In today’s episode we will be talking about stamps, postmarks and mail art
The etymology behind the word stationery
Barbados stamps for Centenarians. “Comprising a total of 27 stamps, the collection was released on December 8, 2016”
Japanese Pokemon Stamps! https://t.co/heLSiqQOiH?amp=1
Go for Broke: Japanese American Soldiers of WWII Stamp (will release June 3rd)
Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/stationeryorbit?fan_landing=true)
Ep 30 United in Mail Art
[00:00:00] John: [00:00:00] Welcome to episode 30 of stationery orbit, where we're all here to learn more about creative letter writing. I'm your host John West, and I'm joined by our cohost Evan Harris. And in today's episode, we'll be talking about stamps, postmark and mail art. So Evan, we're going to get started off. And I understand that you have been listening to a podcast about the English language, and you've got some important information on where the word stationery came from.
Evan: [00:00:26] that's Right.
So I've been listening to a podcast, quite succinctly called the history of the English language. And in the podcast, I've got an up to a discussion about the founding of universities. Which the term comes from literally the universe all. And they started as a place where all the students at this point were in charge and all the students together in a single place to learn all the subjects.
And they started in the English speaking world, in Oxford and Cambridge in the 12 hundreds and 13 hundreds. But at this point, this is before the printing press no sort of big printing industry, [00:01:00] no textbooks. That would become very expensive even then. So what happened was books were written out by scribes and book binders and illustrators all frequently and family business, in fact but.
So at the time, most merchants of various times didn't stay in one place. They would go from town to town especially town fairs, selling everything, but the book binders settled down and became stationary as in staying in one place as as opposed to be mobile and going everywhere.
So they became stationary and that is how we get the term for what we write on. The people became known as stationers because they stayed where they were.
John: [00:01:36] Yep. And as we were discussing a little bit before we started recording, is that even though it is. Based on the word stationary, that would be stationary with an a, we spell it stationery with an E because this was early enough in the development of the English language that we were still using the French spelling for the words, not the English [00:02:00] spelling for it.
So therefore, a stationery with an E
Evan: [00:02:03] correct. So there was no standardized spelling at the time. And so it was spelled based on varying dialects and there wasn't even a standard, a fully standardized alphabet.
John: [00:02:13] Yeah there wasn't fully standardized punctuation or anything like that,
Evan: [00:02:18] Oh, there's no punches at this point. And punctuation, I think had mostly developed, but yeah.
it just, I thought was really interesting that the terms are actually cognates. They derive from the same root
John: [00:02:30] Yep. And so the next item on our shown notes is and this is interesting thing, the trying to get mobile stuff stationary, the Smithsonian national postal museum has a call for object donations that are related to the COVID 19 pandemic. And these are going to be mailed items that are from the pandemic.
And here's a list of what they're looking for. Postage stamps and envelopes with [00:03:00] postal markings that bring awareness. to or otherwise refer to the pandemic. And I believe we had one of the postmarks we talked about last year was the night Lansing,
Evan: [00:03:10] We talked about the
philately convention, those cancelled to in slippery rock. Those postmarks never showed up. Otherwise I would send it in.
John: [00:03:19] Yup. And then expressions of thanks and encouragement for postal workers, such as cards, letters, and yard signs, examples of mail, art and pen pal projects during lockdowns, which I actually need to get one of my pieces scanned in and sent in because I had a piece that was sent to me from the Netherlands, from a postal artist that he sent me one and it's got.
Two little eye holes in it that have blue plastic on it. So when you look through it, the entire world is blue. And then on the outside of it, it has a little mask on the outside of the card. So that one's definitely getting sent in.
Evan: [00:03:59] that's great. [00:04:00] Many of us have the, keep the post office public stamps which have decorated letters for the last year. And that items with that would be a great thing to send in.
John: [00:04:10] Yep. So all of our well-appointed desk peeps that are out there, please get those sent in and that'd be fun. Let's see mail in COVID home testing kits, both legitimate and spurious. I love that they have to be specific about that
Evan: [00:04:27] I, I love, I just love the that they have both you're up there. Okay. They don't judge.
