Wednesday, June 29, 2011

New stamp set features typewriter

Today, at the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York, the U.S. Postal Service introduced a new sheet of first class postage stamps featuring 12 of the nation’s most important and influential industrial designers.

The designers who are honored on individual stamps include Peter Müller-Munk, Frederick Hurten Rhead, Raymond Loewy, Donald Deskey, Walter Dorwin Teague, Henry Dreyfuss, Norman Bel Geddes, Dave Chapman, Greta von Nessen, Eliot Noyes, Russel Wright and Gilbert Rohde.

“Encompassing everything from furniture and electric kitchen appliances to corporate office buildings and passenger trains, the work of these designers defined the look of modern America, and in doing, revolutionized the way we live and work,” said Dean Granholm, Postal Service vice president of Delivery and Post Office Operations, at today’s ceremony.

One stamp showcases an item that might be of particular interest to letter writers — the 1961 Selectric typewriter, designed by Eliot Noyes. The USPS also released some information about each of the designers. Here's what they had to say about Noyes:

Eliot Noyes 
(b. Aug. 12, 1910, Boston, MA; d. Jul. 18, 1977, New Canaan, CT) Eliot Noyes bridged the gap between business and art, transforming the industrial design profession into more than just a commercial venture. Rather than continue the practice of changing a product’s design every year, Noyes persuaded his corporate clients to adopt long-lasting design principles instead. He is best remembered for his long working relationship with IBM, for whom he designed buildings, interiors and a range of office equipment, like the iconic 1961 “Selectric” typewriter pictured on the stamp. He also helped IBM and other companies develop a distinct and consistent identity.

In 1940, two years after earning a master’s degree in architecture from Harvard University, Noyes became the first director of industrial design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. His relationship with IBM began after World War II, when he designed the company’s 1947 Model A electric typewriter as design director for the Norman Bel Geddes design firm. When the Bel Geddes office closed, IBM retained Noyes as a consultant designer, eventually appointing him the consulting director of corporate design in 1956, a position he held until his death in 1977. Noyes also ran his own office in New Canaan, Connecticut, serving as consulting director of design for Westinghouse and Mobil. He served as advisor to the president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1972 to 1977.
For more information, visit the USPS website.

US Postal Service seeking financial assistance

It's no surprise to anyone who's been following news of the U.S. Postal Service that the post office is in financial trouble. If you're a letter writer, you know how few of us there are out there, compared to past generations. 

Here's some information from a recent USPS news release:

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has asked members of Congress to enact legislation to return the organization to financial stability.

In a letter signed jointly by Board of Governors Chairman Louis Giuliano and Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, USPS urged Senator Hutchison to support action to:

·         Eliminate current mandates requiring $5.5 billion annual retiree health benefit pre-payments;
·         Allow the Postal Service to access Civil Service Retirement System and Federal Employee Retiree System (FERS) surpluses; and
·         Give the Postal Service the authority to determine the frequency of mail delivery.

USPS is in “a dire financial predicament” according to Giuliano and Donahoe, despite ongoing aggressive cost-reduction initiatives. Over the last four fiscal years, the Postal Service has reduced its size by 110,000 career positions and saved $12 billion in costs.

Absent legislation this fiscal year, Giuliano and Donahoe said making the mandated $5.5 billion pre-payment due Sept. 30 will not be possible. “This pre-payment for future retiree health benefits is no longer tenable given present-day financial challenges,” they said.

Federal retirement law also has resulted in a $6.9 billion surplus for Postal Service contributions into the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). The letter calls for these funds to be restored to the Postal Service to help avoid insolvency. The Postal Service informed the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that it is suspending employer contributions for the defined benefit portion of FERS annuities effective June 24.

The Postal Service will continue to transmit employees’ FERS contributions to OPM, as well as employer automatic and matching contributions and employee contributions to the Thrift Savings Plan, and employees will continue to receive service credit. The annuity payment suspension is an emergency cash conservation measure expected to free about $800 million in the current fiscal year.

The letter states a cash shortfall is projected to occur as early as October: “The Postal Service is facing the real prospect that it will not be able to meet payroll next (fiscal) year, thus disrupting mail delivery.”

