National Postal Museum

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National Postal Museum
Postal Square Building.jpg
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Location within Washington, D.C.
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National Postal Museum (the United States)
EstablishedJuly 30, 1993 (1993-07-30)
Location Postal Square Building
Washington, D.C.
Coordinates 38°53′53″N77°00′30″W / 38.898°N 77.0083°W / 38.898; -77.0083 Coordinates: 38°53′53″N77°00′30″W / 38.898°N 77.0083°W / 38.898; -77.0083
DirectorElliot Gruber [1]
Public transit access WMATA Metro Logo.svg WMATA Red.svg at Union Station
Amtrak/MARC/VRE at Union Station

The National Postal Museum, located opposite Union Station in Washington, D.C., United States, was established through joint agreement between the United States Postal Service and the Smithsonian Institution and opened in 1993.

Washington, D.C. Capital of the United States

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington or D.C., is the capital of the United States. Founded after the American Revolution as the seat of government of the newly independent country, Washington was named after George Washington, first President of the United States and Founding Father. As the seat of the United States federal government and several international organizations, Washington is an important world political capital. The city is also one of the most visited cities in the world, with more than 20 million tourists annually.

United States Postal Service independent agency of the U.S. federal government responsible for providing postal service

The United States Postal Service is an independent agency of the executive branch of the United States federal government responsible for providing postal service in the United States, including its insular areas and associated states. It is one of the few government agencies explicitly authorized by the United States Constitution.

Smithsonian Institution Group of museums and research centers administered by the United States government

The Smithsonian Institution, founded on August 10, 1846 "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge," is a group of museums and research centers administered by the Government of the United States. The institution is named after its founding donor, British scientist James Smithson. Originally organized as the "United States National Museum," that name ceased to exist as an administrative entity in 1967.



The museum is located across the street from Union Station, in the building that once served as the main post office of Washington, D.C. from 1914, when it was constructed, until 1986. The building was designed by the Graham and Burnham architectural firm, which was led by Ernest Graham following the death of Daniel Burnham in 1912. [2]

Postal museum

A postal museum is a museum dedicated to the display of objects relating to the postal service. A subcategory of postal museums are philatelic museums, which focus on philately and postage stamps.

Postal Square Building

The Postal Square Building served as the main post office for the city of Washington, D.C., from the building's completion in 1914 to 1986. It now houses the National Postal Museum, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and offices of the United States Senate. Architect Daniel Burnham designed the building in the Beaux-Arts style—the same style Burnham used for the neighboring Union Station. Construction for the Postal Square Building began in 1911 on a lot near the Capitol. Planning began with a 1901 proposal by the Senate Parks Commission. The commission called for three buildings to mark the northern end of the Capitol complex. While the first two buildings in the plan, Union Station and the Postal Square Building, were completed early in the 20th century, the 1901 plan would not be fully implemented until the completion of the Thurgood Marshall Federal Judiciary Building in 1992.

Ernest R. Graham (architect) American architect

Ernest Robert Graham was an American architect.

The building in which the museum is housed also serves as the headquarters of the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as a data center for the United States Senate.

United States Department of Labor U.S. Department that regulates the workers rights and labor markets

The United States Department of Labor (DOL) is a cabinet-level department of the U.S. federal government responsible for occupational safety, wage and hour standards, unemployment insurance benefits, reemployment services, and some economic statistics; many U.S. states also have such departments. The department is headed by the U.S. Secretary of Labor.

Bureau of Labor Statistics US government agency

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is a unit of the United States Department of Labor. It is the principal fact-finding agency for the U.S. government in the broad field of labor economics and statistics and serves as a principal agency of the U.S. Federal Statistical System. The BLS is a governmental statistical agency that collects, processes, analyzes, and disseminates essential statistical data to the American public, the U.S. Congress, other Federal agencies, State and local governments, business, and labor representatives. The BLS also serves as a statistical resource to the United States Department of Labor, and conducts research into how much families need to earn to be able to enjoy a decent standard of living.

United States Senate Upper house of the United States Congress

The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress, which along with the United States House of Representatives—the lower chamber—comprises the legislature of the United States. The Senate chamber is located in the north wing of the Capitol, in Washington, D.C.


