Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Pneumatic Mail Tubes

Above is a postcard from the Sesquicentennial Exposition that was held in Philadelphia in 1926. The image on the postcard is of the United States Post Office pneumatic mail tube terminals at the General Post Office in New York. According to the information printed on the postcard, 5.000,000 letters were sent daily through underground pneumatic mail tubes in New York City.

Pneumatic tubes were used for mail in several large cities of the United States and Europe starting in the second half of the 19th century, but they were largely abandoned during the 20th century. The New York Post Office used the tubes for mail from 1897 to 1953. Pneumatic tubes were in the basements of post offices where postal clerks filled, sent, opened and emptied the cylinder containers that carried the mail through the network of tubes. The operators that sent and received the cylinders carrying the mail were sometimes called Rocketeers.

Mail was loaded into airtight cylinders that were propelled by compressed air. The cylinders used by the New York City Post Office could hold 500-600 letters. They were 24 inches long, 8 inches wide and weighed 21 pounds. Doors on each end of the cylinders locked by cam. (source: The Pneumatic Mail Tubes: New York's Hidden Highway And Its Development by Robert A. Cohen)

image source: National Postal Museum

The picture below shows  a New York Post Office pneumatic tube circa 1914-1915 (source: Library of Congress)


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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Space Needle - 1962 Seatlle World's Fair

The space needle is a Seattle landmark that was built for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair. During the fair it was visited by over 2.3 million people. The following information is from the back of the postcard:
The space needle is the most dominating feature in the skyline of Seattle. It rises to the height of 600 feet and is topped by a restaurant which revolves 360° every hour. About 260 persons can be served. An observation deck and snack service is also atop the Needle for those who wish to feast mostly on the tremendous scenic panorama. This structure represents a private investment of nearly $4,000,000.
The back of this postcard has the Seattle World's Fair commemorative stamp, a Space Needle postmark, and a slogan cancel "America's Space Age World's Fair Seattle U S A 1962." It also has a message that mentions Philatelic Day at the fair and is addressed to a stamp shop.

The Seattle World's Fair stamp was issued on April 25, 1962. The stamp features an image of the Space Needle and the Seattle Monorail, both of which are still Seattle fixtures.

This is a post for Sunday Stamps at Viridian's Postcard Blog

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

International Harvester Truck That Crossed the Sahara

This is an International Harvester advertising postcard from A Century of Progress Exposition held in Chicago in 1933. After some research I discovered that the picture on the postcard is actually one of the photos taken in Africa. Now I am not sure whether this truck was actually exhibited at the exposition. International Harvester did have several exhibits at the exposition, and their other cards that I have show only farm machinery. The photo is one included in Markham's account of his trip where it is labeled "Baron Blixen, Ali, and the International Special Delivery photographed on the desert. Reserve tires and water were more important than food."

The journeys across Africa took place in 1927-1928. International Harvester got a lot of mileage out of this truck, both literally and figuratively. The truck was exhibited widely after the trips ended, and local papers printed articles about the exhibits. The following article is from The Auburn (NY) Citizen of March 21, 1929. (Source)

Operator Recounts Tale of Memorable Journey and the Hazards Overcome.

The famous International Harvester stock-model, three-quarter-ton Special Delivery motor truck, in which Sir Charles Markham, British soldier, explorer, and big-game hunter, and Baron Bror Frederik von Blixen-Finecke, Swedish nobleman, recently crossed the dreaded Sahara Desert, is on display at the International Harvester motor truck salesroom, 25 Genesee Street, Auburn. After being exhibited in various European cities, where it aroused a great amount of interest, the truck was brought to this country and during the past several weeks has been driven from city to city in the East on its own power.

From Kano north across sandy desert wastes to Algiers in sixteen grueling days of driving—a total of 2,818 miles—and then on to London, was the recent phenomenal accomplishment in this stock model International by Sir Charles Markham and Baron von Blixen. Remarkable to relate, also, they purchased the motor truck by telegraph without first seeing it from C. N. King, an American, who had just finished another very unusual trip of 3,800 miles in 19 driving days across equatorial Africa from Nairobi to Kano.

From radiator to tail-light—save for the safari body and top built for Mr. King at Nairobi—the truck was and is identical with any one of the thousands of Special Delivery Internationals that are busy doing the worlds prosaic work in every civilized community under the sun. In spite of the terrific strain that the truck was subjected to in the rough going encountered in crossing equatorial Africa and the deep sands of the Sahara Desert—some 6,618 miles all told—the truck is still in good condition and able to travel thousands of additional miles at low operating cost.

In an account of his trip across the desert, Sir Charles Markham continually voiced his praise of the motor truck and its dependableness in every emergency. His records show 15.05 miles per gallon across the Sahara, and he said, "Oil consumption was a perpetual wonder to us."

Both Sir Charles Markham and Mr. King had been strongly advised by various colonial officials not to take their respective trips, and each was repeatedly told that it could not be done. But as Sir Charles put it in a detailed account of his trip: "If I were asked to state why we crossed the Sahara by truck, I should find it difficult to answer, beyond admitting that in doing so we attempted and accomplished something which everybody claimed was impossible."