John: [00:04:32] you don't have to be judging correspondence and official mail related to the economic impact payments coronavirus stimulus, as well as scams and frauds related to the same. If it was delivered through the mail products claiming to prevent or cure coronavirus if marketed or delivered through the mail, health and safety guidelines and supplies, PPE and documentation for us, post offices and employees and contractors of the [00:05:00] us postal service and other similar objects with strong stories related to the coronavirus pandemic.
So there you go. That is part of their call for items for the Smithsonian.
Evan: [00:05:13] I've not yet been to the Smithsonian postal museum, but the Smithsonian.
is a great organization overall. And if you are either not in America or you are connected with a local museum, they still may be looking for similar items.
John: [00:05:27] Yeah, that's true. And I'm mentioning a historic items or historical items. You have seen some stories about some special stamps that were done for centenarians. I understand.
Evan: [00:05:38] Yeah.
that's correct. So I found this out via somebody with a cooking related YouTuber. I follow on Instagram. Who's does a lot of. Likes the post, a lot of happy things. She's great and this, these were produced in 2016 and unfortunately not everyone who is pictured was alive at the time, but they died within about a year.
These were all of the centenarians in Barbados [00:06:00] is history. So all of these people circa 2016 were a hundred or older and there were 27 of them who are featured on the stamps. S. And some of them were between 105 and 109. And including people who've made it past 110
John: [00:06:18] Oh yeah, the super centenarians
Evan: [00:06:21] centenarians.
John: [00:06:22] yeah. Yeah. It's quite a Mark one of the people to have her own stamps is Elaine OMATA walks, who was born in 1914. So she got to see a lot of history.
Evan: [00:06:35] And as a, so the article I found on it was published in 2018, these stamps for 2016, this articles 2018, and she celebrated her hundred and fourth birthday that year.
John: [00:06:46] Nice. And then we're going to go from down in the Caribbean, up to the great white yonder and Canada, and understand we've got some new stamps up that direction.
Evan: [00:06:58] yeah. Ma make sure you pack your jacket [00:07:00] for that trip. But many of the listeners know that I have type one diabetes and. This year, 2021 is the hundredth anniversary of the discovery and isolation of insulin, a hormone that is vitally required to stay alive with a type one and many people with type two diabetes as well.
And it was discovered in Canada and. 1921 by Dr. Frederick Banting. And this year to commemorate that Canada has just released some stamps with an insulin vial and a note from Dr. Banton himself. And all note he's passed away quite a while ago, but Canada has released some insulin stamps.
John: [00:07:38] Yep. And for those of you that are. Not aware of some of the history of diabetes prior to insulin, what they considered to be treatments for diabetes before insulin was nothing less than outright torture. They were starving [00:08:00] children to try to get their blood sugar under control.
Evan: [00:08:03] So before the isolation of insulin treatment was quite literally a starvation diet diabetes is in fact, one of the oldest known medical conditions, a lot of etymology today, diabetes mellitus is the full medical name, which means to siphon with honey.
It was first described about 5,500 years ago in Egyptian texts.
John: [00:08:23] Yeah. Yeah. And the Egyptians, when they went back in and started taking a look at the mummies were also the first ones to exhibit signs of cancer
Evan: [00:08:33] correct. And ancient doctors thought it looked like a crab. Thus the name
John: [00:08:37] oh, cancer. Yes, of course. Yep. And then we're going to go over the pond and we're going to see what the what's going on with sir, Paul McCartney with the Royal Mail.
Evan: [00:08:49] that's straight to the Royal mail, keeps producing all sorts of really interesting stamps and some of the most recent ones that were announced since our last episode are these sir, Paul McCartney stamps, they [00:09:00] feature various album covers of his, these are. Standard first rate stamps, I believe for the UK.
But they include all sorts of album covers from his Paul McCartney and the wings era to today, including his most recent album.
