Smithsonian National Postal Museum

2 Massachusetts Avenue, NE,MRC 570, PO Box 37012, Washington, DC 20013 - United States

202/633-5555

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Smithsonian Museum

Free Everyday

The Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum is located in the historic City Post Office Building, which was constructed in 1914 and served as the Washington, D.C., post office from 1914 through 1986. The Museum occupies 100,000 square feet of the building with 35,000 square feet devoted to exhibition space. The Museum also houses a 6,000-square-foot research library, a stamp store and a museum shop.

The Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum is dedicated to the preservation, study and presentation of postal history and philately. The museum uses exhibits, educational public programs and research to make this rich history available to scholars, philatelists, collectors and visitors from around the world.

The National Postal Museum houses one of the largest and most significant philatelic and postal history collections in the world and one of the world’s most comprehensive library resources on philately and postal history. The museum’s many exhibition galleries present America’s postal history from Colonial times to the present, while its collections contain prestigious U.S. and international postal issues and specialized collections, archival postal documents and 3-D objects.

The museum atrium has a 90-foot-high ceiling with three vintage airmail planes suspended overhead, a reconstructed railway mail car, an 1851 stagecoach, a 1931 Ford Model A postal truck and a contemporary Long Life Vehicle postal truck. Among its permanent exhibitions are: “Binding the Nation,” “Systems at Work,” “Moving the Mail,” “Mail Call,” “Customers and Communities” and “Pony Express: Romance vs. Reality.” The museum is also home to the William H. Gross Stamp Gallery—the largest stamp gallery in the world.

Exhibits

John Lennon: The Green Album
John Lennon’s boyhood stamp album—including 565 stamps on more than 150 pages is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. The exhibition coincides with the U.S. Postal Service’s issuance of the John Lennon Forever stamp, honoring the legendary singer and songwriter. The stamp is part of the USPS’ Music Icons series.

Postmen of the Skies: Celebrating 100 Years of Airmail Service
May 15, 2018 marked the 100th anniversary of the world’s first regularly scheduled airmail service. President Wilson was on hand in Washington, DC to watch the historic take off. At first the service only operated between Washington, Philadelphia and New York. By 1920, airmail raced from New York to San Francisco. It was dangerous work. More than 30 pilots died doing their best to fly the mail. Americans recognized the bravery of these Postmen of the Skies, treating them as heroes. In 1927 the Post Office handed off the last of its routes to private contractors, paving the way for what became the nation’s commercial aviation system.

Alexander Hamilton: Soldier, Secretary, Icon
This exhibit explores the extraordinary life of Alexander Hamilton through mail, portraits, postage, and pistols.

Beautiful Blooms: Flowering Plants on Stamps
This exhibition highlights the variety of flowering plants commemorated on US postage stamps during the past 50 years and explores artistic themes that emerged during this period. For example, the artwork portrays a variety of flowering plants found in gardens and public spaces throughout the United States and explore the symbiotic relationship between flowering plants, bees, birds and butterflies. The exhibit displays at least 30 pieces of developmental and final artwork used to produce at least 28 flora stamps. The use of stamp art in various phases of development enables visitors to understand the role design artwork plays in the production of postage stamps. The artwork is borrowed from the renowned Postmaster General’s Collection which is on a long-term loan to the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum.

My Fellow Soldiers: Letters from World War I
Through personal correspondence written on the frontlines and home front, this centennial exhibition uncovers the history of America’s involvement in World War I. The compelling selection of letters illuminates emotions and thoughts engendered by the war that brought America onto the world stage; raised complex questions about gender, race and ethnic relations; and ushered in the modern era. Included are previously unpublished letters by General John Pershing, the general who led the American Expeditionary Forces and a person who understood the power of the medium. In his postwar letter that begins “My fellow soldiers,” he recognized each individual under his command for bravery and service. My Fellow Soldiers: Letters from World War I was created by the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum in collaboration with the Center for American War Letters at Chapman University.

Trailblazing: 100 Years of Our National Parks
Did you know that a village at the bottom of the Grand Canyon eats most of its mail? Or that America’s newest national park was once so secret it used an undercover address? “Trailblazing: 100 Years of Our National Parks”, a two-year temporary exhibition, chronicles these and numerous other intersections between mail and our national parks. Featuring original postage stamp art from the United States Postal Service and artifacts loaned by the National Park Service, the exhibition explores the myriad – and sometimes surprising – ways that mail moves to, through and from our national parks.

1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta
The 1856 British Guiana One-Cent Magenta is displayed in the museum’s William H. Gross Stamp Gallery. This exhibition of the stamp is the longest and most publicly accessible showing ever.

The William H. Gross Stamp Gallery
Named after its primary benefactor, the William H. Gross Stamp Gallery is the world’s largest gallery dedicated to philately. It provides an experience available nowhere else and offers something for everyone, from casual visitors to experienced collectors.

As visitors move through six thematic areas, stunning displays and interactive moments reveal the amazing stories that unfold from the museum’s unparalleled collection. Distributed throughout the thematic areas are hundreds of pullout frames containing more than 20,000 objects, providing ample opportunities to view noteworthy stamps that have never been on public display.

Systems at Work
Systems at Work leads you through 10 different moments in the nation’s history. Together, they reveal the great changes and striking similarities in the postal system over time—how it works, how it connects people, and its profound importance to the nation.

Mail Call
Members of the armed forces can feel isolated while deployed overseas in challenging and often dangerous conditions. Mail gives these men and women access to the world they have temporarily left behind. Receiving mail connects them to loved ones and enables them to learn about and participate in events occurring at home.

Mail Call explores how the military postal system works and why the mail is an important resource. Types of mail, transportation methods, and postal workers have all changed over time. Through innovations in technology and organization, mail has become more diverse and military mail services more reliable.

Behind the Badge: The U.S. Postal Inspection Service
The United States Postal Inspection Service—one of our nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agencies—protects mail, post offices and postal employees. Inspectors are on the ground and on the job, from restoring postal service after a disaster to capturing drug traffickers and protecting citizens from mail fraud. We can all be partners in prevention, by learning to protect ourselves from fraud, identity theft, and other postal crimes.

Location

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