From the "Mailstrom"

Tidbits, this 'n' that from around the web about letters and letter-writing, selected by Lex editors, Gary and Lonna.


A Tale of Two Carriers....

December 24, 2014

We recently sent a package and a card to a relative in Issaquah, Washington. The package went by UPS and the card by USPS snail mail. We didn't know that the relative had forgotten to tell us that his bit of Issaquah had been annexed by neighboring Bellevue, and the zipcode had changed. UPS delivered the package without any problem. The post office returned the card to us marked "No such number"! A Google search turned up an article in a local Washington paper, reporting that the post office had updated the database used for official government mailings and by large commercial mailers. Otherwise, residents were told they needed to notify their contacts of the new address. Asking residents to be proactive makes sense, in a way, but why in the world didn't the post office put forwarding notices on the affected addresses? Much as we like snail mail, the USPS is sometimes totally baffling!

"...boring beyond tears."

December 9, 2014

Often the letters of famous people shed a fascinating light on their private lives and the writings or events that made them famous. Not so in the case of the latest installment of T.S. Eliot's letters, according to one reviewer.

That time of year again

November 22, 2014

It's getting to be Christmas - or at least it's getting to be Christmas mailing season. Various postal systems have suggested deadlines for mailing letters or packages to various parts of the world - and some of those deadlines are already sneaking past, which may explain why there was a line of 8 people in the middle of the day the last time we went to buy stamps. The farther the mail is going, of course, the earlier it needs to get started on its journey. It seems likely that delivery might also be a little slower - or at least a little later in the day - this time of year, as Christmas cards and gift packages are added to the usual load.

More than you could ever write on

November 11, 2014

Curious about what millions of antique postcards in one place would look like? Then hurry on over to the Old Dominion Postcard Club [link no longer active] Show and Sale in Chester, Virginia, where vendors will be showing that many this weekend. Also in attendance will be Tim O'Gorman, author of a recent book that documents more than four decades of vintage Virginia motel postcards along Highway 1.


October 28, 2014

Much has been said about mail trains, but in some areas mail buses - or more properly postbuses - are more common. Here's a photo tour [link no longer active] of postbuses in Ethiopia and Switzerland - unfortunately there's no accompanying text to further explain the details.

"I do not like publication of letters."

October 10, 2014

Despite this sentiment expressed by Samuel Beckett, at least some of his letters have been published, and continue to be. The third of an expected four volumes was published this month; here's one of the reviews.

"Is it still there?"

September 26, 2014

Paeans to "the lost art of letter writing" have been around for quite some time - we've come across the phrase and the sentiment in articles from over 100 years ago. (And still it manages to hang on, if not quite as flourishingly as in the 18th century!) Here's a twist, though - a poem on that subject.

Dear Me

September 11, 2014

Dear Rudyard

August 30, 2014

Letters about Literature [link no longer active] is a reading and writing contest for students in grades 4-12, sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Students write to an author about how a book, poem, or speech affected them. The authors don't need to have current mail delivery; the winner of the 2014 contest, Joshua Tiprigan, wrote a letter [link no longer active] to Rudyard Kipling about the impact of the poem "If" on his life.

Not nothing

August 19, 2014


July 31, 2014

There are a number of blogs about letter writing on the web, but at least one person took a different approach last year. Inspired by the upcoming sale of her local post office, she blogged throughout 2013 about being a postal customer.

Letters from Jackie

July 14, 2014

In Issue 34 (June) we featured a new release of condolence letters sent to Jacqueline Kennedy after the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. Of course, she wrote letters as well as receiving them. Here's a link [link no longer active] to a special supplement to The Irish Times with numerous articles about letters she wrote to an Irish priest for almost 15 years in the time before and just after the assassination.

...he still believes in us...

July 1, 2014

Back in 2004 (in Issue 5) we featured Mr. Little Guy, the 6-inch-tall Lake Harriet Elf who answers young kids' letters left behind the small door of his tree along the path around Lake Harriet in Minneapolis. Ten years later he's still going strong, responding to every letter (usually including his favorite phrase, "i believe in you"). Although he goes to an eastern castle to escape the long Minnesota winters, he answers more than a thousand letters during the summer months, and has been doing so for almost 20 years. Now the Minneapolis City Council is considering how best to recognize his efforts. Mr. Little Guy also has a website which features half a dozen articles and two videos from the media coverage over the years.