John: [00:09:13] Okay. And then we have two more, two more stamp jumps one to Japan and then one back to American soil, but very Japanese related.
Evan: [00:09:24] Yeah, there've been a lot of interesting stamps that have either been announced or released, or I found out about since the last episode, that is why it's a stamp heavy episode. But so the Japanese post office.
Has announced some Pokemon stamps that will be released this August.
It is At least coming in a box set, I would imagine that they will also be available in standard sheets. But the box set is being sold for 4,000 yen or about 40 us dollars at a current conversion rates. From what I can tell it has about $9 worth of postage in it, but it looks like a very nice box set.
There's a good chance. I'm going to try and get one.
[00:10:00] John: [00:10:00] Yep. All right. And then the last Philatetic stop on our world tour. It's coming back to the United States.
Evan: [00:10:07] Yes, this is, these are United States, but significantly regarding Japan. Again, these are the newly announced stamps that will be issued next month, called gopher broke the Japanese American soldiers of world war II. This is commemorating all of the Japanese American soldiers who served in the war.
Both people who served in the military intelligence services, who served in both fronts, both Asian and Pacific, and the all Japanese American 100th infantry battalion, and 442nd regimental combat team. Whose motto was in fact, go for broke. They served in Europe for the express reason of not have not being concerned with friendly fire but approximately 33,000 Japanese Americans who are also known as Nisai served in the American military during world war II.
John: [00:10:55] Yep. Yeah, definitely a mixed history from that time [00:11:00] period in I'm definitely glad to see that America and the us postal service are are celebrating that contribution that these Japanese Americans are the citizens. Made this kind of effort and this kind of sacrifice in the face of everything else that was happening to their families and their loved ones back here on American soil.
Evan: [00:11:23] no absolutely. Obviously the point of postage is to be able to send things through the post office, but these are highly decorative items as well. But through all of these items, all of the items we've just discussed, you can show a lot of culture and history and celebrating the good things that have happened for various countries.
John: [00:11:42] Yeah. And I've said it before. I love the way the us postal service writes up their stamp releases because they really do try to make it a history lesson where they are making it something significant. And. Very pointed in terms of the kind of [00:12:00] message that they're trying to get out with some of these stamps.
So that one was at least in my case, very well received and very timely nowadays.
Evan: [00:12:08] I would agree. The people who decide the stamps, put a lot of thought into this. And these are written up very well and this stamp, not all stamps, but this stamp is printed with the Intaligo method, which means if they made a actual stamp to stamp the stamps so that you can stamp your letter.
John: [00:12:24] Yep. Stamping and stamping and stamping and stamping discuss how, what it means. Yep.
Evan: [00:12:29] You've got speaking of the post office, you have some news about your post-mark experiment.
John: [00:12:34] yeah, the postmark experiment take one went down in flames. The postal bulletin has their whole set of instructions on. What you need to do and what kind of material you need to use and the kind of envelopes and how you're supposed to get it put together and sent out to them. And they I'm going to guess, forgot to tell their employees how this whole thing works [00:13:00] because I put together my postmark experiment.
And I had five packages in my happy little hands as I walked into the golden post office and told the person behind the counter, the postal employee, what I intended to do, which was to send these five packages off to Kansas city, to the Megapolis and get these things. With the pictorial postmarks and then have them sent back to me and that per the U S postal services instructions in the postal bulletin, these all had to be prepaid.
They didn't know how to do that. So she sent me to a different post office in golden. No problem. We'll go off to the other post office, all three of the postal employees that were there also did not know how to do this particular operation. And by this point in time, I'd already managed to seal the outer packaging adhesives.
So I was completely hosed on that first round of [00:14:00] trying to get these postmarks out. So I've got a whole nother set of packages coming in and I've got the click and ship compatible. Envelope self-adhesive stickers for those coming in. And I will send all of those out and I'm going to go to another archaic version of how to pay for things.
