June 13, 2021

32. Plunging into envelopes

32. Plunging into envelopes

 In today's episode, we'll be talking about stamps, erasable ink, and the history of envelopes.

USPS Price Increase, First Class Letter going from 55 to 58 on August 29th:








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john_1_05-30-2021_142912 and evan_1_05-30-2021_152908

[00:00:00] john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:00:00] Welcome to episode 32 of stationer 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, erasable ink and the history of envelopes. So we're going to get everything started off.

 We've got a stamp price increase. 

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:00:19] That's right.

As part of the post offices Delivering for America plan, they announced a intent they're still theoretically could be denied by Congress, but they have announced that later this year many postal Mailing services there, a price will go up.

These are limited in both  what is going up and how much they can because under the postal accountability and enhancement act of 2006, Post office can't increase mailing services more than the consumer price index. Of course you have a limited precision because they work in 1 cent increments, but the current price of a first-class letter stamp is 1 [00:01:00] cent it's throwing up to 58 cents.

Last year letter, additional ounces and non machine double surcharge went up from 15 to 20. Those are going to be unchanged letters, metered. So big businesses are going from 51 to 53 domestic post cards they're going from 36 to 40 flats. So Manila envelopes basically from a dollar to a dollar 16.

I liked that because it is actually two first-class stamps as opposed to a weird ratio. Like 55 to $1 doesn't fit properly, but 58 to one 16 does a and out and finally outbound international letters going from one 20 to one 30. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:01:42] okay. And that actually is partly set by the international postal union. 

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:01:46] So inter international outgoing letters is partially set by the universal postal union. That gets significantly more complex to figure out how much theoretically it is. And their prices are more [00:02:00] determinative for parcels than just postage. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:02:04] Okay. And I apologize if you had mentioned this in the very beginning on this, but when are these new changes are going to take effect

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:02:11] these new changes are going to take effect August 29th. If you buy any forever stamps, which are most stamps sold today, they maintain their value. So they won't be, if you buy some first-class letter stamps today, say the star wars ones right now and don't use them until September.

They will still send a first-class letter at the new rate of 58 cents. But if you wait until September to buy the stamp, you're not going to save any money. It's still going to cost you 58 cents to buy it. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:02:38] Yep. Yep. That's exactly right. So there you go. There's everyone's warning. If you are, we're considering picking up some new postage. If you're an old postage is getting close to running out. Now is the time to stock up because August 29th, everything goes to 58 cents and everything you buy now 

will get that letter where it's going. No matter what.

[00:03:00] evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:02:59] Yeah.

there were So aside from the fact that the post office is actually limited by the consumer price index, which I found interesting. There were two other interesting parts about it. First of which is that in the announcement, which is in the show notes The USP S included a chart of  single piece letter mail, postage rates,  in various countries.

So these are domestic letters in various countries. So I'm going to start from the bottom with Italy, with $3 and 40 cents as of May 17th for a single letter, a single piece, one ounce letter equivalent. And then you dropped down to France at one 90, the United Kingdom at one 20 Germany, 97, Canada, 89, Australia, 86 in Japan at 77 cents.

So we are not paying much for letters relatively, but it was just interesting to see that all these other countries with similar lead developed run postal systems average about one 30, a letter. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:03:59] Yep. [00:04:00] And the other thing that we were wanting to point out is we're also have a link to this, but on Wikipedia, there is a historic graph of the us postal service first-class postage rates that is both normal value and adjusted for. Inflation prices. And the idea that the postal rate is tied to the consumer price index  actually holds pretty true to this table, because right around,  19?

70 about you see the price of the stamp get around that 50 cent mark, and it varies back and forth around that 50 cent mark, but essentially the cost of a stamp has been around 50 cents for 40 50 years.

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:04:45] yeah, that's right. And this was the other thing I wanted to point out. It's really neat to see this and I'm pretty sure I talked about this when I was interviewed several months ago before I was co-hosting is really neat to see this. And even going back into the 1880s, when you can [00:05:00] start to do inflation calculation the price of a stamp held at about 50 cents, but especially early on, you get these big jumps up and down, but that's just because you have a 1 cent limited Precision, you can't go less than 1 cent to hold it at a value.

So you get these larger steps further back, you doing  and closer to today, they are much smaller and holding you about the same, which is just really neat to see. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:05:27] Yep. Yeah. And the other thing that came out of the Wikipedia article is that  previously  in history of postal service, you're charged by the number of pages that were sent and by the weight of the items that were sent and  in 1863, that was when they actually start to set letter stamp prices for the first ounce.

And it was set for 6 cents.

