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.
During the Civil War, stationery printers in the North and South produced at least fifteen thousand different pro-Union and two hundred fifty different pro-Confederate patriotic envelope designs. Steven R. Boyd, a long time collector of patriotic envelopes and Professor of History at University of Texas – San Antonio, provides a fresh perspective on them in his new book, Patriotic Envelopes of the Civil War: The Iconography of Union and Confederate Covers. Although there is already a rich body of philatelic books and articles, Boyd has written the first book-length scholarly analysis of these patriotic envelopes and lettersheets. He explores their imagery and iconography to gain an understanding of what motivated soldiers and civilians to support a war that became far more protracted and destructive than anyone anticipated in 1861. While Northern envelopes typically argue for the importance of preserving the Union and preventing the destruction of United States, Confederate covers, in contrast, usually illustrate a competing vision of an independent republic free from the “tyranny” of the United States. These envelopes also reveal much about changing roles for women and African Americans in America due to the war.
This book is another example of the growing academic awareness of stamps and covers as appropriate primary sources for scholarly study. Boyd previewed some of the material from his book at the Fifth Postal History Symposium in September.
The 192-page hard bound book, with 181 color illustrations, is available from LSU Press for $36.95 plus shipping, but if you order online before the end of the year with the code 04ANNIVERyou can take 35% off the list price.
You may have heard about the construction underway at the American Philatelic Center in Bellefonte, or even seen photos of the construction on the APS website.
Some of the activity is in a building currently used for the APRL annex, which houses our archives, excess material, and infrequently used items. A portion of the space in this building will be used for the stairwell and restrooms for the Match Factory’s newest tenant, Graymont.
All of the library’s collections are safe during construction. Library staff moved items away from the construction area, and the contractor has installed plastic sheeting, as you can see in the photo. We will continue to have access to the library annex during and after construction.
The other piece of the construction project is install new roofs on two buildings that will eventually be the library’s home.
Readers of Philatelic Literature & Research may also be interested in another philatelic blog, Don Schilling’s Stamp Collecting Round-Up. Don is an APS member and blogs about “interesting news, resources and links about stamps, stamp collecting and postal operations.”
Like the Postal History Foundation’s library, described in Larry’s post on this blog, the RMPL’s holdings are included in the Philatelic Union Catalog hosted by the APRL. At the bottom of the search screen, a drop-down box allows you to search each collection individually, or all collections simultaneously.
Coincidently with Larry’s posting about October being Archives month I stopped in Bellefonte, on my way home from attending the Postal History Symposium, to examine an archival collection at the American Philatelic Research Library. It consists of ledgers and official papers from the Aaronsburg, Pennsylvania Post Office spanning the 1890s until the early 1940s. As this gift had not yet been fully processed, I offered to inventory the materials and help prepare a finding aid in exchange for being able to peruse the two boxes.
Not only do I expect to use some of these materials with a Summer Seminar class that I will be offering on U.S. Post Office forms. But, I also found an opportunity for more research on the role of Registered Mail in rural America. While a single form may shed light on the handling of a particular piece of mail, a Post Office ledger or collection of forms can reveal much about the operation of an individual post office and perhaps provide a window into postal operations more generally. Several years ago, I made an in-depth examination of a Registry Book from the Post Office in Stony Hill, Missouri that allowed me to draw conclusions about commerce in rural American two decades before RFD and three before Parcel Post. Since publishing that article, I have sought other Registry Books to test whether my conclusions are valid for other locations, economic conditions, and time periods. My cursory examination of the single Registry Book in this collection suggests that Registered Mail served a different function in Aaronsburg in the first decade of the 20th century than it did in Stony Hill in the 1880s.
There are no doubt other undiscovered archival gems at the APRL. We expect to begin posting finding aids online next year; volunteers interested in helping should contact Tara. In the mean time, you are welcome to discuss your research projects with the library staff to learn what resources might available to support your projects.
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.
This weekend I received Vaccari’s 28th philatelic literature catalog, la Libreria Filatelica, in the mail. In addition to the sections on Italian States and the Italian Kingdom and Republic, the scope of the catalog is international with a strong European emphasis. The major sections include catalogs, dictionaries & handbooks, airmail, military, colonies & occupations, rates & regulations, revenues, thematics, postcards, and numismatics; plus a section for used and rare titles. At the back, tete-beche style, is their third catalog of general history titles, again heavily Italian and European.
Not only booksellers, but also as publishers and scholars, Paulo Vaccari sets such high standards for research and printing quality in his own titles that I regret never having learned Italian. Also, for over 20 years they have published the award winning Vaccari Magazine, a semi-annual postal history journal.
If you’re not familiar with archives, you might wonder what they are, exactly. The Smithsonian Institution Archives is celebrating American Archives Month with a series of blog posts on archives, and one from the Visual Archives blog, The Bigger Picture, offers an explanation of archives.
Read the explanation and find out why my post title is not as grammatically incorrect as it might seem!
Stay tuned for another post with a glimpse into the archives at the American Philatelic Research Library…
On Saturday after the Postal History Symposium, my daughter Helen and I lunched in Georgetown before we toured the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Park. This engineering project began in 1828, where Rock Creek meets the Potomac River, with the goal of creating a link to the Ohio River. Had the canal been finished, it would have created a navigable waterway from Chesapeake Bay to Missoula, Montana. However, by 1850 as railroads began to dominate transportation and communication, the canal had been dug only 184 miles to Cumberland, Maryland where it ends today, far short of the Ohio River. As we rode the replica canal boat, pulled by a pair of mules at 2 miles-per-hour, past the historic factories and mills that now house trendy restaurants and boutiques, I mused about the mail contractors who once traveled the towpath to serve Post Offices along the canal.
Afterwards we stopped at Bartleby’s Books on 29th Street. Although they had only a couple philatelic titles in stock, I did not get the puzzled looks that so often greet requests for our literature. And, when I asked Karen Griffin, one of the owners, for postal history and Post Office documents she graciously searched their pamphlets and ephemera stock. The find of the day was the 1794 edition of the Postal Laws and Regulations containing the Post Office Act of 1794, 14 pages of “Regulations to be Observed by the Deputy Postmasters in the United States,” a table of Post-Roads from Passamaquoddy, Maine to Greensborough, Georgia, and 8 sample post office forms showing their correct use. This store certainly warrants a return visit.