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This is one of those posts in which we’re jealous of the Little Mail Carriers, because they’re doing all the cool things in our bucket list… 🙄

Some time ago, Cathy (aka beesknees) offered to take them on a visit to the Space Center in Houston, and who could refuse an invitation like that?! The little ones couldn’t get on a padded envelope fast enough in their eagerness to get to Texas! I’m sure you’re just as curious as we were to know about their trip, so here they are to tell us about that adventure.

Hello from Houston… or as they say it around here, howdy! 👋 We’re super excited for today’s visit, and to show you all the rockets and cool things happening here at the Space Center.

Looking up at the Space Center Houston building, where the NASA logo and an illustration of an astronaut are shown

But first, a bit of explaining. The Space Center Houston is the visiting center of the NASA Johnson Space Center (or JSC for short), where human spaceflight training, research, and flight control are conducted. The JSC was built in 1961, and named after the late US president and Texas native, Lyndon B. Johnson, and has been running for over six decades now. When Neil Armstrong said “Houston, the eagle has landed” in 1969, or when Apollo 13 astronauts famously said "Houston, we have a problem" — this is the Houston they were referring to!

So the Space Center is a bit like a museum to showcase all the history and cool stuff that happened (and is still happening!) at the JSC, and we’re eager to explore everything. Even before you enter the building, there’s neat things to see!

Space Shuttle Independence on top of Shuttle Carrier Aircraft 905

Check out this amazing replica of Space Shuttle Independence, sitting on top of the original Shuttle Carrier Aircraft 905! Because shuttles don’t land in the same place where they take off from, carriers are needed to bring them back. Carriers start out as normal Boeing 747 planes, but they are modified to transport shuttles on top of them. A plane carrying a plane on its back! 🤯

Several types of space shuttles and rockets

Around the appropriately named “Rocket Park”, you can also see other rockets, like the Mercury-Redstone Launch Vehicle, Little Joe II

Saturn V launch vehicle is a huge contraption shaped like a cylinder with a pointy end, and engines on the back.

… or Saturn V, a “super heavy-lift launch vehicle” (aka the big part that spews fire and sends things into orbit)! It’s hard to convey how massive this thing is. In fact, it is the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rocket used to send humans into space and was regularly used during the Apollo moon program. It has three parts (or stages) that separate at different times, and although the bits here at the Space Center did not make it into space, they were definitely ready to!

More pictures of Saturn V's huge exhausts, and a sign that states the different parts of the launcher were ready to be used in space

Right, it’s time to go see the exhibitions, learn about the different space missions and meet some astronauts inside.

Paper cutouts of astronauts Shannon Walker from the USA, and Soichi Noguchi from Japan, with the Little Mail Carriers on their back.

Here are astronauts Shannon Walker from the USA, and Soichi Noguchi from Japan. They have both been in several missions to space, using different kinds of spacecrafts — including the Dragon 2 capsule for the SpaceX Crew-1 mission. Mr. Noguchi retired this year and is now the honorary director of the CupNoodles Museum. Honestly, we’re a bit jealous of him because how seriously cool is that for a career pivot!

A display with a space suit inside, and another display showing the inside of a command module. The command module interior is cramped, and three astronauts are floating around it

One thing you can explore in the museum are the high-tech spacesuits that several astronauts wore on their missions, and how these have changed over the years. And you can also check out the inside of a command module, which is the control center and living quarters for most of the lunar missions. It looks quite tight for the humans in there, but I think it would be plenty of space for us.

Displays in the Mars exhibit, feature Mars rovers and a huge rock, atop of which the Little Mail Carriers are sitting.

We were especially intrigued by the red planet and the missions that made it there! Feeling the textures of a real Mars rock on our feet was a unique experience. Do you think humans will make it to Mars soon? We hope so… then perhaps we can slip into someone’s pocket, and have an adventure in space!

A view from above towards the Mission Control room. Several desks can be seen, each displaying multiple computers. On the background wall, maps and computer displays are being projected, with data from current space missions.

Because the museum is right in the Johnson Space Center, you can see actual space things happening there — like astronauts training in simulators, or the real Mission Control room monitoring astronauts in the International Space Station. Just… wow!