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:05:53] yeah. Since they in 1863, they still said it. Actually until 1865, you could still pay for a half [00:06:00] ounce at half at half of the one-ounce rate. But yeah, that was both on this Wikipedia page, which is a table of every change in letters, packages, additional ounces and post cards you should want to know , since March, 1863, but also mentioned in the history of the envelope that we mentioned last episode. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:06:18] Yep. And we'll talk about some of the history of the envelope again here shortly, but one of the stories we want to talk about is the the story behind the Mulready envelope and the black penny stamps and why Britain was one of the first countries that really started to set. Postal prices and make it where the sender had to pay for the postage.

And it was because of a certain practice that they were doing at the time where and I'll let Evan talk about this one.

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:06:48] So the there are a lot of stories of this. The one in the history of the envelope is that a member of parliament saw a postman come up to I believe it was  servant girl of his who [00:07:00] she looked at the envelope and  looked at the outside and handed it back, said I don't need that.

It was a relatively small price, a shilling. And so he said, no, I'll pay for it. And she told him, oh, you didn't need to do that. I got all the information I needed on the outside. So he suggested, so he started suggesting paid by the sender which also then resulted in people saying our illiterate servants won't know what to do.

If I have to send them to a post office to send this as opposed to having it paid for by my also wealthy family, when they receive it. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:07:33] Yeah, everything was coated on the outside of the envelope. So she was able to tell what the message was before she even had to pay for it. I love that one.

 We can talk about some of the new stamps that are coming up. And these were stumped thing that were, was missed in the post bulletin, but this is something that Evan found on a different part of the U S P S website.

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:07:54] The strengths of some of these have been previously announced such as the Ursula le Guin, three [00:08:00] ounce stamp and the Raven story, which is a native American artist. But some of these I had not seen before, and I still haven't , seen images of backyard games, which is going to be released August 12th.

So you can still get that at the current postage rate. There are going to be some happy birthday stamps in September. Day of the dead as well. In September, and then  the two holiday season stamps, as they've been referred to are a visit from Saint Nick and otters and snow, both which are coming out in October. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:08:28] yup. And the visit from Saint Nick stamp is actually going to be issued by the Santa Claus, Indiana. Post office. The other one I thought was interesting in here is they have one on here called message monsters. So I'm definitely interested to see what the artwork is going to be for the message monsters in the day of the dead stamps.

Those are both going to be fun.

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:08:49] So will I, 

it seems that some of these stamp designs have actually been added to an earlier press release that we previously discussed about the [00:09:00] new stamps for the year where we talked about things like the espresso stamps, the Chien Shen stamps and the such. That's where I had seen the Raven story, which was where the article previously ended.

I linked it and it should be in the show notes again. Now it includes the go for broke stamps, which we've talked about from the postal bulletin, the Western wear Mid-Atlantic lighthouses the message monsters, which are some cartoon monsters and the happy birthday stamp as well. It does not show the St Nick or the otters and snow and the otters and snow.

I like this as being issued from Otter Montana. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:09:38] Yeah. For the the message monsters stamps, just a pro tip for the us postal service. The next time you want to do that, you need to get at, Hey Matthew, to do it for you. Yeah, so the other one we wanted to do, I wanted to do a quick followup on a discussion. We had last time about the thermal chromatic inks that are coming out of.

I was in New Zealand, 

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:09:58] Kiwi Inks. Yes. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:09:59] Kiwi inks out of [00:10:00] New Zealand and a that they've got Thermo chromatic, erasable inks. And I had a thought that I'd remembered that there were some, a story behind the German school. Children's inks. Being erasable. And it turns out that is true, but it is a completely different mechanism.

The Royal blue inks, and it turns out one pink ink from fabric Castile are what are considered to be washable. Blue inks are a washable pink ink, and they actually use a chemical eraser in order to erase that ink off of the pages. And you cannot, at that point, you can't rewrite over it with that same ink.

So the that's a limitation to it.

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:10:39] Yeah, so it seems interesting. I like the Thermo chromatic more, just find it's more useful for most people, but it would be. Fun at some point to get the Thermo chromatic ink. And use it.

as a disappearing reappearing ink. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:10:54] Yep. Blue ghosts with some extra on there. So all you gotta do is put it in your freezer and it'll [00:11:00] reappear.

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:11:00] Write the entire letter. And then at the bottom, say P S put this in the freezer or erase 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:11:06] In a different ink. Yeah,

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:11:08] a regular egg. Erase everything obviously use regular ink to write what you're gonna say and then send it off. And I will, I may need to do that. let you write on both sides of the page before letter locking. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:11:25] Oh, yeah, it would, yeah. Just have to put it in the freezer, get everything back. Let's see, what else was there? Oh yeah, the a letter locking categories. We were talking about the large table that was made by unlocking history in our last episode. And. Unbeknownst to me at the time. Cause I hadn't played around with the website enough, the picture for the table actually had multiple pages behind it.