I believe they're called checks. I'm going to write out and send them checks. So I understand you also had a little bit of a result for one of your pictorial postmark experiments.
Evan: [00:14:33] so th that's correct. Mine is not as stressful though. Took quite a bit of time in a, in the last episode, I know I mentioned this and from, I mentioned when I sent them approximately March 1st the perseverance on Mars. Postmark that I sent arrive between recording the last episode and posting the last episode.
As of course they had to, but it still took approximately two months for the, between sending them to Kansas city and actually them getting to where they [00:15:00] were going, including one to me and a lot to my pen pals.
John: [00:15:03] Yep. Yeah. I'm waiting for a sizeable timeframe before I get back my postmark experiment.
Evan: [00:15:11] Yes, do not try and send a postmark through Kansas city. If it is urgent.
John: [00:15:16] no, absolutely not.
Evan: [00:15:18] Okay.
John: [00:15:18] So the next thing that we'll want to talk about I ended up getting a package in and the gentleman that sent it to me, is , from Italy. And he really wanted it to get here because boy did he paid dearly for the postage to get that package here, but he was nice enough to send me an entire.
Pamphlet called United in mail art that he had put together along with several other mail artists Hans Brahm Mueller, Ruggero Magii, Clementine podin and Chuck Welch. And this was done back in 2020, and this is one of the most. In depth and [00:16:00] well thought out things I've seen in terms of talking about the mail art movement and especially the mail art movement in international scale and what it meant.
And some of the different things that have happened in mail art. And I think a lot of folks are very familiar with mail art from the Ray Johnson. mail art and the New York school for correspondence and some of the anti-establishmentarianism that is behind mail art in the United States. But this pamphlet, and I'm going to go ahead and post a scan of this up a link to this in my stationery orbit blog, but this pamphlet gets into talking about.
What has happened with mail art, because we think of mail art now in 2020, 20, 21. And we don't think about what mail art was back in the forties, [00:17:00] 50, 60 seventies, especially in the seventies and eighties when mail art was becoming a really big thing. The Berlin wall was still standing. There was still a USSR.
There was still the secret police in East Berlin. And we don't really think about that in 2021, but this pamphlet was a wonderful reminder of all of the people that used mail art , for political statements, and really talking about. Political ideas and suffering the consequences of it. There were multiple of these mail artists, including Clementine podin, who lives down in Uruguay.
And he was imprisoned for several years during the seventies and eighties, because he was speaking out against the military Hunta that was in our Uruguay at the time. And he was imprisoned and several of the members [00:18:00] of the. mail art movement in East Germany were imprisoned. One of them had a family member that was killed because of their mail art activism that was there.
And it was definitely something that caught my eye and. Really brought to life. Some of the mail are outside of the United States and I'm going to post this up. I won't talk about it a whole lot more, but it, one of the things that it really did is impressed on me. The need, because I've been getting in a lot of mail art from around the world from a lot of these mail artists, and I'm actually going to, I've got enough volume of this material now that I'm going to start a quarterly Zine for mail art for stationery orbit.
So please, for all of your mail artists that are listening to this, thank you so much for the mail art that you've sent in. Thank you so much for listening to stationery orbit. I've got your addresses and the Zine is coming. So just stay tuned
[00:19:00] Evan: [00:19:00] Yeah, so I, I haven't yet had a chance to read this mail art primer, but I am really excited to get into it because I, a lot of people, especially my age, forget how recent some of that history is.
John: [00:19:13] Yeah, absolutely. Even though I lived through the fall of the Berlin wall and heard about a lot of this stuff in the eighties, I was still in elementary, junior high school. And. It didn't quite set in. And when you see some of these stories about some of these mail artists and what they went through, and the fact that this was not about being anti-establishmentarian, In the standard sense that the mail art movement was here in the United States, where they were speaking out against art galleries and art museums and the status quo for what was considered to be art. They were actually making political statements with. Real political consequences. So it was definitely something [00:20:00] interesting.
Evan: [00:20:01] Exactly. I am excited to, to be able to read this later.
