Helen Allingham (1848-1926) was a Victorian artist who had a passion for the English countryside and Surrey cottages in particular. Her watercolors have preserved scores of them for us, a glimpse into another era. Here are three of her postal images:
The Old Post Office, Brook, Near Witley
Witley Post Office
Her Majesty’s Post Office
Pneumatic mail in New York City, from a postcard published by James T. Towhill, Boston.
A Christmas postcard featuring the U.S. Post Office building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
There are Bethlehems all over the U.S.A., including those in Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, New Hampshire and South Dakota, but I was only able to scare up one image, that of the post office (and library) in South Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, shyly concealing its beauty behind a tree.
In 1921, the U.S. Post Office in Washington, DC, sent this truck out to encourage people to mail early during the Christmas season.
The tiny hamlet of North Pole, New York, is situated in the Adirondack Park near Whiteface Mountain and Lake Placid. It is home to a pioneering theme park, Santa’s Workshop, created in 1949 with costumed characters and a small menagerie which may have been the first petting zoo, all designed by Arturo Monaco, a former Walt Disney artist. In 1953, the U.S. Post Office awarded the hamlet Rural Post Office status, and letters to Santa continue to flow in to this day, along with bundles of Christmas cards seeking the coveted “North Pole” postmark.
It is the holiday season, and no better time to remember the post office in Christmas, Florida, in all its glory. A frontier post during the Seminole Wars, Fort Christmas was so named because work on the stockade began on Christmas Day, 1837. After the wars, when the native Americans were driven away, the area was resettled mostly by U.S. soldiers who had served at Fort Christmas. It’s not quite certain when the town started calling itself Christmas, instead of Fort Christmas, but the post office, established in 1892, has always used Christmas as its name.
While in Texas, let us pause at Salt Flat, 70 miles east of El Paso, once the site of salt beds that dried up when ranchers drilled for water and the salt lakes vanished. The post office was established in Salt Flat in 1941, moving from nearby Ables. Ben H. Gilmore was the first postmaster of Salt Flat. His post office closed in 1945, but a new one opened in 1947. Today Salt Flat has a handful of dwellings, the post office (zip code 79847), a cafe and a gas station serving travelers visiting Guadalupe Mountains National Park or motoring along the road that runs from El Paso to Carlsbad, New Mexico.
My goodness. If you were going to write home and tell the family you’d struck oil, this would be the post office where you mailed that letter. In 1930, Kilgore was on the verge of extinction when Columbus M. “Dad” Joiner hit a gusher. At one point, more than 1,000 wooden oil derricks lined the streets, and the town’s population boomed from 500 to 12,000. By 1940, the majority of the oil was played out, but that was the year Kilgore College introduced the Rangerettes, so all was not lost.
I have seen some desolate post offices in my time, but this one in Prattsburgh, in Steuben County, New York, is a new low. I’m not even sure I could mail a suicide note here.