Pony Express Google Doodle

Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the 155th anniversary of the Pony Express.  It features a game that lets you be a Pony Express rider, picking up letters, switching horses, and avoiding the treacherous obstacles that faced these riders as they traveled across the U.S. in the 19th century.  It is a lot of fun, especially when you fall off!

 

Pony Express DoodleYou can find the Pony Express Google Doodle archived here after April 14th.

And here is a great video on the making of the Doodle, with a little Pony Express history.

Hooray for mail-themed games!

 

Edinburgh, Scotland

I just returned from a trip to the U.K.  I visited London, England and Edinburgh, Scotland.  While in Edinburgh, I stayed on the Royal Mile–a stretch of cobblestone street between the Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse (the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland).

wpid-20140126_134456.jpgWhile visiting the shops on the Royal Mile, I found Bonnie Blue–a delightful little gift shop with woolen tea cozies and purses and, my favorite, cards and notebooks!  The shop carried a line of items by Wrendale Designs called The Country Set.  I fell in love with the disheveled look of these woodland creatures!

I picked up note books with the hedgehog and the owl.  Take a look:

wpid-storageextSdCardDCIMCamera2014-02-01-12.25.08.jpg.jpgwpid-20140201_121945.jpgMy favorite feature is the back of the books that has another picture, usually of the animal running away and showing off its tush:

wpid-20140201_122055.jpgThen, I saw this delightful tea cup that had this crazy hare, with a little surprise inside as I sip my tea:

wpid-20140201_192904.jpgwpid-20140201_192950.jpgHa!

 

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My Childhood Post Office Closed

My childhood post office, a nondescript, cinder-block building on the side of Route 16 in Orma, WV, was shuttered on November 20, 2013 after 108 years of operation.

Orma WV Post Office

 

My parents–knowing my love for all things postal–were thoughtful enough to send me a note that day with the last day’s postmark!

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I am sad to hear that it closed.  The post office was already 5 miles from my parents’ house, and their new post office is 10 miles away. On curvy West Virginia roads, that’s a 20-minute drive.  The post office connected their rural community to the outside world for more than a century and now it’s gone.  Makes me wonder what the future holds for the community and for the postal service.

Calligraphy

I love calligraphy.  The pens and inks and alphabets.  I aspire to one day be proficient at it myself.  But until then, I admire those who practice the art.

I read this Wall Streen Journal article a while back about calligrapher Bernard Maisner.   The article ended with:

Yet Mr. Maisner believes that calligraphy answers a demand for beauty and vitality that technology, however advanced, cannot. Calligraphy, he said, “is not meant to reproduce something over and over again. It’s meant to show the humanity, the responsiveness and variation within.”

Yes! And that’s how I feel about handwritten letters versus email and texts.  Beauty and vitality are precisely what I see in the letters I receive.

But any man who, like Maisner, charges over one thousand dollars to write 8 first names on small cards that can “act as a place card along with a take-home gift” is not really preserving calligraphy for the masses.  He’s an artist and he, like many other successful artists, reserves his work for the super rich who can afford his services.

I have no problem with that, but I propose that we all let our artists within run free from our inner critics and just take up a dip pen and try it ourselves.  I’m going to go play right now!

P.S. Check out these pictures of Maisner’s collection of antique writing gear.  They are drool worthy!

P.P.S. And if you want a tattoo of calligraphy, you can get Maisner to design it for you!

J.D. Salinger’s Letters to a Lady

(image from NYTimes)

Check out this New York Times article about Salinger’s letters to a Toronto woman years before Catcher in the Rye.  The woman he wrote to is still alive and 95 years old.

As we document every moment of our lives through social media, I find there’s something elegant in how a few letters can bring to life a moment in time 70 years ago and leave a little room for the imagination.  Will we sift through 70-year old Facebook posts in the year 2083? Or will the internet as we know it even exist then?  I’ll stick with the letters, thank you.

Mr. Zip

(image from Beyond the Perf)

Beyond the Perf has a great little post about Mr. Zip–the icon of a speedy mail man who educated 1960s America about the use of the new ZIP code system. Mr. Zip is making an appearance on the backs of a couple of stamps this year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of ZIP codes.  Read more here.

First Day Cover Advertising

A friend of mine recently showed me some of her grandfather’s stamp collection.  He had some great First-Day Covers (FDCs) from the 1960s.  Here are a couple of the beauties:

The interesting part about these FDCs is that they came through the mail with advertising letters in them! Check it out:

What a neat idea–a collectible first day cover that catches your eye entices you to open it up and read what’s inside.  If advertising mailers today had the same flair, we might not call them junk mail!

Artists and Salespeople

My dad gave me his favorite magazine from his childhood–an issue of The Leather Craftsman dated September/October 1959.  He always loved the image on the cover and the accompanying story that someone had written from the perspective of the cougar.

I love that the image is all tooled in leather! Look at that detail!

As I was reading through the magazine, I saw this little bit of wisdom:

I have been thinking about ways to move from artist to salesman, of designing my own stationery and selling it online and at craftshows.  But as the “feet” concept suggests–it’s a lot of work to do when you already have a full-time, non-stationery related job!

Since my trip to the National Stationery Show in May, I’ve been thinking about the trend in the industry away from letter sets and toward cards only.  I walked up and down aisle after aisle, looking in hundreds and hundreds of booths.  I saw thousands of cards and fewer than five letter sets.  I’ve heard from pen pals that they don’t find letter sets in stationery stores any more. They have to go online and find folks who still believe that we have something to say that won’t fit in a small card.

There are some companies that still do fun letter set designs (I like Peter Pauper Press, Crane and Chronicle). And there are a lot of great Asian letter sets out there. But it feels like there may be room for me, too.  I may jump into the fray.  If it get up the courage, you’ll be the first to know!

1910 Postcards Predict the Future

My Dad sent me a great link to 1910 postcards featuring illustrations by French artist Villemard.  They depict how he imagined Paris in the year 2000. Some of his predictions were spot on (audiobooks, Skype, and email) but others are laughable now. Best of all, I love how they all  involve demure clothing. No futuristic silver space suits here.

These lovely images were found by someone at the University of North Carolina.  I wonder if they were in an archive or some old family member’s collection.  What a find!

You can see all of the images in this Flickr stream. Wouldn’t it be great to have these images on postcards now?