Friday, May 29, 2009

...the only pleasure I now see is in perusing your very precious letters. . . .

The title of this post is excerpted from a letter written by Confederate Lieutenant William Steele to his sweetheart, Annie McFarland, in December 1864.

I found the letter on the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum's Web site. The Web site is quite fascinating and has information about the museum's permanent exhibits in Washington D.C., as well as about online exhibits on topics such as "The Art of the Stamp" and the devoted mail clerks aboard the Titanic.

The "War Letters: Lost and Found" online exhibit features letters that were lost or discarded by the original recipients. According to the Web site, the letters were found by strangers, recovered from the trash, yard sales, construction sites or former homes and were forwarded to the Legacy Project. The exhibit, which was originally on view at the museum from 2005 to 2006, copies of letters from the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

If you're interested in letter writing, stamp collecting or U.S. history, the National Postal Museum Web site is worth visiting, as, I'm sure, is the museum itself.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fun Project

Through the friends I've made with this blog, I discovered and joined up.

If you're not familiar with it, is a postcard penpal type group. You sign up for free and request the name and address of someone to send a postcard to. When you get the name and address, you also get a postcard ID number that you put on your postcard. Then, when your recipient receives your postcard, they log it into the Web site and everyone knows your postcard has arrived.

This is a fun project for me because I used to collect postcards from my penpals, and I have a lot of unused postcards that I bought through the years but never sent. This gives me a chance to put those postcards to better use than sitting in a box under my bed. Many of them are probably considered "vintage" postcards, since I've had them for more than 20 years.

I've mailed out two postcards so far, one to Finland and one to China. The one to Finland arrived safely. I have four more ready to go to the post office.

There is a Postcrossing blog, for some interesting notes.

Of course, this isn't replacing my letter writing project; it's just a little side hobby. It doesn't take long to jot a note on a postcard and address it. And, I might make some new friends!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Interesting letter writing history

I was doing some research into the history of letter writing, and I came across information about Samuel Richardson's novel "Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded," published in 1740.

Richardson wrote the novel as a series of letters from Pamela to her parents. According to Wikipedia, the novel was originally mocked, parodied and lambasted for its perceived lewdness. In the story, Pamela is a maid whose boss makes unwanted advances toward her. She is writing to her parents for help and advice. As you can imagine, by today's standards, the story is quite tame. In fact, Pamela stands her ground and gets a proper courtship and marriage from him.

The entire story in modern English is available online at Project Gutenberg.

It's not that easy to read, having been written almost 300 years ago, but it is interesting that it apparently made this form of novel writing, known as the epistolary novel, popular.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Spreading the word

In the latest issue of "Better Homes and Gardens" magazine, on the "Ideas for Living Well" page, is this suggestion:

Kick Back: Celebrate summer by enjoying life in the slow lane. Go offline for an afternoon and pen a postcard to a friend. In an age of Facebook, Twitter, and other online connections, receiving a handwritten note is a welcome surprise.

Write a letter this weekend! Surprise someone.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Prompt replies

Is there a letter awaiting your reply? Read what William Shenstone, an 18th Century English poet, had to say about answering letters you have received:

The best time to frame an answer to the letters of a friend, is the moment you receive them. Then the warmth of friendship, and the intelligence received, most forcibly cooperate.

~William Shenstone

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Great letter writing book

One of my favorite books about letter writing is "The Handcrafted Letter" by Diane Maurer-Mathison. The author combines letter writing ideas with letter crafting ideas for a most inspiring book.

She offers advice for improving your handwriting, how to make stationery and cards, suggestions for things to include with your letter and much more.

The book is published by Storey Publishing, and you can see some information on it on the Storey Web site.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Beautiful Crane Stationery

I received some very beautiful stationery from Crane & Co. A little bit of research showed me that the company is quite fascinating, so I sent a few questions to Peter Hopkins, Media Relations Consultant and Historian for Crane & Co. He was very kind to answer them all in detail.

Peter has a blog called The Crane Insider. Right now, he's blogging about the National Stationery Show.

Here is the Q&A interview with Peter:

1. What type of products does Crane & Co. offer?

Crane offers a wide variety of boxed and personalized stationery for everyday use, thank-you notes, and for announcements and invitations. Crane makes its 100 percent cotton papers from fibers recovered from the textile and garment industries - not trees. Crane stationery can be personalized by lithography, thermography, engraving and letterpress, but the best form of personalization is with a pen.

