April 7, 2017 § 2 Comments
Several years ago, in preparation for a Type-In and Letter-Writing Social, I put together a sheet of postal rates to help participants figure out how much postage they would need. I posted it here, too, and recently that old post got a comment requesting an updated sheet.
Motivated by kind words and the opportunity to be helpful, I have indeed put together a new sheet. Please feel free to download and add it to your letter-writing toolkit!
January 26, 2013 § 14 Comments
One of the fun little takeaways that I made for December’s Letter Writing Social was a postal rate sheet. I figured that people who aren’t currently avid letter writers might like a handy reference to help sort out the mysteries of proper postage. Since we were making envelopes that weren’t standard sizes, it was especially helpful to have a quick guide to double-check how much postage a particular mailpiece was going to need.
To my delight, the Letter Writers Alliance later featured a photo of my rate sheet as one of their Letter Writing Days of December posts. I got some lovely feedback, which encouraged me to follow through and create a revised version to reflect the 2013 rate changes.
And now–ta-da!–just in time for the changes that go into effect tomorrow, here it is!
I enjoy writing things out by hand and I do a fair amount of computer-based design layout for posters and brochures at work, but the combination of creating by hand and designing a layout placed me outside of the realm where things come easily. I’m so accustomed to (and spoiled by) being able to tweak, align, re-size, and move elements on a whim. This project required making rough drafts and marshaling my spacial reasoning skills. In short, it was an excellent challenge for my brain. I am pleased with the end result since this is only the second time that I’ve attempted designing something along these lines, but my eraser definitely got a good workout along the way!
If you are so inclined–and I do hope you are–you are welcome to download a copy.
September 22, 2012 § 2 Comments
Yesterday I happened to be home for lunch when the mail arrived. There was a package for me, so the letter carrier–not the one who most often covers my route–brought the mail up to the front door. As he came up the walkway, he called out in a town crier sort of way, “Mailman! Mail call for the house!” I opened the door to find him grinning on my doorstep. “What did you think of that announcement?” he asked, beaming. “It was excellent,” I assured him. He handed me the mail and laughed, “I haven’t tried singing one yet, but maybe tomorrow.”
One can only hope!
May 3, 2012 § Leave a comment
You might not know this, but we’re in the middle of Choose Privacy Week, which is an initiative of the American Library Association.
The right to privacy is a big deal in the field of librarianship. Working in a public library, I spend a lot of time thinking about privacy issues––protecting users’ privacy, advocating for continued strong privacy practices, providing materials that will help users make informed choices about their privacy, etc. I also spend a lot of time considering both logical and unexpected ways in which things can be grouped together. This goes with the territory of librarianship, but it’s also something my brain does naturally. I thrive on finding points of connection. Thanks to these factors, my mind managed to work its way around to pondering the intersection of privacy and letter writing.
Based on my gut instinct, I quickly came to this conclusion: when the news is full of stories about how online privacy can only ever be semi-achieved and even that requires constant individual vigilance, it seems that the tried and true pen to paper, tucked inside an envelope, sealed, stamped, and sent is a hands-down winner for sharing your thoughts discretely.
Then, lo and behold, on the first day of Choose Privacy Week, I found myself at the National Postal Museum (check that off my list of Things to Do in 2012!) studying an exhibit panel entitled Freedom of Speech in the Mail.
It turns out that privacy was one of founding principles of the U.S. Postal System.
For anyone with a smidgen of knowledge about the American Colonial times, it will come as no surprise when I say that the original 13 colonies were under British rule. What you may not know, though, is that the colonial British Post Office was not run with an eye to the privacy of letter-writers. In fact, it was quite common for agents of the Crown to scrutinize the mail looking for hints of treason. The wrong words in a letter could result in a death sentence. Needless to say, this didn’t go over too well with the feisty revolutionary minds of the day, many of whom resorted to engaging private carriers in order to ensure that their personal correspondence and the latest newspapers were received. In 1774, William Goddard, a printer who had “formed a partnership with Benjamin Franklin to publish the Pennsylvania Chronicle, a paper sympathetic to the revolutionary cause” presented a petition to the Continental Congress (Pope, 2006). He was motivated by a local postmaster who took it upon himself to disrupt Goddard’s mail delivery and prevent him from receiving newspapers containing critical information. Goddard’s proposal made the case for founding a postal system that would be an alternative to the colonial British Post Office and would be based on the “principles of open communication, freedom from governmental interference, and the guaranteed free exchange of ideas” (Pope, 2006). Less than a year later, the Constitutional Post was up and running and the foundation of what would become the USPS was in place.
You may be thinking, “But that was centuries ago!”