A picture of Sally Ride wearing her blue NASA uniform, and on the right, a picture of the Little Mail Carriers next to an open mini-notebook which is their passport. They are surrounded by postcards and souvenirs from the museum.

Before leaving, there was still time to salute Sally Ride, the first American woman in space. USPS has issued a stamp in her honor, and we used it to stamp our little passport. We also added a pressed penny from the Space Center, and browsed the postcards on the gift shop on our way out.

The Little Mail Carriers are shown among postcards from the museum shop

And so our visit has come to its end, and we’re a little sad to go… There’s so much to see and learn here at the Space Center in Houston, and we really hope y’all will be able to visit someday!

Our huge thank you to Cathy for taking the little guys on this grand adventure! I wonder where they will end up next… 🤔

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Did you know that there is such a thing as a Pony Express Museum? The Little Mail Carriers heard about it and wouldn’t stop badgering us to go… so when Duane (aka DuaneThePhilatelist) offered to take them for a visit, they jumped on an envelope and off they went. Here they are, to tell you all the story of that adventure.

Pony Express cancellation mark

Hello from a sunny St. Joseph, Missouri! We’re super excited to be taking a special tour of the Pony Express Museum today, and hopefully will learn a lot about this unique way mail was delivered back in 1860. The museum is actually inside a part of the Pike’s Peak Stables, from which westbound Pony Express riders set out on their journey — how cool!

The Pony Express was a short-lived mail service that delivered newspapers, letters, telegrams as well as government and commercial mail using riders on horses across the United States, between St. Joseph in Missouri and Sacramento in California. Here is a superb map of their route, which you can see in great detail on Wikipedia:

Pony Express Map William Henry Jackson

Why was there a need for this service though? Well, back in 1848, gold was found in California, and a lot of people rushed there in search of the opportunities it brought. California was a new state at the time, and its population was growing fast, so there was a lot of demand to connect the west coast with the rest of the country.

At the time, the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company ran a stagecoach service between Kansas and Missouri, and they thought that starting an express service could perhaps earn them a more lucrative contract with the United States government. So the Pony Express was launched on April 3, 1860, when two riders left from the opposite ends of the route, and completed their journeys of 1800 miles (or 2896 kms) in 10 days — an amazing feat that many thought would not be possible!

First Pony Express ride

The Pony Express recruitment announcements were infamous for asking for young, skinny men, and stating that orphans were preferred. Although the payment was high for the time, the journey through the country was perilous, as there were often ambushes and raids. Some riders were killed and many horses stolen or driven off in the Pauite War with the Pauite Indian tribe, whose territory the route crossed. The Pony Express was forced to temporarily suspend its services due to the conflict, and some mail was lost.

Recruitment ad from Pony Express

Because this was an express service and the journey had to be super fast, riders could not carry a lot of mail with them. To make changing horses quick at relay stations, a special saddle cover (called a mochila) was crafted, which had four mail pouches (or cantinas) on each corner. Mail had to fit in these small pouches, so that the riders could be quick!

Cantinas and mochila

One of the most famous Pony Express riders was William Cody… aka Buffalo Bill! He began working for the Pony Express at age 15 and is said to have completed the longest ride, covering 322 miles (518 km) in 21 hours and 40 minutes, using 21 horses. His adventures were immortalised (and are said to have been greatly exaggerated) in a novel that launched him into the spotlight. Many more books and movies were made about his adventures, in which he often wore a “cowboy” hat.

Buffalo Bill's hat

Mail carried by the Pony Express riders had its own cancellation mark, and in the museum you get the opportunity to sort the mail yourself. Postal work is hard, and we were exhausted…

Sorting the mail of the Pony Express

The Pony Express never managed to secure that government contract their founders had hoped for, and became bankrupt after 18 months, closing on October 26, 1861 — just 2 days after the first transcontinental telegraph started its operations. Despite having run for only a short period of time, the service is immortalised in the tales of the American West, and the original route is even a national historical trail that crosses 8 states.

Pony Express centennial stamp

And that’s it for our wonderful visit to the Pony Express Museum — we are off to explore a bit more, and hope you all have the opportunity to visit someday!

