National Postal Museum

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National Postal Museum
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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
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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.



The museum is located across the street from Union Station, in the building that served as the main post office of Washington, D.C. for decades, from its construction in 1914 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]

The headquarters of the United States Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics is based in this building, and there is also space for a data center for the United States Senate.


The museum holds the National Philatelic Collection. It has hosted many interactive displays about the history of the United States Postal Service and of mail service around the world. The museum has 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." Visitors may acquire a souvenir envelope with their name printed on it and a coupon for the gift shop. As one of the national Smithsonian museums, admission is free. This museum also houses a library. [3]

In 2005, the museum acquired the childhood stamp collection of the late singer/songwriter John Lennon. [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 William H. Gross Stamp Gallery of the museum is 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 displayed on an item of mail as evidence of payment for 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 American postage stamp with design error

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 philately.

Postage stamps and postal history of the United States Began with the delivery of stampless letters

The history of postal service of the United States began with the delivery of stampless letters, whose cost was borne by the receiving person, later also encompassed pre-paid letters carried by private mail carriers and provisional post offices, and culminated in a system of universal prepayment that required all letters to bear nationally issued adhesive postage stamps.

Postal 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.

Royal Philatelic Collection Postage stamp collection of the British Royal Family

The Royal Philatelic Collection is the postage stamp collection of the British Royal Family. It is the most comprehensive collection of items related to the philately of the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth, with many unique pieces. Of major items, only the British Guiana 1c magenta is missing from the collection of British Imperial stamps.

British Guiana 1c magenta

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.

Owney (dog)

Owney, was a terrier mix adopted in the United States 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.

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.

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 was to receive the Smithsonian Philatelic Achievement Award for outstanding lifetime accomplishments in the field of philately.

British Library Philatelic Collections

The British Library Philatelic Collections is the national philatelic collection of the United Kingdom with over 8 million items from around the world. It was established in 1891 as part of the British Museum Library, later to become the British Library, with the collection of Thomas Tapling. In addition to bequests and continuing donations, the library received consistent deposits by the Crown Agency and has become a primary research collection for British Empire and international history. The collections contain a wide range of artefacts in addition to postage stamps, from newspaper stamps to a press used to print the first British postage stamps.

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

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.

<i>General George Washington at Trenton</i>

General George Washington at Trenton is a large full-length portrait in oil painted in 1792 by the American artist John Trumbull of General George Washington at Trenton, New Jersey, on the night of January 2, 1777, during the American Revolutionary War. This is the night after the Battle of the Assunpink Creek, also known as the Second Battle of Trenton, and before the decisive victory at the Battle of Princeton the next day. The artist considered this portrait "the best certainly of those which I painted." The portrait is on view at the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut, an 1806 gift of the Society of the Cincinnati in Connecticut. It was commissioned by the city of Charleston, South Carolina, but was rejected by the city, resulting in Trumbull painting another version.

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.

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. Archived from the original on 2017-07-04. 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.
  5. "Magenta Stamp", Postal Museum
  6. "William H. Gross Stamp Gallery". National Postal Museum. Archived from the original on 2013-10-05. Retrieved 2013-10-02.