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Postal History and the Post Office's Future

By February 17, 2013

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"When Americans reflect on postal history, they almost always start with Benjamin Franklin. But Franklin had nothing to do with the modern institution that the founders established. It was George Washington and James Madison, not Franklin, who supported the key legislation that got the modern post office up and running in 1792."

The above is from the opinion piece How the Post Office Made America in the New York Times by Richard R. John, Columbia University journalism professor; author of "Spreading the News: The American Postal System From Franklin to Morse."

This use of the term postal history struck me as unusual, although I'm certainly not going to take issue with its use by an authority like Mr. John. It's just an example of how I think, as the usual context makes appreciating a different meaning or seeing another side of a term like postal history a big jarring. I imagine this is also why it is so difficult for postal officials, with the exception of Postmaster General Donohue, to see the potential merit in putting living people on stamps.

It has always been the rule that only the deceased may appear on stamps. This is what USPS officials understand. And apparently that rule (is it really a law?) is good enough to keep on the books indefinitely, even as other countries honor noteworthies while they are still among the living, their presence able to spark interest in the hobby and to increase stamp sales. Even USPS honoree and All-American dim bulb Homer Simpson would see the wisdom in that.


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