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News, updates, and all kinds of goodies and stories from the postal world!

Posts tagged "mail-carriers"

I believe most postcrossers have a soft spot for stamps. Who can help but be enthralled by their history and design, and the stories they tell in such a small format? There have been stamp collectors for as long as there have been stamps, but philately goes beyond simply keeping a collection. A big part of the field is actually the research of stamps and postal history.

One association whose members are dedicated to these goals is the Royal Philatelic Society London (or RPSL). We discovered it through Barrie (aka PeaceFox), who is both a postcrosser and one of RPSL’s assistant curators. When we first met him at a philatelic exhibition in Tampere last year, he talked so passionately about his work that we promised to check it out. Sometime after that, the Little Mail Carriers magically found themselves in the British capital with a bit of free time… so we sent them to the RPSL to explore and report back. Here’s their travel diary.

Hello from London 🇬🇧! There’s so much to see and do, and everything looks so posh here! But there’s no time for shopping or sightseeing today, as we’re on a mission: to visit and learn about the Royal Philatelic Society London, the oldest philatelic society in the world.

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The home of the RPSL is a lovely historical building in the heart of London, where we were received by their museum’s curator Juliet Turk. She explained that the Society was founded on April 10th, 1869 with a diary which they still keep…

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… but only truly became “The Royal” (as it is known among its members) 37 years later, when King Edward VII gave permission for the usage of the Royal prefix. Over time, several royal figures have been patrons of the RPSL, most notably King George V, who was an enthusiastic stamp collector and also served as president of the Society from 1896 to 1910.

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One interesting project that the Society is responsible for is the Museum of Philatelic History. Their permanent exhibition in the basement features displays on printing, using, collecting and exhibiting stamps, as well as post office tools and other interesting specimens… and even the printing press of Jean de Sperati, a famous master of philatelic forgeries!

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Visitors have access to temporary exhibitions and themed displays throughout the building, as well as historical artefacts related to philately — including this plaster cast effigy of Queen Elizabeth II by Arnold Machin. If she looks familiar, it’s because this is the image featured not only on the ubiquitous Machin stamps series, but its silhouette is also used in all the British stamps that don’t have a photo of the Queen herself.

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Juliet also gave us a peek into the museum’s archives, which include the Perkins Bacon records. This British company was responsible for printing many series of stamps, among which is the famous Penny Black. Their impeccable accounting and printing journals detail when each series of stamps were printed, and are thus a valuable resource for philatelists.

But… what about postcards?

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Oh, here they are! These date roughly between 1890 and 1920, and were sent to the RPSL’s Experts Committee, the department tasked with the job of certifying the authenticity of stamps.

Rosemary Green, a fellow of the RPSL, bequeathed a huge collection of archives, over 60 medals, 80 antique weighing scales and 50 Tunbridge Ware stamp boxes in 2012. Among the collection are these adorable kitten postcards, featuring scales.

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To keep their collections in good hands, many philatelists bequeath their stamps and prized postal possessions to the Society in their wills, and as a result, great treasures can be found in the RPSL’s own collection… and also some tiny ones, like this mini-postcard that Juliet showed us!

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How cute is that?!

There is also a library at the RPSL, where members come to research philatelic topics. Since every stamp is a mini-testimony to a certain era, there is a lot you can learn about the world through them. Over the years, we’ve seen many philatelic displays in exhibitions around the world, and it’s very likely that some of the research made for them came from the materials in this extensive library.

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At the end of our tour, we sat down with a cup of tea and marvelled at their colorful bookshelves stretching almost to the ceiling. You should definitely come visit, if you’re interested in stamps and philately! Independent Museum tours are free and guided tours start at £5, but booking is required.

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That was a brilliant visit — thank you Juliet and Barrie, for taking such good care of us! 😊

As we left the building, the sun was shining in London, so we went out to see the sights. Well tell you all about it in a different post… Stay tuned!

