Postcrossing Blog

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

Posts tagged "postal-history"

Oooooof… World Postcard Day was such a rush! Everywhere we looked, people were posting and tweeting about their postal adventures, showing the pretty cards they were mailing, or giving the world a peak into their happy mailboxes. So many things happened that it took us a while to recover from all the excitement… but here we are now to tell you all about it!

First things first: remember the Stampex Talk we mentioned? It went brilliantly! We had a nice time chatting with Isobel Klempka from Stampex, postcrosser & philatelist Constanze, ABPS chairman Graham Winters, actor and postcrosser Sam West… as well as quite a few of you, who jumped in at the end to show your treasures! We oooh’d and aaah’d at all your stories and special postcards, and had a really good time. If you weren’t at the event, you can enjoy a recording of it below:

A lot more talks about stamps and collecting happened at Stampex between 1–3 October, and you can see an archive of those on the Auditorium of the event.

Singapore Philatelic Museum's event with schools

Meanwhile, lots of museums geared up to participate on World Postcard Day! Some showcased the postcards on their collections collections on social media, others helped spread the word, a few organized workshops or school actions. With the help of the Singapore Philatelic Museum, students in 40 primary schools throughout the country wrote messages of love and appreciation on postcards, to their friends, family and healthcare professionals. For many, this was the first time writing postcards!

World Postcard Day events in Croatian schools

Meanwhile in Croatia, Hrvatska Pošta helped 17,000 students in 500 primary schools throughout the country learn more about mail and postcards with the help of an educational video featuring their mascot, Marko Markica. The students were offered postcards, which they wrote during the class.

Lithuanian World Postcard Day events

And still on the topic of schools, we lost count of the number of times the lesson plan was downloaded! Postcrosser Dovilė (aka VaDovi) challenged her former primary school teacher to participate in the event, which she promptly accepted. They used the lesson plan, postcards were printed, more classes joined and when the day came, 150 students at the Mažeikių Kalnėnų Progimnazija participated in the event, learning about mail, how and what to write on a postcard, where to stick the stamps, etc. Hurray!

The Postcardist logo

Frank Roche (aka Postcardist) put together a special episode of his Postcardist podcast, where we hear about people’s plans for World Postcard Day all around the world. A few postcrossers chimed in to share their plans, and we especially enjoyed hearing about BonnieJeanne’s (aka postmuse) plans to make ravioli for dinner, because they’re often shaped like postage stamps — what a neat idea to celebrate a postal-themed day!

And last but not least, some of you have already started to receive your World Postcard Day badges on your profiles, as the postcards you sent on October 1st slowly arrive to their destinations. A grand total of 45453 postcards were sent on Postcrossing that day — one of the best days ever in the project!

By the time October 1st came to an end, we were overwhelmed with joy and gratitude for all the enthusiasm with which the Postcrossing community embraced the launch of the World Postcard Day. Thank you for spreading the word, sending postcards and helping put this day on the calendar! 💙 It was such a lovely highlight in this gloomy year.

We’re already buzzing with ideas for 2021… but we would love to hear your thoughts too! Got any cool suggestions or plans for next year’s World Postcard Day? Let us know in the comments!

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Hurraaaaaay! 🥳 The World Postcard Day is here at last!

What started as a small idea last year, slowly grew into a real worldwide campaign that connects not just postcrossers but everyone that is happy to find a postcard in their mailbox at the end of the day… which is basically everyone we know! The humble postcard celebrates its 151st anniversary today, and so this is the perfect date to throw a party in honor of our favorite means of communication.

A bunch of World Postcard Day themed postcards, next to stamps and a pen

So many of you have enthusiastically welcomed the idea of a World Postcard Day, and it’s been a joy to see it come to life. The #worldpostcardday hashtag on Instagram is brimming with pictures of all the lovely postcards and activities you’ve put together. Lots of you have printed Leandro’s postcard which we’ve made available last month. Teachers everywhere have been downloading the lesson plan which is now available in several languages thanks to helpful postcrossers. Who knows how many children will write their first postcard today!