John: [00:20:06] And then the last thing on our Show notes for this is both of us have managed to get out and travel. I am actually actively recording this, sitting in a hotel room in Las Vegas, Nevada. So definitely out in traveling and both of us have managed to take our mail art kits with us. So we wanted to talk a little bit about what we're traveling with.
Evan: [00:20:27] Yeah.
So I traveled to see some family and I've got a another trip up coming to go to a friend's delayed wedding. I'm sure everyone can guess why it was delayed. But so for me, my big thing that I was traveling with as I traveled with that I don't normally use at home, wicked sealing wax.
So it was easy to seal letters.
John: [00:20:47] Okay, nice. Yeah, I've got my little mail art kit with me. I've got a black crayon and the reason why I traveled with the black crayon is so that I can take rubbings on raised surfaces, things [00:21:00] like mail drops the doors for those, and then things like manhole covers and other things that are address.
Plaques that are on the side of buildings and those kinds of things. So I'm going to be on the hunt for those here later today, here in Las Vegas and see what kind of fun stuff I can put out to some of my mail correspondence.
Evan: [00:21:20] Interesting. That is not something I would have thought of, but that is a great idea. Of course, when you're traveling, you've got to bring stamps with you. You don't have to, it is highly recommended. You bring stamps with you. So you're not worrying about getting them while you're traveling.
John: [00:21:33] Yeah. And one, one pro tip on this. My mail art kit does include a pair of scissors. And I went through the thing of actually hunting down and finding round nose, like kindergarteners scissors that are made by Fiskars. That they're really nice scissors, but they're able to get through security and I've gotten through security with these.
It has been tried and tested now.
Evan: [00:21:57] Yeah. If you're traveling by airplane, that is a [00:22:00] very good idea. And scissors are going to be better than a knife for cutting, especially with that. And you're not, you wouldn't know what sort of cutting surface you'd had if you were using a knife.
John: [00:22:09] Yep. Actually, I also need to be on the lookout for some ephemera because I've got double stick tape in my mail art kit for being able to. Tag ephemera pieces of paper and I'm sure I can. I'm sure anyone can get flyers from the folks that are down there on the strip and maybe stop by and get some ephemera that I can tag into my letters.
All good stuff.
Evan: [00:22:30] Ephemera, I wouldn't recommend though sending casino chips.
John: [00:22:35] no, I don't think, I don't think there'll be casino chips. Although for our Patreon supporters, I have gone out and gotten a pack of authentic casino, played cards for each of our Patreon supporters. So if you all are hearing this, the package is probably in the mail and on the, on their way to you.
Evan: [00:22:56] Vegas dicer filled in. You. couldn't do rubbings of the dice. [00:23:00] Just that'd be, that would be an interesting one.
John: [00:23:03] Yeah. And if you do get a Vegas played dice, they actually have to stamp those so that they're no longer, they can be clearly seen that they're no longer valid dice. So you don't want those either.
Evan: [00:23:16] Yeah, th that's true, but the stamp could be interesting. The stamping, if it's engraved would be interesting to re to take a rubbing up with the crayon of, but otherwise it's not useful to, as they are. The dice are machined much more accurately than a standard die and are filled in.
With ink or with acrylic. That's the same density. Just different color.
John: [00:23:36] yep. That's yeah. That's absolutely correct. So yeah, that's all good stuff. And
Evan: [00:23:43] Yeah, When I traveled last, I did not do as much writing as had hoped to. I only got one of the letters off two days ago, despite the fact that I brought it with me two weeks ago.
John: [00:23:52] Yeah, I've got some very shiny Las Vegas postcards. That'll be going out to some of my pen pals. And [00:24:00] I've got a couple of other postcards with me that I've got to get written so I can get those out. So yeah, I've got some, I've got some letter writing or at least postcard writing tasks ahead of me before I get by myself back out of Vegas.
So yeah. That's going to do it for this episode, everyone. Thank you very much for listening and we'll see you in two weeks.