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The Little Mail Carriers continue their adventures around the world, and this time they’ve received an invitation they could not refuse… to explore Toronto’s First Post Office! They jumped at the opportunity to discover this historical institution, which is both a museum and a post office and is also regularly visited by the local postcrossers. Kat Akerfeldt is a curator at the museum and kindly offered to show the little ones around.

The Little Mail Carriers in Toronto's First Post Office

Hi everyone! We’ve just arrived here at Toronto’s First Post Office, but it seems like we came at a very busy time of year! To make us feel right at home, Kat put us to work in the Post Office, sorting mail and making sure that everything went into the correct box.

The Little Mail Carriers in Toronto's First Post Office

Toronto’s First Post Office is a museum, and looks just as it did in 1833. That was when the city’s first Postmaster, James Scott Howard, built the town’s first brick Post Office. At that time, everyone in Toronto collected their mail from this Post Office – there was no home delivery then. Most letters would be sorted alphabetically until the recipients called for them. Only a few people had their own P.O. box, with a window with a number painted on the glass. These were for Toronto’s early government, business, and religious leaders, for they received the most mail.

The Little Mail Carriers in Toronto's First Post Office

Today, Toronto’s First Post Office still runs a full-service Post Office, and offers P.O. boxes to rent to members of the Town of York Historical Society. It’s the only postal museum in Canada, and the only Post Office in Toronto to offer a pictorial cancellation mark, so they get a lot of visitors who want to send interesting happy mail — including lots of postcrossers as well! The Little Mail Carriers in Toronto's First Post Office

The museum gift shop sells a very interesting selection of vintage stamps. While perusing them, we noticed this small collection of stamps that commemorate Canada’s Confederation. In 1867, representatives from provinces in British North America agreed, after many meetings and conferences, to become a united country, the Dominion of Canada. In 2017, Canada is celebrating 150 years since Confederation! The history was fascinating, so we got into the library to investigate further…

The Little Mail Carriers in Toronto's First Post Office

… but soon emerged again to find out what all the noisy excitement was about. Turns out, a school group had arrived and wanted to learn to write letters as they did in the 1830s in Toronto. We learned that writing with goose quill pens isn’t always easy, and that blobs will happen! The Postmistress reminded the class to keep a light hand, keep the paper flat on the table, and keep the pen moving!

The Little Mail Carriers in Toronto's First Post Office The Little Mail Carriers in Toronto's First Post Office

When the letters were dried with pounce (a sand, sprinkled onto the ink, which helps to dry it quickly), the students folded their letters and sealed them with red sealing wax. In the 1830s, you had to pay postage on every piece of paper, so you didn’t waste paper or postage on an envelope! The letter becomes its own cover. Finally, the letters were stamped with a historic cancellation. In the 1830s, Postmaster Howard didn’t like the quality of black ink, so his was the only post office in the province of Upper Canada allowed to use red ink.

The Little Mail Carriers in Toronto's First Post Office

The date on the cancellation mark is historic in itself! It says “March 6”, which is Toronto’s birthday! March 6, 1834, was the date that Toronto became the first city in Upper Canada. Before 1834, Toronto was known as the Town of York. And before 1793, as early European settlers came to the area, this place on the shores of Lake Ontario was known as Toronto. Toronto is from the native Mohawk language, and was sometimes spelled Taranteau or Tkaronto. In 1793, Upper Canada’s first Lieutenant Governor, John Graves Simcoe, moved the capitol away from the American border to Toronto, renamed the settlement after the Duke of York, and started a lot of development, including creating a map of his new Town – two blocks up and five blocks across. When Simcoe first came to Toronto/York, there were 241 people living here. By 1834, when it became a city, there were 9252 people living here. It had grown very quickly, but it didn’t stop there… Today, Toronto is nearly 3 million people!

The Little Mail Carriers in Toronto's First Post Office

Later in our visit, we heard some very exciting news: every year, the Town of York Historical Society and Toronto’s First Post Office celebrate becoming a city with a gala celebration! This year marked the city’s 183rd birthday, and the celebration also honoured Canada’s sesquicentennial. A party was held at St. Lawrence Hall, which was built in 1851 as Toronto’s first big concert venue. During its early history, the Hall hosted debates on Canadian Confederation, was a terminus for the Underground Railroad, and the venue for three sold-out performances by Swedish superstar Jenny Lind. In 1967, the Hall was restored, and is now a National Historic Site.