True. However, the USPS hasn’t backed away from making privacy central to its operations. In the Ponemon Institute’s 2007 Privacy Trust Rankings of U.S. Government Agencies, the USPS, for the third year in a row, ranked #1 out of 74 agencies that collect information about individuals. 83% of respondents perceived the USPS as trustworthy when it came to safeguarding citizen’s privacy and personal information.
And so, in celebration of ALA’s excellent initiative and the USPS’s longstanding record on protecting your right to communicate freely and without interference, here’s my advice to you: Choose Privacy–Write a Letter
Sources for Info about USPS & Privacy Protection
American Society for Public Administration. (2007, March). 2007 Privacy Trust Rankings of U.S. Government Agencies announced. PA Times, 30(3). Retrieved April 29, 2012 from MasterFile Premier.
Hentoff, Nat. (n.d.) Case in point: Freedom of speech in the mail. National Postal Museum exhibit, Washington D.C. Visited May 1, 2012.
Pope, Nancy. (2006). Goddard’s petition to the Continental Congress [National Postal Museum online exhibit]. Retrieved May 3, 2012 from http://arago.si.edu/index.asp?con=2&cmd=1&id=76935&img=1&pg=1
February 27, 2012 § 1 Comment
For all of you who love getting mail and want to keep the USPS going strong, take a look at (and a listen to) what Postal Packin’ Mama has to say about the USPS’s current financial situation and the proposed fix that doesn’t include cutting jobs, facilities or delivery days.
Then get in touch with your congressional representatives and urge them to support H.R. 1351.
February 18, 2012 § 5 Comments
If you’ve ever looked at items that were mailed a generation ago, you’ve probably noticed that something is consistently absent. Here, take a look:
Do you see what’s missing? (hint: look at the end of the address)
The reason behind this omission is that the Zone Improvement Plan Code system hadn’t yet been invented. First proposed in 1944 by postal inspector Robert A. Moon, it took nearly twenty years for the idea of a national coding system to be adopted. Hoping to improve the efficiency of sorting and delivering mail, Mr. Moon submitted several additional proposals over the years. He is now recognized as the father of the first three ZIP code digits, which are used to divide the country into roughly 900 geographic areas. The 4th and 5th digits, proposed by postal employee H. Bentley Hahn, were added to more precisely pinpoint locations, allowing a piece of mail to be placed on the most efficient route to its final destination.
Improved efficiency and faster delivery were clearly winning ideas, but the USPS still faced the challenge of convincing a whole country of people to buy in to the notion and start tacking five digits on to the end of their addresses. And change, even positive change, can be difficult to enact. So how did they do it?
They introduced Mr. Zip!
Originally named “Mr. P.O. Zone,” he’d been rechristened (good decision!) by the time he made his first public appearance at a 1962 convention where he posed for photos with all the attendant postmasters. In the 9 months leading up to the official implementation of ZIP Codes, Mr. Zip popped up all sorts of places–buttons, letter satchel decals, the side of mail trucks, posters, TV ads, rubber stamps–touting the benefits of using ZIP Codes.
Although ZIP Code implementation got underway in 1963, citizens were given several years to acclimate before ZIP Codes became a hard and fast requirement for sending mail. During this time, all sorts of promotional materials were created to encourage acceptance and use. Give a listen to the ZIP Code Ballad and see if it doesn’t endear you to those five special digits! (More ZIP Code PSAs can be found here.)
By the 1970s, USPS mail was nearly 100% ZIP Code compliant. Mr. Zip, having achieved his objective with great success, began making fewer appearances. Although not often seen in official capacity these days, Mr. Zip has been spotted here and there recently. So keep an eye out for him! And remember:
Sources* for Info about the History of ZIP Codes:
Martin, D. (2001, April 14). Robert Moon, an inventor of the ZIP Code, dies at 83. New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/04/14/us/robert-moon-an-inventor-of-the-zip-code-dies-at-83.html
“What does ZIP Code stand for?” (2011, September). Journal of the Retired United Pilots Association, 14(9), p. 13. Retrieved from: https://www.rupa.org/uploads/RupaNews_09-11.pdf
* If you are intrigued and want to know more, I highly recommend checking out the National Postal Museum’s virtual exhibit. It has lots more information, as well as many examples of the promotional materials used to get the public excited about using ZIP Codes.
January 22, 2012 § 5 Comments
How do you feel about postcards? Are you in the “just for vacations” camp? Do you use them as a postal equivalent to texting? Or do you not give them much thought at all?