The Postal Service has been communicating regularly with Congress and the Administration about its serious financial position, expressing support for provisions of two separate pieces of legislation introduced by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) and by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), respectively. 

“The need for legislative change is immediate,” Giuliano and Donahoe said. “We urge your support of this vital postal legislation and ask that you work for immediate enactment this fiscal year to avoid the possibility of mail and package delivery disruptions.”

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses, and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

"Love Letter" Song/Video

Just when the old-timers get to thinking that the younger generation doesn't even know what a pen and paper are, something like this comes out.

Rapper Shwayze and hip-hop duo The Cataracs team up in a video for the song "Love Letter," which features a love letter being written in the background. The website Pop Crush has an article about the video, "Shwayze 'Love Letter' Video Explores Lost Art of Letter Writing."

And, the video is online in several places, including YouTube. For my more conservative readers, I will warn you, the song does include a potentially objectionable word and some love-is-like-a-drug references, but overall, it's a cute song. And, it's about writing love letters!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Letters in the News

Before she was the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton wrote a letter to the All England Club, thanking the club for its hospitality during her trip to Wimbledon. The letter was written in 2008 but has recently been put on display at the club.

Unfortunately, the letter contained a couple of spelling mistakes, and that is garnering all of the attention now. I hope all of the negative publicity doesn't discourage Kate or anyone else from writing letters.

I'm a professional editor, but I take that hat off when I'm reading and writing letters. OK, so maybe back in my younger days I might have said something to my brother about a spelling or grammar mistake he may or may not have made in a letter he wrote to me. But that was just the big sister in me. And, as a mom, I do try to convince my 11-year-old to read over emails and text messages before she sends them out. But, I'm sure even my own letters, emails, text messages and even blog posts have mistakes in them. So, I try not to judge others harshly.

Friday, June 17, 2011

More reasons to hand-write letters

Despite the many reasons we have nowadays for communicating in non-handwriting ways — the speed of a text message, the convenience of a phone call, the ease of an email — there are a few good reasons to keep on writing by hand and to encourage youngsters to do the same.

According to a recent LA Times article, The Many Perks of Good Handwriting, "handwriting increases brain activity, hones fine motor skills, and can predict a child's academic success..." Additionally, the article states, handwriting instills confidence and improves memory. All good reasons to keep writing those letters!

If you're interested in practicing your handwriting or helping someone else with their handwriting, do an internet search for "handwriting practice sheets" or some similar phrase. The website lets you make practice worksheets using any word(s) you want to practice.

If you're looking for some examples of some old-fashioned handwriting styles, visit the website of the International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting. There are all sorts of styles of handwriting illustrated there, as well as some lined pages you can print out to practice on.

(Clip art courtesy of

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Goin' Green with the Mail

In April, the U.S. Postal Service released the new "Go Green" postage stamps, along with a wide variety of great items to complement the stamps.

There's even a special section of the U.S.P.S. online store dedicated to the "Go Green" line of products.

According to the "USA Philatelic" publication, the development of the "Go Green" stamps and other products was a major undertaking. After considering many different designs and options for the stamps, the U.S.P.S. decided on 16 different stamp designs, each showing an action you can take to "reduce our environmental footprint."

“We’re creating a culture of conservation at the Postal Service that will have a lasting impact in our workplace and our communities,” said Ronald A. Stroman, Deputy Postmaster General. “The Go Green stamps carry 16 simple, green messages that have the power to help make the world a better place for us and future generations.”

The stamps are "Forever" stamps, for use on First Class mail. The stamps and philatelic products can be ordered online at

The U.S.P.S. has been environmentally friendly since 1899 when it tested the first electric vehicle in Buffalo, NY. Today, the agency operates more than 44,000 alternative fuel capable mail delivery vehicles across the country, including ethanol, biodiesel, compressed natural gas and electric. Since 2005, USPS has increased its use of alternative fuels 133 percent, and since 2003, has reduced its facility energy use 28 percent. To learn more about USPS sustainability initiatives, visit the USPS green newsroom and

The Postal Service chose the Go Green stamps as this year’s social awareness stamps to help raise awareness about helping the environment.

