In anticipation of the upcoming Winton M. Blount Postal History Symposium (December 8 – 9, 2022) to be hosted by the Smithsonian National Postal Museum (NPM) in Washington, DC, we present the first in a series of four parts introducing this year's speakers and their presentations.
This year's symposium will be a hybrid event with the opportunity to attend either in person or via Zoom. However, due to restrictions at the NPM only a limited number of spaces will be available, on a first come first serve basis, for those wishing to attend in person. If you are interested in attending the event in person please contact NPM Research Chair Susan Smith ([email protected]). For those wishing to attend via Zoom, registration can be done through the following link: REGISTER HERE.
In either case, registration is required whether in person or via Zoom. The schedule for the presentations is still in the process of being finalized and will be available on the APS website and also on the NPM website later this autumn.
Here then, alphabetically by author, is the first instalment introducing this year's speakers and their presentations.
“Hitler’s Mundane Messengers: The Banal Nationalism of Third Reich Postage Stamps”
Bio: Zach Agatstein is currently a Doctoral candidate in Political Science, with a dual concentration in Comparative Politics and International Relations, at Northeastern University. He completed his Master's degree in Political Science from Northeastern University and previously was a Graduate in political science from Maryland's only public Honors College. His research interests include nationalism, genocide studies, human security, and European politics.
Among his most recent publications and presentations are “State Actors and Bystander Intervention: Denmark During the Holocaust” for the American Political Science Association Annual Conference (October 2021); “Propaganda in Your Pocket: National Myths, Politics, and Postage Stamps” for the Northeastern Political Science Association Annual Conference (November 2019); and finally, “Bystander Intervention and State Actors: Applying a Social Psychological Model to State Decision-making” for the Northeastern Political Science Association Annual Conference (November 2018).
Abstract: Political scientist Michael Billig constructed the concept of “banal nationalism” in order to explain the mundane and everyday messaging of the state towards its citizens and the outside world. These banal signals are designed to be subtle and to portray the state as strong and powerful, without being overtly threatening. While many aspects of this banal nationalism have been examined in the scholarly literature, one area remains understudied: postage stamps and the messages sent through them.
This session will focus on the stamp issues of the Third Reich from its inception in 1933 to its final defeat in 1945 and how the Nazi Party and regime was able to portray itself as a natural continuation of political development of the German state, as well as a powerful defender of German identity.
“Rethinking Postal Politics: The National Association of Letter Carriers Ladies’ Auxiliary, 1905 – 1925”
Bio: Alison Bazylinski is currently an Assistant Curator specializing in U.S. cultural history and material culture at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. Ms. Bazylinski earned her Ph.D in American Studies at William & Mary with her dissertation “Fabric Makes the Woman: Rural Women and the Politics of Textile Knowledge, 1920 – 1945.” Previous to this she completed her M.A. (History) at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and her B.A. (History) at Northeastern University.
Among Ms. Bazylinski’s more recent publications and presentations are “The U.S. Postal Uniforms – An Iconic Look,” for the United States Postal Service podcast (April 2022) and an upcoming chapter with Lynn Heidelbaugh and Rachel Lifter, “Extra-ordinary Americans: Oral History, Uniforms and the US Postal Service,” in the book Fashion in American Life: Agency, Identity and the Everyday (Bloomsbury Press, tentative 2023).
Abstract: This session will serve as an introduction to the history of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Ladies’ Auxiliary from 1905 to 1925. This period covers events of postal and national significance, including the expansion of rural free delivery and introduction of the parcel post, World War I and the passage of women’s suffrage, as well as shifts in commerce, industry, mass production, and labor. Women’s clubs in rural and urban areas increased, serving not only as sites of socialization but also as centers of community that extended beyond geographic boundaries.
Formed in 1905 by wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters of letter carriers, preliminary research suggests the NALC Ladies’ Auxiliary is an overlooked chapter in postal history. While this session cannot provide a comprehensive overview of the entirety of the organization’s activities, it will ask how women came to organize and join the Auxiliary, what they saw as their roles, the types of activities they planned and participated in, how race and religion may have shaped their organization, and, hopefully, how they perceived themselves and were perceived by others.
