Saturday, October 25, 2014

Postcards From Washington D.C. - The National Postal Museum

Entrance to the National Postal Museum
You don't hear of many folks talking about their visit to the National Postal Museum Washington D.C.  Most tourists visit the Air and Space Museum, or the Museum of Natural History.  However, after reading about another blogger's adventure visiting this free Smithsonian museum, we knew it needed to be on our itinerary.

This is a HUGE place, filled with numerous floors and many galleries of interesting stuff.  What a collection!  Everything to do with mail is in here - from the very first stamp issued EVER, to famous and notorious things that have gone through the mail, to the current modes and methods of sorting and moving mail.

I'm not a stamp collector, yet I found so, so many things of interest in this place.  I could've spent days in here looking at everything there was to see.  This museum is a highly under-advertised gem in the area.  A warning to readers:  I was enjoying myself so much I went a little overboard with my camera.

After an airline-type-security check of our bags and our bodies, we were permitted to enter the museum.  It was almost a sensory overload as soon as we crossed into the lobby.  Humongous pictures of stamps from all over were hanging from the ceilings.  We were in the "World of Stamps" gallery.

Next, in the "Stamps Around the Globe" room, we learned that Great Britain issued the very first stamp, on May 1, 1840.

Certainly, any stamp collector would love to add this stamp to his collection:

Continuing through the exhibits on this floor, we entered the "Mail Marks History" area.  All kinds of famous mail and mail wrappings were displayed in unique ways.  Some pieces were in drawers we could pull out of old looking trunks or suitcases.

One display contained the actual packaging from the mailing of the Hope Diamond.  Can you imagine sending that thing through the mail system?  How would you answer the clerk at the post office when you are asked if you need insurance on your package?

I was fascinated by this piece of mail, which had actually been carried by horseback in a mail pouch on a portion of the pony express.

In the next gallery, "Connect With U.S. Stamps" computers were available with software allowing us to design our own stamps.  Bob and I both took a turn.

After designing our stamps, we were able to send them to our email inbox, where we could print them out, if desired.  We just enjoyed looking at our silly old selves on stamps.

Next we headed into the "National Stamp Salon" where the National Stamp Collection is housed.  This small poster described the amazing collection we were about to see.  Of course, there were security guards all around the area.

So many drawers full of oodles of stamps.  It was hard to believe that there have been so many different stamps in the years since that very first stamp was issued in 1840.

We tried to look in the drawers and find some of the very oldest and most coveted stamps.  Here are some:

As we left this floor of the museum and headed towards the lower level, we passed this colorful collection of old mailboxes.

Before descending to the lower level, we had this balcony view of the "Mail in America" gallery.  This museum just gets better and better!

In the "Moving the Mail" display area, we saw all sorts of old and new conveyances for getting mail to its destination, including some of the earliest mail drop planes.

There were mail delivery vans, old and new.

We sat inside a railroad mail car and watched an interesting and informative video on how railway postal workers sorted mail, organized, and delivered it in cars just like this one.

Stage coaches often had a sack of mail onboard to be taken along with passengers to the next station.

An area was devoted to the Pony Express era of mail delivery, with an interesting walk thru scene, "Mail Call," that recreated a mail delivery into a remote wooded area.  Apparently the riders would use a system of notching or marking trees along their way into these areas so that they would have some sure way of finding their trail back out to the main route.

Relative to mail delivery in the modern era, the cab of a large tractor trailer mail truck was open for visitors to explore.  I cannot deny that I've always wanted to have an opportunity to sit up in the front of one of those massive trucks barreling down the highway.

With all those display panels and knobs and gadgets, I felt like I could be in the cockpit of a jumbo jet.  As you can see, the husband/lover/driver is having way too much fun.

Finally, on our way out, we passed the actual stuffed remains of Owney the Dog, the mascot of the railway mail service for many years, and this collection of international mail boxes.

I thoroughly enjoyed this museum, and if our stomachs hadn't been growling from the many hours that had passed since our breakfasts, we probably would have spent more time in there.  If you're ever in the area, go see this museum.

Next:  Union Station
           Archives of the United States of America
           The Sculpture Garden of the National Gallery of Art


  1. I always loved to go to museums but haven't been to one or a lot of years. I must remedy that.

  2. Good tour:) Another museum I failed to visit while working in DC for three years:(

  3. Hi Jill...

    Glad you enjoyed visiting the National Postal Museum! Thanks for telling such a great story about your visit. By the way, the stuffed Owney the Dog that you saw on exhibit is not a replica, rather the real Owney!


    Marty Emery
    Public Relations Manger
    Smithsonian's National Postal Museum