Even on this atypical year filled with lockdowns and social distancing, a few postal services, museums and libraries joined the initiative issuing special postcards and cancellation marks, showcasing postcards online, or finding ways to safely involve local communities in the festivities — you can find more details about them on the Events page. Some of these events take place online, so do check them out!

Whichever way you choose to celebrate the day, make sure to send a few postcards and brighten someone’s day. We wish you all a very happy World Postcard Day — the first of many to come! 🎉

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Smithsonian National Postal Museum Streetview

Have you ever been to a Postal Museum? If not, well, there’s never been a better time to start — if only from your own home!

We’ve been looking into Google Arts & Culture, and we’ve discovered that you can use it to visit places like the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, in Washington DC, and then hop straight over to the UK’s Postal Museum in London, no air travel needed!

It’s not just that you can walk around these museums via Google’s Streetview, although that’s kind of cool as well. Depending on the museum, there are also “Stories” and collections, showcasing some of the museum’s exhibitions and holdings. For example, the Museum for Communication Frankfurt has an exhibition on the birth of express mail! Check out the sealed watch which the mail-carriers had to take with them, to prove they were delivering the mail on time:

Sealed watch
Pocket watch used on the mail coach service, with lockable case, Museumsstiftung Post und Telekommunikation

In a similar vein to our previous post about the lost letters of the Brienne archive, we found an online exhibition from the Postal Museum in London on 717 letters found aboard a sunken ship, the Gairsoppa! They’ve recovered 19 bundles of undelivered letters from the ship including old Christmas cards! Wonder if there were any postcards on board…

Gairsoppachristmas
Christmas card from the Gairsoppa, The Postal Museum

If you’re interested in stamps, there’s always the Smithsonian’s Women on Stamps exhibitions, or Amelia Earhart’s stamp collection… Or how about a collection of love letters from the Mexican Archivo General de la Nación?

And of course, they have all kinds of other museums — art museums, exhibitions on Mayan graffiti, natural history collections… I think I have to say the Gairsoppa story is my favourite, so far.

Have a look, and if you find other interesting virtual exhibitions that we should check out, let us know in the comments below! 😊

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This week, we decided to highlight a lovely online exhibition we heard about from postcrosser OrangeSunshine. In 1926, the Dutch Postal Museum in the Hague received a fascinating donation: a trunk of around 2,600 letters from the seventeenth century, some of them still unopened to this day… This obviously got our attention, so we had to take a look!

The piggybank of letters
The Brienne trunk, Sound and Vision, The Hague (CC BY-NC 4.0)

It seems that the trunk was originally owned by the postmaster and postmistress of the Hague at the time, Simon de Brienne and his wife, Marie Germain. Inside of it were all the letters that the post office could not deliver, either because of indecipherable or non-specific addresses, deceased recipients or people that moved… or because the recipient did not want to pay to receive the letter, as was the rule at the time. The chest was called the “piggybank” (spaarpotje), because they hoped to collect the money eventually if the letters were delivered one day!

An undelivered letter
DB-0259, Sound and Vision, The Hague (CC BY-NC 4.0)

The archive has recently been rediscovered and pored over by experts of all kinds, who have been hard at work preserving and digitising the collection, and you can see some of the fruits of their labor in the virtual exhibition!

A folded letter
Opened Letter, DB-2146, Sound and Vision, The Hague (CC BY-NC 4.0)

One of my favourite aspects was learning about letterlocking (discussed more in room 4 of the exhibition). These intricately folded letters were intended to preserve the privacy of the letter-writers against the so-called “Black Chambers”. These where secret workers within the post office who would open, copy and reseal letters in order to spy upon the contents for the government! Other people used codes to write their private letters, making their contents unintelligible if you didn’t know the trick to deciphering them. You’d have to be careful to make sure that the coded nature of the letter wasn’t too obvious, or that would only draw suspicion…

We definitely recommend you take a look at the whole exhibition if you’re interested in this little piece of history. There’s tons of information there about who wrote letters and what they wrote about, and the materials and writing implements they used to do it, providing a fascinating glimpse into another era. If you check out the exhibition, we’d love to hear about what you think! What’s the most interesting thing in the collection from your point of view?