Letters of gratitude

June 15, 2014

Recently we've featured a couple of organizations on the blog and in the magazine that help send encouraging mail to cancer patients; here's a blog [link no longer active] from the Mayo Clinic suggesting mail the other way, from cancer patients to those who supported them.

Neither rain nor snow... but a mouse...

June 1, 2014

If it isn't one thing it's another - which is better than the alternative, of course. Yesterday's forwarding made it to the mail today, thanks to a little four-footed beast that decided the wire to the Lexmobile's fuel pump would make a nice chew toy...

Some say letters go well with tea...

May 17, 2014

We saw one of these [link no longer active - it was a piggy bank in the form of a British postal deposit box] at a garage sale today.

Better late than never

May 1, 2014

Occasionally one hears about a piece of mail - usually a postcard, it seems, for some reason - that gets delivered years after its original mailing. Here's a story [link no longer active] in which it took 74 years and a genealogical society's help to eventually get the postcard to a descendant of the original addressee.

Progress marches on

April 16, 2014

Or crawls, at least. We're in the process of updating the PayPal options on the LEX website so you can order back issues and pay for extra words for listings, as well as start or renew a subscription or buy a single current issue as you can now. No firm estimate of when this will be accomplished, but it shouldn't be too long.

"...when getting the mail meant something..."

April 1, 2014

Oregonian columnist Tom Hallman recently wrote several columns about a senior center in the Portland, Oregon area and its experience with letters. The first was about the mail carrier who brought them and his interaction with the residents. In response to a comment on that article he suggested that if people would like to write to the residents of the center they could send letters to him for distribution; a couple of weeks later he wrote a column about the results. And today there's an update about the success of the program and how it might develop in the future.

Yet another perspective

March 18, 2014

A couple of entries ago we mentioned how professional letter writers in India are finding their jobs disappearing as people use digital technology instead of pen and paper to communicate. Here's a story [link no longer active] about someone who's trying to turn that inside out, with an app that lets digital users write letters and send them to Lettrs, a company whose employees will put them on paper and take them to the local post office for mailing. (That's not a typo, by the way - the company name is really spelled that way.)

The Superlative Letter 'S'

March 3, 2014

That's the theme of this year's Graceful Envelope Contest [link no longer active], sponsored by the Washington Calligraphers Guild. There's still time to enter, but don't delay - the deadline is just 3 weeks away.

Another perspective

February 18, 2014

As digital technology takes over much of the world's communication, one of the jobs falling by the wayside is that of professional letter writer in areas where many people are not literate. This article describes one of the writers, in India, whose job has gone from bustling to slow in a very short time as a result of mobile phones and other electronic methods. Ironically, the article also mentions that the telegraph, once a competitor to (short, at least) letters, is also on its last legs because of the many technological changes since its invention.


February 3, 2014

About a week ago the USPS raised the price of postage for letters mailed within or from the U.S. - about 3% for postcards, and over 6% for letters, with corresponding increases in other categories of mail. To put this in perspective, though: a dollar can buy enough gas for most vehicles to travel roughly 5 to 15 miles. That same dollar spent on stamps will allow you to send 2 letters or 3 postcards for hundreds or thousands of miles - and you don't have to pay for parking at the other end of the trip!

A little bit of history

January 19, 2014

Recently the factory that printed the first postcards in the U.K. was demolished. The building, in Scarborough, also printed greeting cards and other materials, and around the turn of the 20th century moved into the newly-allowed business of commercial postcards. This article details a bit of the history and showcases four of the early cards; and be sure to check out the "Related Stories" links underneath the article for links to more vintage postcards.

Ain't it the truth...

January 7, 2014

The Dilbert comic strip, which mostly focuses on office life, more frequently commented on other topics in the early years. Here's [link no longer active] an early one for letter writers.

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