Pony Express sign

And a big thank you to Duane, for hosting the Little Mail Carriers and showing them around the museum! 😀 Who knows where the little ones are off to next… keep an eye on the blog for their future adventures!

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We have a super special treat for you today! The Little Mail Carriers have visited the Postal History Foundation in Arizona (USA), and are here to show the important work they do there, bringing stamps (and excitement!) to classrooms. Let’s go!

The Postal History Foundation (PHF for short) is located just west of the University of Arizona, in a residential neighborhood in central Tucson. It’s a non-profit organization with a dual mission of research and education: they provide stamps and lessons to students across the country and the world! We were excited to hear about this cool initiative… so we invited ourselves over for a visit. 😊

The Little Mail Carriers visit the Postal History Foundation

The building was a church many decades ago but now holds a workroom, a contract US Postal Service station, a museum area, the philatelic sales area, and the education department… as well as millions of postage stamps! We were going to deliver some mail to the postmaster, but were immediately distracted by the beautiful old post office in their museum section of the building, which is located just straight ahead across the lobby.

The Old Naco Post Office

This old post office is from the town of Naco, Arizona, which is on the southern border of Arizona and Mexico. It was originally ordered as a kit and set up in a building in Naco in the 1890s. All the wood, glass, and metal parts are the original ones! Normally, the Old Naco Post Office is very popular during tours and also with the students in their field trips, but sadly these are suspended because of the pandemic.

Inside the Old Naco Post Office Inside the Old Naco Post Office

We got to see their old hand cancelling machines, self-serve stamp dispensers and even an old letter sorting box (the wooden structure that looks like a grid) from the town of Casa Grande. Above in the mail sorting box are some scales for weighing mail. Below you can see a collection of hand stamps from around the state, such as “Special Delivery” or “Return to Sender.”

Special rubber stamps and cancellation marks

After looking at all of the cool machines in the Old Naco Post Office we decided to go to the current USPS contract station, which is in a little room off of the lobby. When going into the post office, we walked past more post office boxes from Naco that were preserved for viewing in the lobby. Here, you’ll also find a vintage pedestal USPS postal box — we put a donation in there to help with the kids educational program. We delivered our mail and looked at all the current US stamps for sale. The colorful stamps at our feet are the new Lunar New Year stamps. Did you know that 2021 is the year of the ox?

Post office and stamps at the PHF Stamp Discovery program

The kids program at the PHF is called Stamp Discovery. Every year it supports over 13,000 students and teachers across the United States and other countries with stamps, and lessons using stamps. Of course, this year has been a little different because of the pandemic, but it was still interesting to see the variety of lessons that teachers and parents can order for their students. In the education file room, they are stacked on top of the files, in shelves at the left and the right of us. These boxes contain lessons and stamp packets for students. If a teacher orders a lesson, for example, “Three Branches of US Government”, the teacher receives a worksheet that they can copy for their students, and stamp packets for each student to use with the lesson.

Lesson plans and stamp cabinets

Above you can see the filing cabinets that line the room and continue into another room. They contain US stamps filed by Scott number and also foreign stamps sorted by topics. If a child wants “dogs” to add to their stamp collection, they can write a letter or fill out the order form online, and the people who work and/or volunteer here will send her/him some dogs on stamps. The volunteers who work here are super heroes — they are what enables the education program to function and support so many children and teachers! During a normal year, students would visit the museum for field trips and the director of Stamp Discovery would visit classrooms in the city and suburbs of Tucson. Several of the libraries in Tucson have stamp treasure chests, which inspire kids that visit the library to learn about stamps and the topics on them by checking out books connected with stamp topics.

We walked into the big room off of the lobby and saw all the desks where the sorting and processing of donations happen. The PHF receives philatelic donations almost daily in the mail or by people who drop them off. Volunteers sort through and distribute stamps to the education department for the kids and some of the higher value stamps are put in the sales department for collectors to buy.

Owney the mail dog!