In the history of postal systems, postcards are a relatively new innovation. They came into being in the 1870s and quickly became popular as a way to keep in touch, acknowledge new acquaintances, and share travel stories. By the early 1900s, postcards had become big business in the United States; in 1905, postcards were reportedly mailed at a rate of over 2,000,000 per day! Curt Teich became the first person to make a fortune off of the production of postcards with a company that transcended all four eras of postcards: the Golden Age, the White Border Era, the Linen Era, and the Chrome Era. (What? Were you not up on the fact that the humble postcard’s history was divided into eras? You know, it was news to me, too!) At the height of production the Curt Teich Company employed over 1,000 workers to run the company’s 40 postcard presses. During WWI, patriotic-themed postcards were sent by those on the homefront to soldiers who, in return, sent home postcards depicting carefully constructed, staged, and sanitized snapshots of the war. The same era saw the rise of the scantily clad woman as a popular postcard motif (though these cards were less likely to actually be sent through the post). Over the 20th century, postcards continued to play a role in correspondence and the practice of deltiology, the collection and study of postcards, really took off. In addition to appealing to collectors, historic postcards provide a fascinating glimpse into the social history, trends, changing mores, and humor of bygone eras.
Although postcards are no longer being sent at the volume they were a century ago, they shouldn’t be ignored as a way to stay in touch, reach out, and even do some good in the world. If you want to move beyond the “Greetings from…” variety of postcards, try one of these projects!
7 Postcard Projects
- Orphaned Postcard Project. PostMuse is inviting people to adopt postcards from her international collection. She’ll send you the postcard you select, then you write her a note and post it back to her.
- Adopt Penguin Books Postcards. Emilie of Winnie’s Girl was inspired by PostMuse to run her own postcard adoption program. She is sending out postcards from a collection of 100 postcards featuring the covers of Penguin Books titles. Perfect for those of you who are avid readers!
- Pet Postcard Project. A postcard project to help feed homeless pets. You create a postcard and send it in. At the end of the current campaign the postcards are tallied and the sponsor donates to the chosen animal shelter. The more postcards received, the more food and other supplies for homeless pets!
- Postcrossing. Joining this community of international postcrossers is easy and once you send a postcard, you can look forward to receiving one. To date, 9,930,321 postcards have been received thanks to this project!
- Postsecret. Started as a community art project, Postsecret has grown into a global phenomenon. Share your secret anonymously via handmade postcard.
- dawdlr. “Dawdlr is a global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: what are you doing, you know, more generally?” Put your answer on a postcard and join the community.
- Monday Morning Postcards. Start a personal postcard project by following in the footsteps of Tara Austen Weaver, aka Tea, and committing to write at least one postcard a week.
If you’re in the U.S. and feeling inspired to send a postcard, remember that USPS rates have just gone up. Even with the 3¢ jump on postcard stamps, it’s still a bargain to be able to make someone’s day for 32¢ and a little bit of your time. For more info on the updated USPS rates, check out The Missive Maven’s post.
Sources* for Info about the History of Postcards:
Kelly, Megan. (2009, Nov). Curt Teich. Antiques & Collecting Magazine, 114(9), 20-25. Retrieved from MasterFile Premier.
McCulloch, Ian. (1998, Apr/May). The postcard war. Beaver, 78(2), 4. Retrieved from EBSCO History Reference Center.
Oren, A. (1944, July 29). Postcard parade. Saturday Evening Post, 217(5); 24-37. Retrieved from MasterFile Premier.
*How can I afford to access these resources? Like most public libraries, mine has a virtual collection that includes access to all sorts of premium resources…all available for the cost of a library card, which is FREE. Public libraries are fantastic!
December 28, 2011 § Leave a comment
Look what I found on my desk at work last week!
Baskets are a sweet way to present a gift, don’t you think?
A closer look at the contents:
write back soon is a letter-writing zine created by Phantom Limb. The neat brown paper envelope you see here was stuffed with nifty little letter-writing encouragements and ideas.
Address Unknown is a slim volume of fictional correspondence, which the introduction explains was inspired by a handful of real letters discovered by the author, Kressmann Taylor. I have not yet read it, but it’s in my book queue.
The quotations are lovely and they go several steps up in awesomeness when you know that they were letterpress printed by a talented Lady of Letterpress.
Christmas day added to the letter love, bringing me this fantastic set of notecards courtesy of the combined creativity of my sister and one of my nieces:
The woodland scene is a photograph taken by my sister and the others are all photographs (also taken by my sister) of artwork created by my niece. The photos are mounted on blank cards, producing greetings-waiting-to-be-sent.
I am particularly smitten with the alien family:
I like it so much I might have to use it to write a letter to myself. Tell me, wouldn’t you love to find a card like this in your mailbox?
I am looking forward to the new year and hope that you are, too. Despite the coming USPS postage hike, you can rest assured that I’ll be continuing to scribble.