In addition to offering the stamps and the typical philatelic products (first day covers, digital postmarks, etc.), the Go Green line also includes tote bags, postcards, playing cards and a family activity kit, which includes stamps, a poster, fold-and-mail stationery and access to online games.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Letters in the News

The BBC published a story today about an upcoming auction of a letter written by Elvis Presley. If you click on the link, there's a picture of the letter.

It seems that a British woman who was a long-time Elvis fan kept the letter in her handbag for many years. After she died, the family discovered the letter.

What an impact that letter must have had on her life!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Stories about Letters

I recently came across a little paperback that I couldn't resist buying. With a title like "Across the Miles: Tales of Correspondence" and an author like Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of "Anne of Green Gables," how could I turn it down?

I've been reading a little bit every night, and I've been enjoying it. Too often, I read non-fiction in an attempt to solve some problem or further educate myself on a topic, but this little book is just a collection of fun to read, happy ending short stories.

From what I've read online, Rea Wilmshurst compiled a collection of Montgomery's previously published short stories into a small book. The 18 stories all deal with letters, journals, messages, etc. You can read more on the very interesting website . There are links to the stories there. You can also read those and other Montgomery stories online at The Project Gutenberg.

If you're looking for some light reading and enjoy happy endings and stories about letter writing, I'd suggest "Across the Miles" for your summer reading list.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Beautiful New Love Stamps

Last month, the U.S. Postal Service released another set of stamps in its Love series, which started in 1973. The "Garden of Love" stamps feature an abstract garden of bright flowers, a butterfly, a strawberry and doves, interlaced with vines that run from one stamp to another. Each prominent element of the design is in the shape of a heart. The deep blue background is reminiscent of a brilliant summer sky. The word “Love” sits on top each stamp.

The stamp was designed by award-winning illustrator José Ortega of New York City and Toronto. He said, "Garden of Love depicts the abundance of life, its generosity, whose spirit is to be shared by all its creatures. Love's definition is broader than romantic love. Love is that colorful, full feeling you get when you enjoy being a part of and sharing in the generosity of life."

The stamps are appropriate for Father's Day cards, love letters, birthday wishes...anytime the sender wants to add an extra message of love.

“At the Postal Service, we understand the power our stamps have in helping to celebrate special events that require a special stamp of approval,” said Ellen Williams, a member of the Postal Service’s Board of Governors, who dedicated the stamps during a special ceremony held at the Yew Dell Botanical Gardens. 

“As you celebrate all of the wonderful events of spring — Father’s Day, graduations and weddings, or whatever the occasion, remember the Garden of Love stamps,” Williams said. “They’re a nice little extra on everything you mail. They’ll also serve as a reminder that no matter what the season or what the reason, the Garden of Love stamps are the perfect way to send love, spread cheer, say congratulations or show you care.”

The Garden of Love stamps are being issued as Forever stamps. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate.

In addition to being available as a pane of 20 or a block of 10, the new stamps are offered in five philatelic products:
  • 576163, First-Day Cover Set of 10, $8.80
  • 576168, Digital Color Postmark Set of 10, $16.00 (at right)
  • 576191, Ceremony Program, $6.95
  • 576194, Notecards Set of 10, $14.95 (pictured below)
  • 576199, Keepsake Pane and Digital Color Postmark Set of 10, $24.95


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Looking for some new stationery?

The Smithsonian's National Postal Museum has a "create your own stationery" page. Visitors to the website can choose themes, such as "Airmail" or "Pony Express," as well as a border and background color. Once the stationery is designed to your liking, print it out and write a letter!

To get started, go to the Write a Letter page on the museum's website.

Interesting story about communicating with soldiers

Since I mentioned the American Experience episode "War Letters" earlier this week, I thought today I would point you in the direction of another article about writing letters to soldiers. Doug Zellmer wrote "Communication from the frontlines: Letters used to rule, but now troops are just a click away from home" for The Northwestern in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It's interesting to read Zellmer's story about how communication has changed over the decades. (Note: I'm having a little trouble with the link, but it seems to work from time to time. Keep trying, if it doesn't work the first time.)
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