After we first arrived in DC we made this museum our first stop because they were in the final days of showing the guns used in the famous Alexander Hamilton/Aaron Burr duel.
Just across the street from Union Station we went to the information desk and no one was there. We picked up a map and asked one of the security guards where it was. This is a temporary exhibit devoted to how a bust head of Alexander Hamilton was used to create postal stamps no longer in circulation. Seeing the Federalist papers post card and the $.30 stamps modeled after that bust in the late 1800s was remarkable! The pistols were there but after reading the description I learned that they are not authentic but the best "claim to authenticity" as those used in the famous duel and the duel that took the life of his son Philip.
After seeing the exhibition I wanted to capture some of the highlights of the museum since we were under time constraints. I must say this museum is very family friendly and has many interactive exhibits. I learned that the entire 2nd floor has open spaces within the galleries so you can seamlessly travel from one gallery to another. I loved how you could design your own postage stamp and with the help of the security guard again was able to find Amelia Earhart's uniform.
I enjoyed posing for a giant post card and the wall of stamps hanging all over the place-These were big sizes and I had my eye on the 911 firefighter stamp which had a big impact on me because the Flight 93 Memorial is near to my hometown. Another thing we discovered on the 2nd floor was an inverted Jenny which was the Post Office's greatest error. There's just so much here that you need several hours to take it all in.
We saw the regular Post Office here but no one was there. So we headed to the first floor and saw the Great Hall. I loved looking at the old airplanes, mail trucks and military trucks and even the rail car. We saw Owney the mail mascot-I learned this is the real Owney stuffed for preservation! I was fascinated with him with all the tags covering his body. We toured the mail car and learned how the rails were used to carry the mail.
The great hall has a beautiful floral exhibit which makes a great spot for taking pictures. Onward to see the statue of Ben Franklin-first postmaster general. His own special Post office is located in Philadelphia, PA.
However, I was most interested in seeing the Pony Express since I learned so much about it in my history classes. FYI-you are not allowed to bring food or drink into the galleries. We went into the gallery and I was amazed that during Colonial times people met at the Taverns not only to socialize but collect their mail there. As we explored some more of this gallery we found the Pony Express. I learned about the famous route that went from St Joseph, Missouri to Sacramento, California that took 10 days. It was short lived lasting only 18 months but became synonymous with the Old West. I loved seeing the exhibits here and especially the saddlebag holding the mail that had to be switched from rider to rider each stop along the way.
Our last stop was the gift shop. There are stuffed Owney dogs for children as well as books,post cards, famous historical personage stamps, mail trucks, and things used for stamp collecting. I was trying to find Mr. Rogers stamp but was told that is a present day stamp and I couldn't get it here. There also isn't anything related to the Hamilton exhibit but I got away with a few items meaningful to me.
Their website really isn't that informative and not having anyone at information desk to help us made this visit a bit tedious for us but weighing the good against the bad the museum is definitely worth a second look. Best of all it is free admission! This is indeed another hidden gem people tend to overlook but it's wonderful to learn about the history of the Post Office, utilize the interactive exhibits and have friendly staff people on hand to help you find what you are looking for.
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