“Big Mail: from Public Good to Private Profit”
DIANE DEBLOIS and ROBERT DALTON HARRIS
Bio: Diane DeBlois and Robert Dalton Harris have together, for over a decade, edited the Postal History Journal, for which they won The American Philatelic Congress 2004 and 2014 Diane D. Boehret Award. They also, separately and jointly, have written on a broad range of subjects for other philatelic and collecting periodicals, and are both in the Philatelic Writers Hall of Fame. Robert has won The American Philatelic Congress 1995, and with Diane the 2008, C. Corwith Wagner Award and the 2008 J. Hess Barr Award.
As independent scholars they have spoken on their postal historical research at international conferences (business history, economics) and eight of the previous postal history symposia. They have taught six different courses on postal history at the American Philatelic Society’s Summer Seminar. For over 30 years they have been full-time dealers in ephemera (aGatherin’) specializing in all aspects of communications history.
Abstract: Beginning in 1890, the United States Post Office Department reported on the number of pieces of mail carried - signaling a growing desire to apportion costs to specific postal practice (1890: 4,005,408,000 pieces of mail were handled by 62,401 post offices; 2000: 207,882,200,000 pieces were handled by 27,876 offices). In 1900 there was a comprehensive weighing of the mails. In 1923 the first in a succession of complete Cost Ascertainment Reports was published, and steps were taken to mechanize the various stages of handling and sorting the mail.
In the period between the two world wars, private business developed both the machines and the stationery (window envelopes, address labels, etc.) to make the preparation of large mailings more efficient with the POD eventually adopting this mechanization for large mail handling. These innovations intensified the direct mail propitiation and partnered the post office with very large mail rooms. This “work sharing” to process ‘Big Mail’ increased with the change of the USPOD into the USPS - a hybrid entity that aimed for a ‘business model’.
This session will meld postal statistics with evidence from two archival holdings looking for concordant patterns in the shape of the mail, from the individual piece to the bottom line, to question to what extent the United States Congress, with respect to its constitutional responsibilities, has sold off its operations to corporate interests, thereby ceding a national asset.
“The Eagle, the Rocket, and the Moon: US Postal Iconography at the End of History”
LAURA GOLDBLATT and RICHARD HANDLER
Bio: Currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of English and General Faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia, Laura Goldblatt earned her Ph.D. and M.A. (both English Language and Literature) at the University of Virginia and her B.A. (English with Honors) at Wesleyan University. Richard Handler is a Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Virginia. He completed his Ph.D. and M.A. (Cultural Anthropology) at the University of Chicago and his B.A. (English Literature) at Columbia University.
Among the recent publications co-authored by Ms. Goldblatt and Mr. Handler are the book The American Stamp: Postal Iconography, Democratic Citizenship and Consumerism in the United States (Columbia University Press, due early 2023); “Pray for Peace but Fight Your Insect Enemies: US Postal Messaging and Cold War Propaganda” (article in Amerikastudien, 2020); and “Toward a New National Iconography: Native Americans on United States Postage Stamps, 1847-1922” (article in Winterthur Portfolio, 2017).
Abstract: U.S. postal iconography of the 19th and 20th centuries was preoccupied by story-telling, specifically, the history of the nation depicted in images of significant persons, scenes, and objects. Considered over time, the Post Office’s ongoing issuance of hundreds of stamps told a story of democratic progress, particularly the increasing inclusion of people of different races, abilities, and genders into the body politic.
In this session the rise of this iconography of post-historical techno-determinism will be traced by focusing on stamps illustrating the space race and space travel. In this iconography, history begins and ends with the 1969 moon landing, commemorated two months after the fact in an airmail stamp and then by a succession of “high-value” stamps that (1) depicted the conquest of space in relation to images of eagles and the moon and that (2) were issued to serve as payment for specialized postal services like Express Mail engineered by the USPS to compete with private carriers like UPS and FedEx.
Alongside these high-value stamps bearing images of space vehicles, many of the commemorative stamps issued for ordinary mail featured imagery of the space race. By 2001, the high-value Express Mail stamps ceased representing the eagle, rockets and the moon to return to an older iconography of national monuments.
Finally, for more information about the 2022 Winton M. Blount Postal History Symposium visit either the NPM's Symposia & Lectures page or the APS Postal History Symposium page. To attend the 2022 symposium in person contact the NPM's Susan Smith ([email protected]). To attend remotely via Zoom REGISTER HERE.