And if you go back to the 2018 version of the letter locking categories, because they had the entire evolution of how they came up with [00:12:00] these letter, locking categories, as part of that picture, there's a whole set of. Pictures in that history. And if you go to the 2018 version, it has that table, but it has small pictograms for each of the proposed types that they were categorizing.

So wanted to make sure that everyone was aware of that. So you can go in and play around with the website a little bit more. I'll put the link back in here for the letter locking categories, but I thought that was a really nice touch on their part to put that into the end of the. Website. I just hadn't noticed it before.

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:12:37] So the one we talked about last time is more information dense, but is not necessarily useful if you're trying to figure out what one of one, any given one of them is this one. It lets you figure out what they are. And at least for me is more useful for trying to come up with some of these new ideas. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:12:54] Yep. So the next thing on our show notes is we're going to [00:13:00] go back to the history of the envelope that was linked in the previous shownotes. And we've both made some more progress on this document, both of us, I think, are of the same opinion that it leaves something to be desired in the storytelling.

Realm of being a book, but there is some interesting information in here. So what jumped out at you? Evan?

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:13:22] What, one of the fun, there are a lot of fun anecdotes in here, and then a lot of this person did this without either a technical explanation of what was happening or a, which as an engineer I would want, or a. A storyline to connect them, just this person did this and then that just completely dropped.

But one of the things that I did not know, and I liked is that the image that was on the penny black stamp, the first in the UK, the first stamp was of an 18 year old queen Victoria. And she made it so that no other picture could be used of her [00:14:00] on a stamp in her lifetime. And she, until recently was the longest reigning British Monarch. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:14:06] Correct? Yep. Yeah. Long live with the queen and by God don't change the picture. 

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:14:11] Yeah, 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:14:11] Yep.

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:14:12] was 18 early 18 hundreds until 1901. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:14:17] yeah. Cause when, yeah, when queen V queen Elizabeth, the second eclipsed, her reign, it was something like 66 years and some odd months. 67 years. Yeah. But yeah, for me, I I thought probably my favorite little piece of trivia out of the document that, from what I've read so far was they were talking about some of the early paper-making and they were talking about the crane paper company and Zendesk crane.

And the fact that they actually developed the first anti-counterfeiting measure in. Bank paper and they were using threads of silk woven into the bank notes. [00:15:00] And so you had a one once a thread for $1 bill two strands for the $2 bill, three strands for a $10 bill. And so you couldn't just wash the ink off of the bill and reprint it using the bank note paper and.

It would still be something that could be identified in that is a particular counterfeiting measure that has survived , until today, because they still have stuff woven into the bank note paper to avoid that washing technique.

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:15:30] Yeah. There are a lot of really interesting  anti-counterfeiting techniques in  modern money.  And successive versions of that are still one of the biggest ones. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:15:41] Yep. And I think to speak to something Evan had mentioned before both of us being engineers, we were both wildly frustrated by the fact that he keeps describing these different machines and he keeps coming back to a. Plunger style machine, but really doesn't describe what the plunger style machine does, why it [00:16:00] was called a plunger style machine.

So I think we both have some reading left to do in this, but hopefully he'll get around to some of the technical detail of this. I also think that putting this in a little more of a timeline issue other than by company or by family organization would definitely have helped this pamphlet.

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:16:19] yeah, at least twice, probably three times mentioned what were probably independent developments of using a, of taking a sh a stack of paper using a dye and cutting around the dye. That's not a, not exactly difficult thing to come up with and it is an important. A step in the development of the history of the envelope, but they but it gets mentioned several times and then talks about the type occasionally talks about the type of knives that the given shop would have used. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:16:49] Yep. Yeah. Other than really sharp ones, but yeah, I think some of them were specifically made for other practices shoe repair and that kind of 

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:16:58] sure. Repair knife was the one [00:17:00] that jumped out at me as, okay. I didn't need to know that, but interesting. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:17:05] Thank you all very much. Anyway. Yep. So I'm going to get myself down here to page 34. And this was the Reay machine the Reay and I on a sale I'll confess to not knowing if I'm actually pronouncing that properly. But the Reay machine is the one machine that he does talk about quite a bit through this, because it was the one that was the most readily available commercial folding machine.

During the late 18 hundreds, 1863 onward. And so you ended up seeing the Reay machine quite a bit in this and from the looks of it, I would probably say that the plunging and it does it the pictures in the document here do bear out the idea that with it being a plunging machine, a reason why it was called a plunger is because you would put the full sheet or full web of paper into it.

