The Postal Museum: Must See

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The famous "Inverted Jenny" stamp, circa 1918.
The famous “Inverted Jenny” stamp, circa 1918.

As I get more familiar with Washington, DC, the more I absolutely love it here. Stinky rats? Gross. Relocation? A real pain in the neck. But it’s a testament to the city that we both keep rising to the top of the poo bucket. And another thing: it’s so fantastic when you trust yourself and what you trusted yourself about — in this case, truly disliking living in New York and believing a move to Washington was a wise decision — is validated. It’s so hard to put the breaks on a relationship, to dive headfirst into pain like that. But what’s left of my guts is reliable; I trusted my insides and so far my situation seems to be okay. Better.

Yesterday I had an errand to run next door to The Postal Museum. Writing letters is a joyful activity for me and I love stationery and stamps. I love envelopes and office supplies. Clearly, I am the demographic for a museum of this kind.

Sometimes, one’s true nerdiness cannot be hidden by any veneer of coolness or hipness that has been constructed over time. My squeals of delight in that museum yesterday elicited alarmed looks from my fellow museumgoers but there was nothing I could do. Here is what is in that museum in the first room of the whole place: 

The first stamp in America ever — EVER!!!!!
A letter from the Pony Express — THE BLINKIN’ PONY EXPRESS!!!!!
An Inverted Jenny — I was less amazed by this but it’s the most expensive stamp in the world
Fumigated and perforated letters from the time of cholera — CHOLERA!
Other things that were amazing — OTHER THINGS!!!!

And they had so many interactive stations, too. There’s this huge screen where hundreds of stamps are cataloged and you use the touch screen to scroll and scroll through all these stamps and you can select your ten favorite to put in a virtual stamp collection! And then you can email it to yourself!

And there was a kiosk where you could put your face on a stamp! And work on the design and even give it the rate you wanted! (I did a couple versions, but my finest work was the 10-cent stamp.) And you can email that to yourself, too! My 10-cent stamp never came through my email, though, so I guess I’ll have to go and play on it again. Oh, darn.

To me, the mail is like airplanes: I can’t believe we made this stuff. That these systems work. It’s just the coolest thing in the world that you can send a piece of paper to me and I will get it at my house and it’s very cheap to do this.

I leave you with the exquisitely beautiful, unofficial creed of the USPS. It was a line Herodotus wrote a long time ago, translated by a Harvard professor named George Herbert Palmer. If you don’t get chills reading it, you must be in a very warm room:

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Send a piece of paper today, won’t you?