The Little Mail Carriers in Toronto's First Post Office

On March 6, 2017, the evening included lively music written in 1867 and 1967 (the number 1 song in Canada in 1967 was “The Letter”, which we thought was very appropriate!), rousing speeches on Toronto’s history, and a very popular auction of goods and services from local businesses! Toronto’s First Post Office and St. Lawrence Hall are very close to the St. Lawrence Market, which is full of amazing food artisans, who very kindly supplied all kinds of good things to eat. We especially enjoyed the very Canadian delicacy – and very sticky – butter tarts!

The Little Mail Carriers in Toronto's First Post Office

What an evening! After all the excitement, we were ready for some relaxation back at the Post Office. We settled in the Reading Room, in front of the fireplace, with our best pens and rubber stamps, to write some letters and postcards to our favourite people. After all, how else would we enjoy a quiet moment?

The Little Mail Carriers in Toronto's First Post Office

Thank you so much Kat and everyone at Toronto’s First Post Office, for taking such good care of the little ones! 😊  Where will they go next?

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Last year, the Little Mail Carriers went on a splendid adventure… that we forgot to tell you about! 🙈  We firmly believe in “better late than never” (and we know how much you all miss them!), so here they are to tell the tale of their trip to a little known archipelago in the Baltic sea…

Hi everyone! We’re in Åland,  a group of islands mid-way between Finland and Sweden. It’s definitely a special place, with very few postcrossers — and no wonder, as the population only amounts to 29,000 residents. They’re a Swedish-speaking autonomous region of Finland though, and even have their own postage stamps since 1984, mostly featuring local nature, culture, history, society and autonomy-related themes.

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We had already been in Sweden and Norway, but never in Finland, which is still the country with the highest number of postcrossers per capita in the world… so a visit was well overdue!

Finland is known for many things, from their sauna culture to the Moomins, but it’s also the country where, in October of 2015, a group of enthusiast postcrossers gathered in the Postal Museum in Tampere to create the first national association of postcrossers: the Finnish Postcrossing Friends (reg). Among many other activities, they’ve taken up the task of organising meetups in their country, so that postcrossers can get together to write postcards and explore new places — including the Åland Islands.

So it was an early Thursday morning on June 9th last year, when a group of 22 Finnish postcrossers met in Turku harbour. The cruise from Turku to Mariehamn (the capital of Åland) takes about five hours… perfect timing for a meetup, right? So the very first “Postcrossing at sea”–meetup was arranged in a cozy conference room of the M/S Amorella.

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The hours flew quickly as we wrote tons of postcards and shared Postcrossing experiences while admiring the sunny sea landscape. The association also had a challenging Postcrossing-related quiz… with prizes for everyone! The cruise ship arrived to Mariehamn in the early afternoon. After settling in at the hotel, the rest of the day was spent shopping for postcards, exploring the island and enjoying the local delicacies. June 9th is Åland’s Autonomy Day, which is why there were 🇦🇽  flags everywhere we looked!

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The next day, we got a wonderful chance to visit Åland Post postal terminal in the island. The visit was hosted by Anita Häggblom, the director of Åland Post Stamps. While enjoying coffee and doughnuts, she told us about the interesting history of stamps of Åland, and how topics are chosen to be issued. She also revealed some wonderful details about 2017 stamps.

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We got the chance to ask Anita some questions, and she also introduced us to their facilities, so that we could see where all the postal magic happens and how it happens. It was truly interesting to see the machines for first day covers, maximum cards and special cancellations. We thanked Anita and Åland Post by leaving a couple of hundred signed meetup postcards there, so that they could get nicely cancelled and sent forward around to the world to other postcrossers. In the afternoon we took the cruise back to mainland on another boat, this time the M/S Viking Grace.