And then that. Plunger would come down from above cut through [00:18:00] and force it down into the machine and a plunging motion.

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:18:03] Yeah, th that is what it looks like from the images that are a little bit pixelated. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:18:12] Yep. Yeah. And again, yeah, the pictures in this are not great reproductions.

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:18:17] Yeah. As opposed to using a mechanism that would keep the paper in one location and have folds come up above it would be the alternative. The theoretical simple alternative in case anybody was wondering. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:18:31] yep. The other frustration I had, and I think Evan, this might've actually set you off more than it might've set me off just because you've actually had to do academic papers before, but he includes a ton of pictures in this that don't identify who the person is in the picture.

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:18:47] oh Yeah. There's a lot of them don't identify some of them do, but a lot of them don't identify who it is in the picture or in the text. There's no citation for it. But at one point he includes a family tree for the crane family.

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:18:59] Yeah. [00:19:00] Yeah. He's inconsistent in his documentation. We'll just leave it at that.

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:19:06] feels like it's a collection of biographies of early envelope makers, more than it does a history of the envelope itself. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:19:13] Yeah, absolutely. That's what I'm taking away from it as well that it was in that category, but he does he does stray from time to time into something that's more near and dear to our hearts, which is paper making. And I think that for a later episode, we'll go back through and specifically pick out the parts where he talks about the papermaking.

So we can put that into a different episode.

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:19:38] Your paper making and paper shortages. Which are their own separate topic, but are interesting as a separate topic. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:19:46] Yeah, actually I will touch on one of the paper shortages because it was in some of the stuff that we had read up to this point. And that was the, a lot of what happened during the civil war in the Confederate states and [00:20:00] the fact that they were short of everything. Absolutely. Everything that they possibly needed for life and for the war they were absolutely short of.

So they ended up using textbooks. They ended up using book pages. They ended up using wallpaper. They would take envelopes once they got to their destination undo the adhesive on them and then turn flip them around. And they were, I think they were called two cover envelopes is what they're sold as a collectors item.

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:20:31] That's what Yeah, some of which went for quite a lot, it seems which was just interesting again, if that was the interesting paper shortage, there was something in here as well about inclusion of silk. And was it soldier, cotton about reusing rags for

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:20:47] Yeah, that was the first paper making item.

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:20:49] with that was with the crane family.


john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:20:51] Yep. Yeah, that was before you had that. We'd gotten around to having the pulping process where we made the conversion from rags [00:21:00] to wall or from rags to wood. Yeah, that'll be a Mo I'm hoping he'll go into some more of that paper history for some of the later portions of the book so that we can wrap that whole thing in together.

Cause there's definitely a history there for paper-making where they made that transition from rag paper to wood paper to pull paper

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:21:19] Suppose I was listening to a different podcasts that sort of trivia art called no such thing as the fish. But they were mentioning that supposedly how we started pulping for, to make paper is by watching a species of ant. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:21:34] Oh, okay. So yeah. Yeah. That's cause they were, they masticate it in order to pulp it down.

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:21:41] and pulpit down to build to build nests and instructors. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:21:46] Yeah. Almost actually I'm surprised that I hadn't even put this together, but the way wasp make a lot of their nests, they do the same kind of thing where they masticate and pulp wood in order to make their [00:22:00] paper nests.

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:22:00] And some wasps will do that. And supposedly that's how some people learned how to start pulping wood for, to make paper. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:22:08] Yeah there you go. Those things had to have some kind of a, an evolutionary reason other than a stinging, all of us that are allergic to them. Yep. Oh, and mentioning podcasts. I did not want to get out of here today without Giving Evan some kudos. He has decided to expand his podcasting reach and has started up a new Jewish fermentation podcast with his cohost Alison, and they have just put out their episode zero.

So congratulations, Evan. 

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:22:42] thank you. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:22:44] And it's a great listen

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:22:46] it's fun to make. We should have around the time, this episode. Is out, should also have hopefully episode one, but we're talking about all things. Fermentation, beer, wine, cheese, bread, vinegars, pickles all things [00:23:00] fermentation, both modern and historical biblical and archeological especially from a Jewish perspective. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:23:07] Yep. And yeah, I got a chance to listen to that first episode and definitely some entertaining stuff. Some talk of, talk about some rather disgusting food and other stuff that it's more of a challenge than it is a, an actual food source.

evan_1_05-30-2021_152908: [00:23:19] Yes, I'm sure. Especially with I'm sure our audience will actually know the food and talk to you about, especially with the overlap between stationary and fountain pens in Japan. Many of you will know about natto. 

john_1_05-30-2021_142912: [00:23:32] yep. The unfortunate experience with natto. Alrighty. That's going to do it for this episode. Thank you all very much.