Proceeds from the sale of stamps in our philatelic sales department are used to pay for the running of the facility and the education program. Stamps, postcards, and collectible covers are sold there. People donate to PHF because it is a non-profit that inspires kids to learn with stamps and start a collection, thus growing the hobby of stamp collecting, called philately.

Also, we were allowed to go into a display case and visit Owney the famous Mail Dog in US history. There are special pictures, statues, and covers about Owney in the case. It is near the Old Naco Post office so that when the kids tour the old post office they can say hello to Owney, the stuffed dog, and learn about his history from the 1890s. Many books have been written about Owney and the education program has lessons about him. His books are also in the library, which is our next stop!

Sales department at the PHF

After talking to volunteers and looking at the processing room, we went out the side door to the patio. The PHF also includes a second building which is the Slusser Memorial Library. This is a modern building dedicated to Peggy Slusser, a lady who lived and worked in Tucson. This building contains a basement full of archives, a reading room, and the stacks of books. Behind the doors to the right are over 30,000 books and journals about philatelic history and the US Civil War. This library is used by researchers, collectors, authors, and of course, school children during field trips. On the walls of the library are paintings commissioned for the library about western adventures in postal history and an exhibit case. You can learn more about the library exhibits and paintings on the museum section of their website.

Slusser Memorial Library

Well, our visit has come to an end. We were amazed at all of the stamps, donations, and the children’s program. The Old Naco PO is a little unique gem of postal history and the library is first class. Exploring around the world is fun, and if you can’t physically travel, you can explore the world through stamp collecting. We’re glad the Postal History Foundation is around to help children everywhere do just that!

Goodbye, Postal History Foundation!

Our huge thank you to Lisa Dembowski, PHF’s Director of Education who graciously took the time to show the Little Mail Carriers around. That was a really cool trip, and we can’t wait to see where they’ll go next!

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Jim Lynch (aka jlynch9923) is a big fan of all things Postcrossing, and has even been featured on The Postcardist podcast (in episodes 60 and 92), sharing his enthusiasm for postcards with people all over the world! So we asked him if he’d be interested in doing one of our spotlight interviews too. :) Without further ado, it’s over to Jim!

How did you come across Postcrossing? What got you hooked?

I learned about Postcrossing from other friends in a postcard exchange that I belong to. I had heard of it before that but I never looked into it. Sending and receiving postcards from people from all over the world is what got me hooked.

Do you have any other interesting hobbies?

I love stickers. So I have a lot of stickers and I decorate my Postcrossing postcards with some stickers on the message side. I have also started making what I call “sticker postcards”: I take a food packaging postcard and I fully decorate the front of it with assorted stickers. All I need is a food package, my stickers and my creativity. These are so much fun to make and people seem to love them.

Have you been surprised by any place that you have received a postcard from or sent a postcard to?

Yes. The first postcard from a country that I had never heard of was the Åland Islands. I recently got to send a postcard to Malta. I always love to add another country to my list. I am at 61 countries right now.

Show us your mailbox, your mailman/mailwoman, your post office or the place where you post or keep your postcards!

My mailman knows I am the postcard guy but I don’t feel comfortable asking to take his picture…

Jim's mailbox
Jim’s mailbox
What’s one way that postcards have changed your life for the better?

Postcards help me keep a positive outlook on life. I love to send and receive postcards. I get to send people joy in the form of a postcard and people do the same for me from all over the world. I have a lot of postcard friends in Postcrossing and out so I am blessed to receive a lot of Happy mail. I am involved in the postcard communities on Instagram and Facebook. Postcard people are the best.

Have you met any other members in real life?

I have met other postcrossers. The first time I found a local meetup only the host and myself signed up. We were going to meet at a postcard show. The host had to cancel but I still went to the postcard show. I had a great time and bought a lot of postcards. In 2019 I got to go to a real meetup with about 25 other postcrossers. The host sonataca was super organized. She hosted in one place on Saturday and a second location on Sunday. There was a meetup card and she had raffle prizes. It was held at a restaurant both days. It was such a joy finally meet other postcrossers, share stories and talk about our hobby. During the pandemic we keep in contact with each other through our groups FB page and we continue to send each other postcards. We hope to meet up again soon.

Have you inspired anyone else to join Postcrossing or start collections of their own?