The museum stores the National Philatelic Collection and also hosts many interactive displays about the history of the United States Postal Service and of mail service around the world. The museum houses a gift shop and a United States Postal Service philatelic sales window, along with exhibits on the Pony Express, the use of railroads with the mail, the preserved remains of Owney (the first unofficial postal mascot), and an exhibit on direct marketing called, "What's in the Mail for You," that produces a souvenir envelope with a visitor's name printed on it and a coupon for the gift shop. As a Smithsonian museum, admission is free. This museum also houses a library. [3]

The National Philatelic Collection is a collection of nearly six million postage stamps, revenue stamps, and related items, owned by the United States Government and managed by the Smithsonian Institution. It is housed within the National Postal Museum and a portion of the collection is on display in the museum's National Stamp Salon. The National Philatelic Collection is among the world's largest and most valuable stamp collections and, along with the Postmaster General's Philatelic Collection, is one of two stamp collections owned by the United States.

Pony Express 19th-century mail service in the US

The Pony Express was a mail service delivering messages, newspapers, and mail using relays of horse mounted riders that operated from April 3, 1860 to October 1861 between Missouri and California in the United States of America.

Owney (dog) 19th century dog and unofficial US Postal Service mascot

Owney, was a Border terrier adopted as the first unofficial postal mascot by the Albany, New York, post office about 1888. The Albany mail professionals recommended the dog to their Railway Mail Service colleagues, and he became a nationwide mascot for nine years (1888–97). He traveled throughout the 48 contiguous United States and voyaged around the world traveling over 140,000 miles in his lifetime as a mascot of the Railway Post Office and the United States Postal Service. He is best known for being the subject of commemorative activities, including a 2011 U.S. postage stamp.

In 2005, the museum acquired John Lennon's childhood stamp collection. [4] From June 2015 until December 2018 the museum displayed the 1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta, the world's most valuable stamp, which sold for nearly $10 million. [5]

In September 2009, the museum received an $8 million gift from investment firm founder William H. Gross to help finance an expansion project. The museum now hosts the William H. Gross Stamp Gallery named in his honor. [6]


Since 2002, the museum has presented the Smithsonian Philatelic Achievement Award every two years.

See also

Related Research Articles

Postage stamp small piece of paper that is purchased and displayed on an item of mail as evidence of payment of postage

A postage stamp is a small piece of paper issued by a post office, postal administration, or other authorized vendors to customers who pay postage, who then affix the stamp to the face or address-side of any item of mail—an envelope or other postal cover —that they wish to send. The item is then processed by the postal system, where a postmark or cancellation mark—in modern usage indicating date and point of origin of mailing—is applied to the stamp and its left and right sides to prevent its reuse. The item is then delivered to its addressee.

Stamp collecting The collecting of postage stamps and related objects

Stamp collecting is the collecting of postage stamps and related objects. It is related to philately, which is the study of stamps. It has been one of the world's most popular hobbies since the late nineteenth century with the rapid growth of the postal service, as a never-ending stream of new stamps was produced by countries that sought to advertise their distinctiveness through their stamps.

Inverted Jenny United States postage stamp

The Inverted Jenny is a 24 cent United States postage stamp first issued on May 10, 1918 in which the image of the Curtiss JN-4 airplane in the center of the design is printed upside-down; it is probably the most famous error in American philately. Only one pane of 100 of the invert stamps was ever found, making this error one of the most prized in all philately.

Postal history aspect of history

Postal history is the study of postal systems and how they operate and, or, the study of the use of postage stamps and covers and associated postal artifacts illustrating historical episodes in the development of postal systems. The term is attributed to Robson Lowe, a professional philatelist, stamp dealer and stamp auctioneer, who made the first organised study of the subject in the 1930s and described philatelists as "students of science", but postal historians as "students of humanity". More precisely, philatelists describe postal history as the study of rates, routes, markings, and means.

Postage stamps and postal history of the Confederate States

The postage stamps and postal system of the Confederate States of America carried the mail of the Confederacy for a brief period in American history. Early in 1861 when South Carolina no longer considered itself part of the Union and demanded that the U.S. Army abandon Fort Sumter, plans for a Confederate postal system were already underway. Indeed, the Confederate Post office was established on February 21, 1861; and it was not until April 12 that the American Civil War officially began, when the Confederate Army fired upon US soldiers who had refused to abandon the fort. However, the United States Post Office Department continued to handle the mail of the seceded states as usual during the first weeks of the war. It was not until June 1 that the Confederate Post office took over collection and delivery, now faced with the task of providing postage stamps and mail services for its citizens.