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The visit was a huge success… so they’re planning to do it again this year! So if you’ve always wanted to explore these special islands, mark your calendars: June 7th to 9th is when the Finnish Postcrossing Friends will arrange a new visit to Åland. This time, the trip will include an extra day to fit a bus trip to Eckerö Mail and Custom’s House, Kastelholm Castle and Stallhagen brewery.

Aaaaaaaand, as if that wasn’t enough, Åland Post Stamps is planning to issue a special cancellation for the new meetup, together with a custom stamp. Stamp, cancellation and meetup card were designed by local artist Ammi Krogius.

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Pretty cool, right? So… who’s looking forward to June? 😊

A big thank you to Marko (aka insp3ktor) and Hanna (aka hazzitus) from the Finnish Postcrossing Association for organising this meetup, and to also to Martta (aka MarttaD) and Minna (piparminttu) for sharing their lovely photos. Great work, everyone!

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The Little Mail Carriers have been a bit quieter lately, but not for lack of adventures. Earlier this year, they hopped on their airmail envelope and landed in exciting Uppsala, for a winter break. There was much to discover and see, as they found out!

Greetings from Sweden! Uppsala is the 4th biggest city in the country, with a little more than 200,000 inhabitants. We arrived in late February, and stayed with Karin (aka karinoswald) and her family for a while, in an apartment on the fifth floor with a great view from the balcony!

The Little Mail Carriers in Uppsala, Sweden

We were greeted with the first-months-of-the-year speciality, a “semla”. The classical semla consists of a wheat bun with a core made of special marzipan and whipped cream. This is a blueberry semla with blueberry cream, which conservatives don’t consider as a real semla. And don’t ever try to give one to a Swede after April… it’s just unheard of!

The Little Mail Carriers in Uppsala, Sweden

Close to our temporary home, there is a wonderful nature area where we went for a walk…

The Little Mail Carriers in Uppsala, Sweden

… and caught a ride with some Viking friends! 8-year old postcrosser Tore (aka ToreRoland) helped us on board.

In this area, there is an old cottage with foundations from the late 1600s. It’s called a soldier’s cottage (or Torp), because the house was a part of the payment to a soldier who lived there in times of peace, and the family took care of the place in times of war.

The Little Mail Carriers in Uppsala, Sweden

Sweden hasn’t been in war for over 200 years, but we still have a military system and the last soldier who lived in this cottage moved out just about 60 years ago. It’s now owned by a community that takes care of the house, keeping it and the land around it in shape.

To help raise money to take care of the Torp, there’s a coffee sale eight times a year. This day, they were making waffles, and of course we wanted to help… and eat a few! :)

The Little Mail Carriers in Uppsala, Sweden

Our host Karin works as a nurse assistant at the Children’s Hospital, which is a part of the big Akademiska Sjukhuset (the University teaching hospital), where over 8,000 people work! We were curious to see how things work in Swedish hospitals, so we made a field trip to check it out.

The Little Mail Carriers in Uppsala, Sweden

Everyone who works in a caregiving position wears the same clothes — the doctors, the nurses, the nurse assistants, the dietitians, the physiotherapists, and so on. To distinguish them, they have different colours of the badge, stating their occupation. The nurses have a blue sign that says “sjuksköterska”, which means nurse. And to make things a little more fun for the children, they use a lot of colours on the accessories!

We visited some children who were staying at the hospital, and they were very pleased to see us… I guess that’s the advantage of being a toy! :) There are machines everywhere, and they can look a bit scary, but Karin explained that they’re there to help everyone cough or breathe, so they’re essential to the children’s wellbeing.

The Little Mail Carriers in Uppsala, Sweden

We even got to try some emergency manoeuvres! I fear we’re not quite strong enough for the task though…

The Little Mail Carriers in Uppsala, Sweden

Lots of postcrossers bring their postcards to the workplace, and Karin does too — she hangs them in her changing room and locker!

The Little Mail Carriers in Uppsala, Sweden

The hospital even has its own internal mail central, which we visited and even helped a little with the mail sorting. As a reward, we got to drive their cool mail bikes!