I got to be a guest on The Postcardist podcast twice. After my first episode I told everyone in the postcard exchange that I am in, and many of them listened to it. Some of them were already postcrossers but one member Bill had never heard of Postcrossing. He is now a member and enjoys getting and sending postcards all over the world. The Postcardist podcast has a good sized audience so I hope I have inspired others to investigate Postcrossing.

Show and tell us about your favorite received postcard to date, and what makes it special.

So many people have taken the time to read my profile and send me postcards from my favorites list. I don’t have just one favorite. I especially love the sunset postcards and the black and white postcards that I have received.

Sunset postcards
Some of Jim’s favourite sunset postcards
Black and white postcards
Black and white postcards Jim loves
Is there anything that you are passionate about?

I am passionate about photography, traveling and graffiti. My wife and I try to take at least one great trip every year. Because of Covid that did not happen last year, but we look forward to traveling again. There are so many amazing things to see in this world. One thing I have started doing during Covid was I started making postcards from my own photography. My main concentration has been graffiti. Graffiti Art is colorful and amazing. Plus it can be found in cities all over the world. I have my postcards professionally made by a company called moo.com. So far I just send them to my friends and other postcrossers.

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In October last year, Ethan (aka Ebot) took part in a Postcrossing meeting in his hometown of Tampa, Florida, his first time attending one. The postcrossers there were charmed by this young postcrossers’s curiosity about the world, geography and stamps, and his enthusiasm for postcards! They suggested we interviewed him on the blog, so here he is, to tell us all about his favorite postcard, and the green initiative that he started together with his brother some years ago!

How did you come across Postcrossing? What got you hooked?

I came across Postcrossing as I was searching for pen pals a few years ago. After I looked into it a bit, I was instantly hooked because the thought of sending and receiving postcards from all over the world blew my mind!

Do you have any other interesting hobbies?

My favorite hobby is playing drums. I’ve been doing it for about 6 years and recently got my own electric drum set which I practice on almost every day!

Ethan's drumset
Ebot’s new drumset
Show us your mailbox, your mailman/mailwoman, your post office or the place where you post or keep your postcards!

I store most of the postcards I’ve received in special cardboard boxes I created myself out of shipping boxes.

Ethan's postcard storage box, made of a repurposed USPS box
Repurposed USPS box
Show and tell us about your favorite received postcard to date, and what makes it special.

My favorite postcard I’ve received during my time on Postcrossing is a card from a postal museum in Hungary. The front of the card is amazing with all the vintage postal contraptions and there is a spectacular moon landing themed stamp on the back!

Hungarian postcard, featuring postal objects
Hungarian postal-themed postcard
Hungarian lunar landing stamp
Moon landing stamp
Have you been surprised by any place that you have received a postcard from or sent a postcard to?

I was surprised to get an amazing card from Kazakhstan after 63 days!

Multi-view postcard from Kazakhstan, featuring monuments
Postcard KZ-46593, from Kazakhstan
Have you met any other members in real life?

Yes! I’ve been able to go to two Postcrossing meetup events in my area. One was in October 2019, and the other in January 2020. Both of the events were very fun and I even designed a meetup card for one of them!

Is there anything that you are passionate about?

My brother and I started our environmental organization called “Green Gasparilla”, about 5 years ago. The Gasparilla Parade occurs every January in Tampa. It is a mock pirate evasion where one main pirate ship and a few thousand other boats pass through the channel throwing cheap plastic strands of beads over the water to people on shore. As you can imagine, not everyone has perfect aim and over 50% of the beads land in the water and sink to the bottom. The goal of our organization is to combat this very harmful pollution, by stopping it and holding diver cleanups.

In the past few years, we have held 3 diver cleanup events with over 30 divers each time. Also, within the past year we have been able to work with the mayor of Tampa to create a campaign called “Bead Free Bay” to educate citizens of Tampa on the proper way to safely celebrate the parade without throwing beads over the water. We even created a PSA video that was posted all over the city’s social media.

Our work is definitely not done, but we have made lots of progress. I hope that this inspires people to speak up and do something if our ecosystem is being exploited in their community.

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