British Guiana 1c magenta rare stamp famous for only having one extant example

The British Guiana 1c magenta is regarded by many philatelists as the world's most famous rare stamp. It was issued in limited numbers in British Guiana in 1856, and only one specimen is now known to exist. It is the only major postage stamp ever issued that is not represented in Britain's Royal Philatelic Collection.

Benjamin Miller Collection

The Benjamin K. Miller Collection is a unique collection of stamps and other philatelic materials donated to The New York Public Library in 1925 by Milwaukee attorney Benjamin Kurtz Miller (1857–1928). This collection was the first complete collection of U.S. stamps ever assembled. His collection is known as the "crown jewels" of U.S. stamp collecting for its rare holdings, depth, and variety.

George Townsend Turner of Washington, D.C., was considered a leading philatelic bibliophile of his era, amassing a very large body of philatelic literature over his lifetime. He was the acting curator of the Smithsonian Institution's philatelic collection from 1959 until 1962 and was the owner of the largest private philatelic library ever assembled.

William Carlos Stone, called "Uncle Billy" by his friends, of Springfield, Massachusetts, was a philatelist who specialized in the collection of philatelic literature related to revenue stamps and postal stationery.

Woodrow Wilson Hulme II was a philatelist noted for his work in advancing the appreciation of stamp collecting, especially by his work at the National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C.

Patricia A. (Trish) Kaufmann of Lincoln, Delaware, is an expert on the postage stamps and postal history of the Confederate States of America (CSA), and has written hundreds of articles on the subject; she is known as a diligent researcher who brings postal history to life. She is also a speaker on the subject.

David Richard Beech MBE was the curator of the British Library Philatelic Collections from 1983–2013. He is a Fellow and past President of the Royal Philatelic Society London (RPSL). In 2013, it was announced that Beech will receive the Smithsonian Philatelic Achievement Award for outstanding lifetime accomplishments in the field of philately.

The Fitzgerald Collection is an extensive philatelic collection of air mail stamps donated to the British Library and announced in 1951.

William Hunt Gross is an American investor, fund manager, and philanthropist. He co-founded Pacific Investment Management Co, the largest global fixed income investment company, and ran their $270 billion Total Return Fund (PTTRX), before leaving to join Janus Capital Group in September 2014.

U.S. Parcel Post stamps of 1912–13

The U.S. Parcel Post stamps of 1912–13 were the first such stamps issued by the U.S. Post Office Department and consisted of twelve denominations to pay the postage on parcels weighing 16 ounces and more, with each denomination printed in the same color of "carmine-rose". Their border design was similar while each denomination of stamp bore its own distinctive image in the center (vignette). Unlike regular postage items, whose rates were determined by weight in ounces, Parcel Post rates were determined and measured by increments in pounds. The new stamps were soon widely used by industry, farmers and others who lived in rural areas. Partly owing to some confusion involving their usage, their exclusive use as Parcel Post stamps proved short lived, as regular postage stamps were soon allowed to be used to pay parcel postage rates.

World Stamp Show-NY 2016

World Stamp Show-NY 2016 was the United States' once-a-decade international celebration of stamp collecting. It took place at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York from May 28 to June 4, 2016. This was the first international stamp show to be held in New York since FIPEX in 1956.

Antarctic Treaty issue

The Antarctic Treaty issue is a postage stamp that was issued by the United States Post Office Department on June 23, 1971. Designed by Howard Koslow, it commemorates the ten-year anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty, and is notable as Koslow's first postage stamp design.

Cheryl R. Ganz, FRPSL is an American philatelist who was appointed to the Roll of Distinguished Philatelists in 2018.


  1. "Meet our staff". National Postal Museum. Retrieved 2017-10-08.
  2. Weeks, Christopher. (1994) AIA Guide to the Architecture of Washington, D.C. (3rd Edition), Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN   0-8018-4713-3.
  3. "Museum library".
  4. John Lennon's First Album. Owen Edwards,, September 2005. Retrieved 17 September 2016.
  6. "William H. Gross Stamp Gallery". National Postal Museum. Retrieved 2013-10-02.