The Little Mail Carriers in Uppsala, Sweden The Little Mail Carriers in Uppsala, Sweden

On March 19th, one of the highlights of our visit to Sweden occurred: we were invited to a Postcard Collector Fair, and to a Swedish Postcrossing meetup!

The Little Mail Carriers in Uppsala, Sweden

The fair organisers had prepared a table for us, and our host placed a looooot of stamps and postcards on it, to make the visitors curious.

The Little Mail Carriers in Uppsala, Sweden Some people came to talk to us and liked the idea, but most of them only liked really old postcards that they wanted to keep, not send… Still, it was great fun to visit the fair and buy some cards! The Little Mail Carriers in Uppsala, Sweden

After the fair, we went to a nearby café and wrote about 150 postcards to people all over the world, both direct swaps and official Postcrossing cards. One of the guests is number 2 in Sweden, and she had printed out 61 addresses… And at the café, some people got very curious and asked us what we were doing. They thought it was a wonderful idea, so maybe we managed to get some more Swedish postcrossers!

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A few days later, we got the chance to tour the city, and see the sights. Our first stop? The Hågadal school, where a group of students exchanges postcards with the help of their teachers! They’re class 3a (aka hagadala) — look at all the postcards they’ve received so far!

The Little Mail Carriers in Uppsala, Sweden

Great job, guys!

After hanging out with the kids, we continued our city tour. Not far from the hospital, the 16th century castle lies with a great view over the town.

The Little Mail Carriers in Uppsala, Sweden

From there, we went to see the university library Carolina Rediviva, host of the very famous Silver Bible, also known as Codex Argenteus. Close to it is the University Hall, from the late 1800, which has some rune stones in its garden. They tell us about brave Vikings who did NOT have horns on their helmets, we’ve been told. That is just a modern gimmick.

The Little Mail Carriers in Uppsala, Sweden

Construction of the Uppsala Cathedral started in 1272 and took several centuries to complete. The towers are over 118m tall, and it’s the biggest church in the Nordic countries. Some famous kings and queens are buried here, and there’s a museum inside one of the towers.

The Little Mail Carriers in Uppsala, Sweden

All these historical buildings are within walking distance from each other, but we still needed a little rest on a bridge over the Fyris river, and then we wanted to play in the mini version of the cathedral! There is a botanical garden in Uppsala as well, since the famous botanist Carl Linnaeus lived and worked here, but in March (at the end of winter), it’s more like fifty shades of brown… so we didn’t go there.

The Little Mail Carriers in Uppsala, Sweden

We met our host’s local mailman though and got to ride on his car — isn’t it the coolest?! It was the perfect send-off to our stay in Uppsala!

The Little Mail Carriers in Uppsala, Sweden

Thank you Karin, we’ve had a great time discovering your city!

The Little Mail Carriers in Uppsala, Sweden

Where do you think we will go next?

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It’s been a while since we’ve had a giveaway on the blog… so when our friend Addis (aka sumares) found this cute stamp-themed puzzle and offered to send it to a lucky postcrosser, we immediately jumped at the offer! Little Paulo showcases it below:

Wonders of America giveaway

Isn’t it cute? It’s a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle, featuring the “Wonders of America: Land of Superlatives” commemorative stamps! Here’s an introductory video highlighting the concept and artwork of the stamps, which were released almost ten years ago, in May 2006.

Wonders of America giveaway

Stamps and puzzles and mailboxes… so many our favourite things put together in this charming package! Little Ana is ready to write a name on the mailbox…

Wonders of America giveaway

If you’d like a chance to win it, all you need to do is leave a comment below. Oh, and if you have seen or played with other fun toys that promote postcard collecting or letter writing, do share!

Don’t forget to check back on this post around this time next week, to know whether your name was picked by Paulo’s random number generator. And a huuuuge thank you to Addis, who generously sponsored this giveaway!

And the winner of this puzzle, as chosen by Paulo’s random number generator is… havarah! Congratulations! :)

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