Now, I am going to start with an apology. I’m sorry for overloading two stories in one go, even if they are both about Washington. It was not only the Pens game Saturday night, but it was also Cinco De Mayo on 5th May. The date is to commemorate the Mexican Army’s unlikely victory over the French Empire at the Battle of Puebla, on May 5, 1862, however, as you would expect, Americans see it as a reason to go out, buy taco’s and drink tequila. I got masel into a bit of a jam winding up Caps fans in the Fado Irish bar, when we were winning, however, a cool guy called David and his lass Mel, appreciated the banter and although I had to buy 5 tequila’s and 5 Jaggeur bombs, I got out alive. Anyway, spent all day Sunday in my bed at the gaff.
So, it’s Monday now and my train is at 6.50pm, so what to do. I go check out Capitol Hill, the reflecting pond and a doozy Navy Memorial I stumbled on with a large fountain. Luckily for me, right next door to Union Station is The National Postal Museum, which I thought would be greeeat for a couple of hours after checking the place online, even if i did have 3 hot dogs and a soda for my lunch.
So the museum is in a building that once was the main Post office in DC from 1914, till about 86 I think. The museum has tons of interactive displays about the history of the United States Postal Service and in some area of the mail service around the world. Mail by Sea, mail by air, by land on the Pony Express (Stagecoach) and using the railroads and the many deaths in the early days as all the carriages were wooden, they were right behind the engine’s, which used to explode regularly.
They have a mascot or did have called Owney (unofficial of course) and a massive collection of Stamps, including John Lennon’s childhood stamp collection and William Gross stamps. He donated some $8 million to expand the place and house his collection, which includes those upside down airplane stamps that were printed and appear in the Brewster’s Millions film – Now do you get the link! Oh, this is another free museum by the waaaaaay.
I’m inside, this place is brilliant, when you first enter, if you head to the right, the first exhibition is all about the mail sorting systems from the original hand sorting that took 11 hours, to the feeder system and bar code readers by Pitney Bowes to what they use today. This feeds into the other about who the Post Office dealt with, who the customers were and the communities, where everyone knew who the post office dood was. Before they had a Union, Postal Delivery workers used to have to work a 12 hour day, with inspectors checking up on them. How the mail service linked the US, including how it was delivered via Stagecoach and rail. Truly fascinating stuff.
Did you know that during the war, women assumed responsibility for delivering the mail, letters from the front line and to keep America running. When the war ended, they were all duly sacked. Even then they had Zero hours contracts eh.
You can’t help feeling romantic in the Pony Express gallery. True there are some real stories and accounts in there, but also some myths that added to the romance. Oh and John Wayne of course in the film that made him famous, his first male lead – Stagecoach. I spent a good wee while in the Postal Inspection Service area, which tells a story of mail fraud, deception, transporting drugs and methods, counterfeiting and even sending bombs through the mail and how all these things are detected. The cuffs used to cuff the unabomber were on display.
On the second floor there is the National Stamp Collection and I quote “Thousands of objects from our nations philatelic collection framed in American history”. Very informative and somewhat interesting as there was stamps from all over the world, including the Inverted Jenny. A True Stamp geek’s paradise i will tell ya. They had boxes of stamps you could sift through, many stored away in print you could look up and you could use their computer to design your own stamp baby. They had an International Treasures wall displaying ‘exceptional’ examples from 24 countries and wait for it – Amelia Earhart’s flight suit, worn by the wifey hersel.
I feel what was best is there was something for everyone. If you loved flowers or butterflies, there were displays of both. If you wanted to look up print of trains in stamps, planes in stamps or superheroes in stamps, you could do so. Only thinking back now, i’m angry I never looked up World Cup stamps – Jeez!