Different though the country was through which Mr. King passed, he was subjected to difficulties and hardships a-plenty. Rivers were frequently crossed on primitive native canoe rafts. In crossing one of these streams it was necessary to buoy up an almost useless native raft with large bundles of cornstalks. Steep, muddy escarpments and dry, sandy riverbeds had to he negotiated. In places the sand was so deep that plated grass mats had to be utilized. On one 21-hour stretch Mr. King covered 380 miles. Through it all the stock-model International pegged away faithfully with an average of 18 miles and more to the gallon of gasoline.

And then Sir Charles Markham and Baron von Blixen bought the truck "unsight, unseen" on the strength of what it had done in traveling across the equatorial wilderness and began their remarkable trek across the Sahara. The going in the deep sand was slow and difficult. Day after day the thermometer registered around 125 degrees in the shade. There was always a dearth of water, and at one time when the supply was exhausted and sure death seemed to face them they discovered a cache of five tanks of the precious fluid.

Full details regarding these two trips are contained in two gripping tales written respectively by Sir Charles Markham and Mr. King and are printed in a beautifully illustrated booklet published by the International Harvester Company. The route traveled by these men is indicated on an unusual map in colors that graces the two covers of the booklet. Copies of the booklet may be obtained at the International Harvester showroom in this city.
Another similar newspaper article that I found appeared in the The Pittsburgh Press of April 21, 1929. You can browse the Automobile News section of that newspaper and find a variety of pictures and stories about automobiles of that time.

You can actually find and read the "two gripping tales written respectively by Sir Charles Markham and Mr. King" in the "beautifully illustrated booklet published by the InternationalHarvester Company" online, but I recommend downloading the 24 page PDF file for easier reading at your leisure.

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Start of Aero Postal Service in the United States

This 1948 card commemorates the beginning of United States Air Mail Service thirty years earlier on May 15, 1918. The stamp on the card is the then-current 5-cent Air Mail stamp, which was cancelled on May 15, 1948 at the National Airport Station in Washington, D. C.

This stamp is the 5-cent DC-4 Skymaster stamp issued on March 26, 1947. The domestic airmail rate had been reduced from eight cents per ounce to five cents per ounce on October 1, 1946. This stamp was issued in a small format for two reasons, user convenience and as cost saving.

The back of the card has a cachet showing the first air mail route from Washington to New York with a stop in Philadelphia. The first northbound flight turned out to be less than successful. You can read about it here.

This is a post for Sunday Stamps at Viridian's Postcard Blog

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Down Here & Up There

These postcards are examples of a type that was popular with winter tourists and snowbirds (those who move from a cold to a warm place in the winter) in Florida. The postcards contrast the warm weather here in Florida with the cold weather there up North. This selection features representations of warm sunny Florida beaches compared to snow and ice elsewhere. Other postcards of this type contrast picking oranges with throwing snowballs and water skiing with snow skiing.

While it usually is warm in Florida, that isn't always true. The second card has a printed description on the back extolling the balmy Florida weather:
The climate in Florida rivals the Italian Riviera. The Winter sky is always smiling and the beaches are always crowded with happy throngs enjoying December's breezes as balmy as any May-day zephyr. It's a far cry from the sleet and snow and blizzards of the North.
The written message, mailed  from Miami on January 28, 1955, tells a different story:
Don't believe all it says above. It has been cold here and still is. But the sun was out today, and if you could sit in it and out of the breeze, it was warm. Haven't been anywhere near the water yet and no fishing yet. Eating plenty of citrus fruit. Much snow up there? See you in the Spring.

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Bonne Annèe - 1915 - Happy New Year

This French New Year postcard from the World War I era is dated 1915. The woman wearing a red Phrygian cap is dressed as either Marianne or Liberty  (apparently the distinction is not always clear), patriotic symbols of the French Republic. Two French soldiers pose ready to charge with swords, while a German soldier plays dead on the ground.

The caption is as follows:
L'ennemi vient dans un éclair
Chargez, soldats, et sabre au clair!

The enemy comes in a flash
Charge, soldiers, and with drawn swords!

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A Happy New Year - 100 Years Ago - 1913

Year dates were popular on New Year postcards in the early years of the twentieth century. This type of postcard seems to have peaked around 1908-1910. There are relatively few after 1910.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

С Новым годом - Snowmen Deliver New Year Greetings

These are two Soviet New Year postcards from the 1960s. Delivering New Year greetings was a popular theme on New Year postcards, and even snowmen helped out. 

Note the Дед Мороз (Ded Moroz) postmark and stamp on the first postcard. Ded Moroz is a fictional character who in some Slavic cultures plays a role similar to that of Santa Claus. The literal translation of the name would be "Old Man Frost", although the name is often translated as "Father Frost" in light of the modern usage of "ded" to refer to a grandfather. Ded Moroz is said to bring presents to children, however, unlike the secretive Santa Claus, the gifts are often delivered "in person", at New Year's Eve parties and other New Year celebrations. (source Wikipedia)

Note also the headgear, which is an upside down pail, unlike the hats worn by American snowmen. 

Both postcards are unused, though the second one has a regular postage stamp affixed. 

The words "слава труду и науке" on the stamp mean "glory to labor and science."


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