The following is an excerpt from the first quarter 2023 Philatelic Literature Review (PLR). To read the full article, including an update about the library's digitization project and donation policy, subscribe to the PLR today!
Back on December 8 and 9, the Smithsonia National Postal Museum (NPM) in Washington, D.C. played host to the 12th Winton M. Blount Postal History Symposium. Co-sponsored by the NPM, the American Philatelic Society and the American Philatelic Research Library, the symposium since 2006 has been a biennial event alternatively hosted at the NPM and the American Philatelic Center.
The symposium provides a unique forum for philatelists, academic scholars, postal historians, and the interested public to discuss and present research that integrates philately into the broader context of world history.
The theme for the 2022 event was “Political Systems, Postal Administrations, and the Mail.” It focused on how countries around the world, postal administrations and their missions, practices, and regulations serve as reflections and agents of state goals and ideals.
In order to further delineate specific areas of research, the symposium was divided into five distinct sessions: “The Varying Purposes of Stamp Messaging,” “Postal Networks and the Flow of Information,” “The Postal Service in American Life,” “Regimes in Flux: Their Impact on Postal Operations and Stamp Design,” and “Stamp Iconography in Fascist Regimes.”
Alison Bazylinski makes her presentation at the symposium.
The 2022 symposium marked a first for the event in that it was both an in-person and virtual symposium with some attendees and presenters participating in-person at the NPM and others accessing sessions and presenting online. Following each session, speakers answered questions from attendees both on-site and online.
The symposium started with a session of three speakers that explored stamp messaging as depicted on the stamps of the Soviet Union during World War II, the United States during the space race and space exploration thereafter, and finally, the 2014 Crimea issues of Russia.
The next session included presentations from two presenters joining the symposium remotely that dealt with postal administrations and the politics of mail delivery from the perspective of 19th century Brazil and the transoceanic postal communications between Europe and the Caribbean from the 17th to 19th centuries.
The first day of the symposium concluded with a session involving presentations that dealt with some of the unique aspects of postal service in America, specifically the history of Sunday mail, the National Association of Letter Carriers Ladies’ Auxiliary, and how the dramatic increase in mail volume from its inception to today has changed the postal service from a public good to a more privatized company.
Day Two of the biennial research event brought with it an examination of the effect that periods of crisis and conflict have on a nation’s postal administration. This session featured presentations regarding Finland from the late 1800s to the early 1900s, followed by a study of Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
The second day and the symposium concluded with three speakers in the fifth and final session in which papers dealing with fascist governments and their impact on postal administrations were presented. Studies focusing on Mussolini’s Italy from 1922-1941, Germany during the Nazi regime, and Spain during Franco’s reign were each examined.
In all, during the two days and five sessions of the symposium, 13 presentations were given by 15 speakers. The research event was well attended both at the NPM and online.
If you are interested in reading the biographies of the presenters and the abstracts of their papers as well as viewing the presentations, all are available on the library’s Postal History Symposium page on the APS website (https://stamps.org/postal-history-symposium).
We’re looking toward the future of the Postal History Symposium when the research event will be hosted in 2024 by the APS and APRL. The theme will concern the Universal Postal Union whose 150th anniversary will be commemorated that year. For more information regarding the 2024 PHS, be sure to check the aforementioned symposium page of the APS website.