2. Can those products be ordered online? Are they sold in stores, too?

Crane products are available online at or through a network of more than 2,000 stationers across the country. There is a "Find a Retailer" function at

3. What does "fine stationery" mean and what does it mean to personal

I don't think there's a dictionary definition of "fine stationery," but certainly there are distinct differences in the levels of quality found in stationery. For Crane, it can take several forms, such as cotton-fiber papers, hand-lined envelopes, fine-line engraving, hand-brushed borders, gilded and beveled edging, substantial envelopes and personal attention to every step of the personalization process.

4. Tell me a little bit about the history of the company.

Gosh, how much space do you have? Crane traces its roots to 1770, when Stephen Crane and his two partners took over what had been the first paper mill in the Boston suburb of Milton. This was just two years after the British occupation of Boston and less than 10 miles away, so you could guess their political leanings, as they named their business The Liberty Paper Mill. The ledger book from The Liberty Paper Mill reads like a who's who of revolutionary patriots, including Isaiah Thomas, Henry Know and Paul Revere. Not only was Paul Revere a paper customer, he pastured his horses there in case he needed to take a ride......

Stephen's youngest son, Zenas, worked for the great printer Isaiah Thomas at his mill in central Massachusetts for a few years before striking out on his own. In 1801, Zenas found the perfect location on the banks of the Housatonic River in Dalton, Massachusetts.

The company still calls Dalton its home. Crane now manufactures fine stationery, industrial and technical papers, and paper for United States currency and international banknotes. The company employs 1,300 people worldwide. It is still owned and managed by members of the Crane family.

5. Is Crane & Co. environmentally friendly? How?

The most obvious environmental attribute Crane demonstrates is the make-up of its papers. Crane stationery papers are made with 100 percent recovered cotton fibers. United States currency paper is made from recovered cotton and linen fibers. I recently wrote a booklet called "America's Greenback: An Environmental Perspective," which describes Crane's environmental profile in more detail:

6. Tell me aout Crane & Co.'s role in U.S. currency. Is Crane & Co. the only company that makes currency paper?

Crane is the only company that makes paper for U.S. currency. Crane first won the contract in 1879, and has been fortunte to have won the bid ever since. The first currency paper the Crane family ever made was in 1776 for Paul Revere. In addition to being a silversmith, Revere was an engraver, and he purchased paper from The Liberty Paper Mill to engrave Massachusetts colonial currency to help finance the American Revolution. In addition to making the paper for U.S. currency, Crane makes paper for international banknotes both at Dalton and at its paper mill and printing facility in Tumba, Sweden.

7. What is your favorite Crane & Co. product?

My favorite has to be "calling cards." These little pieces of paper were once a staple of Victorian society, used within a very strict code of social conduct. They pretty much disappeared for a while, but have made a significant comeback with the advent of e-mail and cell phones. That probably sounds counterintuitive, but when you realize that there are no cell "phone books" or e-mail directories it makes sense to have a convenient and stylish was to pass along contact information. Calling cards are the fastest-growing segment of personalized stationery at Crane. Here's a link to lots of examples:

8. Do you think letter writing is important? Why?

Of course, I'm biased, but letterwriting is indeed important. Especially when you think about the quality of personal relationships. Yes, we can easily keep in touch with e-mail, text messages and tweets, but these forms of communication are necessarily shallow and fleeting. Has anyone ever saved a tweet for posterity? Has anyone ever cherished an IM? Once they're read, they're gone. Letters, on the other hand, require a certain amount of focus; focus on the person to whom you are writing. Letters show great respect for the person so whom you are writing. There is meaning to your words as they play out on paper. Writing a letter is an intensely personal experience. And it is equally rewarding for the writer and the recipient.

9. What can letter writers do to make their letters better?

The great golfer Gary Player has said: "The more I practice, the luckier I get." Just like so many other things in life, the more you write the better you get at it. I think the best advice I can give to anyone is first to have the necessary materials at hand: stationery, pen and stamp. My favorite letters to write begin with: "I was thinking about you today." What a wonderful introduction. And what an easy way to make your way into the second and third sentences. Pretty soon, you've written a letter

10. Do you have any advice for new letter writers?

In addition to the "I was thinking about you today letter," the way to get under way is with thank-you notes. Sincere and timely thank-yous make lasting connections with friends, family and colleagues. They only take three or four sentences; they only take a few minutes, but they are a great way to get started.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

KISS - Keep It Simple Sweetie

Quote of the day:

The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity.

