses that machines can’t read, either due to damage or unique handwriting. Read the full article at Smithsonian.com.
Not a Small World, After All
The American Philatelic Research Library regularly lends up to five books by mail to APS members wherever the U.S. Postal Service can reach them. This standard five-week loan by mail allows for time in transit. If seven weeks go by and the books have not been returned, we take the first steps to get them back.
On March 3, I emailed an overdue reminder to a 27-year member of the APS to whom we had sent the two volumes of Intercontinental Airmails 55 days before. I was not prepared for his reply:
“What a coincidence! The books arrived YESTERDAY. I am constantly amazed (dismayed?) at how long it takes for surface mail to get here from the Mainland.”
Seven weeks and five days in transit? It was my turn to be amazed. No wonder he’s interested in Intercontinental Airmails!
Then I noted the last line in his address: Saipan, MP 96950
For those of you unfamiliar, as I was, with that obscure postal abbreviation, “MP” means the Northern Marianas Islands. Military history buffs will recall Saipan as the scene of a Pacific battle ― now there’s an oxymoron on which no one ever remarks ― in the summer of 1944. Continue reading “Not a Small World, After All”
An unusual address
Fellow PL&R blogger Don Heller brought in an amusing selection from the April 15, 1861 Boston Daily Advertiser:
A letter, post-marked at Manchester, N.H., arrived at the Portland post-office last week, bearing the following direction:—”The youngest, unmarried, blue-eyed lawyer in Portland, Maine.” Wonder what were its contents.
Wonder, indeed, what were its contents—and where the Portland post office delivered the letter!
Early Victorian Christmas cards sells for $6,800
One of the world’s first Christmas cards sold at a British auction for more than $6,800 on Saturday, according to a report on TODAY.com. The card is an 1843 design produced by Sir Henry Cole, who also worked with Rowland Hill on the Penny Black.
The APRL has a collection of early 20th-century greeting cards.
Cornflakes, pig iron, and sheet iron
Last week, we asked in our trivia question which breakfast cereal lent its name to a postal forgery operation. William Harnish correctly guess cornflakes and pointed to a Wikipedia article about the operation.
I thought of the question because of a publication that we just cataloged called The Story of Cornflakes, Pig Iron and Sheet Iron. The report was published in Rome in May 1945 and contains a written report as well as photos.
You can also read more about the operation in an article in the August 1984 American Philatelist, “‘Cornflakes’: Using Postal Forgeries to Place Anti-Nazi Literature on German Breakfast Tables.”
Friday fun: a trivia question
Congratulations to Chris Ryan, who had the correct answer to last week’s trivia question. Here’s this week’s question:
What breakfast cereal gave its name to a postal forgery operation?
Friday fun: a trivia question
Which “dead” country’s stamps are still valid for postage?
Post your answer in the comments.