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This year is filled with historical anniversaries it seems, and today is both the 145th anniversary of the Universal Postal Union, and the 50th World Post Day. Unbeknownst to us, while we were busy setting up the big exhibition, the Little Mail Carriers decided to wander the halls of UPU and see what they could find… Here they are to tell you about their adventure!

The Little Mail Carriers at the UPU

Hi everyone! We hitched a ride and snuck out while Paulo and Ana were distracted. 😇 Want to tour the UPU headquarters with us? Come along!

So, first things first, the UPU is composed of 4 bodies: the Congress, the Council of Administration, the Postal Operations Council and the International Bureau (IB), which is where we are and also where 250 or so people from 50 different countries work. They’re all busy connecting the world’s post offices, working on their development in different areas or monitoring the quality of mail service worldwide. In a way, being inside the UPU is like being inside a “big machine” that makes mail work… just with more offices, and less levers and cogwheels.

UPU conference center UPU conference center

Policies are made mostly by people talking to each other and finding compromises and common strategies to solve problems, and the conference center is one of the places where those important conversations happen. It’s a huge room, where delegates from each country sit down to hear each other and debate. We hopped on to the podium to address the crowd… but they had all left already.

UPU conference center UPU conference center

There is an upper level balcony on the sides of the room, where observers and translators sit. French, English, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, and Spanish are the official languages of the UPU, though sometimes simultaneous interpretation is other languages is also provided. The meeting attendants just need to tune in on the channel to hear speeches and discussions in their preferred language. And when it’s time for a coffee break, someone rings this bell!

Sustainable Development Goals

Speaking of languages, here’s something cool: the stairs between floors feature the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, translated in different languages. If you’ve never heard of the SDGs before, these are a group of 17 resolutions adopted by all UN members in 2015 as a universal call to action to “end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030”. All UN countries and partnering institutions keep these in mind, so that they can work together towards the same goals.

Chinese Tapestry at UPU

One thing that surprised us was how much art was their headquarters had on display. On all floors, there was barely a wall that didn’t feature something stunning, like this huge tapestry gifted by China in 1974 on the occasion of the UPU’s centenary. Every country wants to contribute with something and after 145 years, you can imagine just how much beauty there is all around.

Tunisian Tile Mural at UPU

We were particularly impressed by this modernist mural by Tunisian artist Abdelaziz Gorgi, on display in the building’s cafeteria. It shows two musicians floating in a boat in a fantastical garden, surrounded by flying and swimming creatures… It’s so beautiful!

Postal vehicles collection at UPU Postal vehicles collection at UPU

There was also this collection of miniature postal vehicles, on loan from a retired UPU employee… we wish we could ride on all these cars and trucks. What a cool idea for a postal collection!

UPU offices UPU mail room

But it’s not all art and fun — a lot of work goes on in this building! This is the office of Mrs. Olfa Mokaddem, manager of the UPU philately and IRC programs. She let us take a peek inside and also showed us the mail room, where everyone that works here can receive their mail.

UPU library The UPU Library

They also have a huge library here, with a beautiful detail: the bricks that cover the walls feature these colorful crystal structures, like little geodes. They were a gift from Japan.

The Little Mail Carriers at the UPU

Before we left, there was still time to marvel at the view of the Alps from the rooftop, and say hello to Mr. Bishar Hussein, the current UPU director-general. He wanted us to let everyone know about the role of the posts not just in delivering mail, but also in delivering development and progress. Every year on World Post Day, he shares his thoughts about the evolving role of the post, and this year’s message can be found here.

On our way back to the backpack, we stumbled on a framed excerpt of the Treaty of Bern — the treaty that officially launched the UPU, signed on this day 145 years ago.

The Treaty of Bern

We felt a bit emotional looking at these two sheets of paper. This is where it all started: with an ambitious idea and these 22 signatures. Since then, the world has evolved and changed, and 192 countries are now part of this global network of postal cooperations, that continues to adapt, grow and connect us all.

Congratulations UPU, and happy World Post Day everyone!

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