-- Walt Whitman

Just a note that says you're thinking about someone. That'll do it. You don't have to be a poet, you just have to write a line or two and put it in the mail. You'll make someone's day!

Friday, May 8, 2009

It'll cost more on Monday

For those of us mailing in the United States, postage will go up Monday, May 11. It will cost 44 cents for the first ounce and 17 cents for additional ounces for letters. Postcard postage will cost 28 cents.

I'm not complaining...just reminding you. In my opinion, 44 cents is a good deal for someone to come to my house, pick up a letter and deliver it anywhere in the United States.

Of course, more information, including all of the postage rates are at the United States Postal Servive Web site,

You can also order postage there and have it delivered to your mailbox. There are some new 44-cent stamps on there. But, to me, one of the fun things to do is come up with combinations of stamps to equal the correct postage.

For example, you can use one 41-cent Beautiful Blooms stamp and one 3-cent Star FP stamp. Or you could use a Polar Bear (.28), one Navajo Necklace (.02), one American Clock (.10) and one Chippendale Chair (.04). Or, how about this combination: one Tropical Fruit (.27), one Silver Coffee Pot (.03), one American Toleware (.05), one Chippendale Chair (.04), one Tiffany Lamp (.01) and two Navajo Necklaces (.02 each).

Just remember to use the correct amount of postage on Monday!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Don't forget...Sunday is Mother's Day

This Sunday, May 10, 2009, is Mother's Day in the United States and in quite a few other countries, as well. Some other countries have already celebrated their moms this year, and more holidays are yet to come. (If you're curious about when Mother's Day is celebrated around the world, check out Wikipedia's entry on Mother's Day.)

Many people are probably trying to figure out how to honor their moms this weekend. The commercials and ads are constantly suggesting jewelry, flowers, photos, electronics, dinner and more.

But, I have another suggestion...and if you've ever read this blog before, I'll bet you can imagine where I'm going with this...write your mom a letter! Tell her how much you love her, how much she means to you. Maybe even list a few things you admire about her or a few of your favorite memories from your childhood.

If you can't or don't want to write a letter to your mother, write a Mother's Day note to another woman in your life.

Send your Mother's Day letter with a card or by itself; hand-deliver it or drop it in the mail today. I'll bet your mom will appreciate a heart-felt note more than another trinket.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Send more than just a letter this Saturday

Take more than a letter to your mailbox this Saturday — join the "Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive" by donating non-perishables May 9.

The U.S. Postal Service, the National Association of Letter Carriers and the Campbell Soup Company have joined forces to help those in need. Anyone who wants to help out should place non-perishable food in a bag and place it by your mailbox this Saturday. Your mail carrier will pick up the food and deliver it to a local food bank.

For more information on this project, visit the USPS site.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Send an encouraging word

Push the Button Alpha recently had a wonderful post called the Frog Story about offering an encouraging word. That got me to thinking...sending an encouraging letter may be one of the best things you can do for someone else.

Surely there's someone in your life who would appreciate hearing something supportive. Just a short note to say "you're doing a great job" or "thank you for your efforts" could do wonders to keep someone going.

If you're sending your letter of encouragement to someone who is facing a problem, work extra hard at NOT offering unsolicited advice. Don't tell them what to do; don't tell them they should've done something differently. Just say, "keep trying" or "way to go!"

Include your favorite encouraging quote. Don't know one? Use an Internet search engine (such as Google) to look up "encouraging quotes." There are plenty out there. Or, maybe send a copy of your favorite poem. If you have a personal story to share, then share it, too. Maybe about a time your persevered or maybe even a time you failed but survived.

Who should you write to? Oh, a young person would be great. Today's youth seem to be under much more stress than we were years ago. How about someone who is struggling financially or who has lost their job? I'm sure they would love to hear that you're thinking about them. How about someone who is about to graduate, just got a promotion, has a new baby, recently retired? Any of those people would enjoy a kind word.

Don't think you have to be obvious and mention their struggles. Just a card to say "I'm thinking about you and I admire you" will let them know you care.

It's a challenge. Write an encouraging letter this weekend. Mail it on Monday.
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