Foundation & Post Office: Mon - Fri • 8 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
Library: Mon - Fri • 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
920 N. 1st Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85719
520-623-6652          

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Museum & Exhibits

Museum

Located in the main building of the Postal History Foundation in Tucson, the historic post office structure from Naco, Arizona, is prominent.  This dates from about 1895, and was the active post office in this border town for some 30 years.  In those days, when a postmaster needed a post office, kits were available to order.  This structure was assembled from such a kit and was in a Wells Fargo freight office building.  When Naco got a new post office, the structure was disassembled and conserved, installed in a bar in Tombstone for awhile, and after the Western Postal History Museum was established in the Arizona Historical Society Museum in 1960, placed there.  In the seventies, the church building that now is the main building for the Postal History Foundation was acquired, and the historic post office was relocated to its present location.

Naco was one of a few post offices that served to exchange mail between the United States and Mexico, during the Mexican Revolution in the early part of the 20th century.  This structure would have physically been the exchange point.

Today, the Postal History Foundation utilizes this space to display postal memorabilia from a number of historic sources.  These include:

  • A hand operated cancellation machine from the mining town of Tyrone, New Mexico.  This is a Model No. 2, Serial 31, from the American Postal Machines Company.  The cancellation in this mechanism is a "flag canceller"; the flag from Tyrone is known from 1917 until 1921, according to a book detailing flag cancels.  The machine itself has a patent plaque dated 1893.  It has been suggested that this might be the only intact and functional one remaining; most went into the scrap drives during World War II.

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  • A Universal Stamping Machine Company, Style D, electric cancellation machine, with the circular date stamp from Tolleson, Arizona, and the included zip code suggests that this was used in the 1960s or so, when zip codes were first used.  

universal stamping machine small universal stamping machine 3 small

  • Three other hand cancellation machines complete our assortment of these devices.  One is a Columbia Postal Supply Company Shop No 4433, used in Chandler, Arizona, with a date of 1931.  The other two are physically similar except for the company nameplates.  The older of these was used in Oracle, Arizona, and is labeled International Postal Supply Company, Model HD2, Serial 5353, as recently as 2002.  The newer one was used in Vail and is labeled Friden Model HD, Serial 5857.  Apparently the company changed names between these two serial numbers.

columbia stamping machine 2 small friden 3 small

  • A Brandt Automatic Cashier device, made for the USPOD, and with a patent date of 1895 and 1896, is a beautifully cast brass machine.  This provided change from 1 cent to 100 cents, is a fine example of early technology, and might be unique today.

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  • A Schermack Products Sanitary Postal Station, Model 55310, Number 62091, is a coin operated vending machine for 3 cent and 1 cent coil stamps.

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  • The dispatch case from Casa Grande, AZ, dates from early in the 20th century.
  • A small collection of badges, from various postal occupations including letter carrier, RFD carrier, truck driver, etc., is in a display.  There are also some padlocks for letter boxes, for registered bags, and for the Railway Mail Service mailbags.
  • To complement these RMS locks, there is one of the distinctive RMS mailbags with its leather reinforcement and steel rings at each end that were used to fasten the bag to the trackside "cranes" for pickup by the clerks in the mail cars.  A few photographs and some descriptive text pages explain the operation of this successful system.
  • The delivery letter boxes from an early post office in Oatman, AZ, show the spread eagle and the two dials with letter codes, in their cast metal doors with glass windows.
  • Many other postal memorabilia are on display for visitors to enjoy.

In the Peggy Slusser Memorial Philatelic Library, there is a display of postal scales from several decades, together with some early cast metal mailboxes.

Archival records from several post offices in Arizona, and from Tyrone, New Mexico, are stored in the basement and are available for research on request from the library staff.  These records include photographs and other historical information about many of these post offices.

A small display of memorabilia from the estate of the Weill Brothers, whose stamp shop in the New Orleans French Quarter was important for years, includes the original wooden sign that graced the street and was featured in a familiar watercolor advertisement on many magazine covers.

A preserved and framed copy of a New York City newspaper announcing the assassination of President Lincoln, is proudly displayed on a wall.

There are five original oil paintings by Cal Peters, commissioned for the museum, that illustrate early Arizona postal history subjects.  This same artist also did at least five dioramas; these are in several sites of the Arizona Historical Society in Tucson and in Yuma.

Exhibits

In the main building, the Carl Lemar John Exhibit Room contains six of the "standard" APS exhibit frames.  These display rotating exhibits from the Postal History Foundation archives, or from items that are pertinent to special activities ongoing at the foundation.

There are also two frames with displays from the Education Department including examples of our worksheets, populated with the stamps that we make available to the students.  Other exhibits in those frames include entries and winners in our annual contest for students to design a stamp to celebrate Tucson's birthday.  The citywide celebration counts the years since 1775.

Still two more frames contain examples of some of the souvenir cacheted covers that have been created through the years by the Postal History Foundation, together with a sale list for these; a display of privately created cacheted covers is also often presented.

In the Peggy Slusser Memorial Philatelic Library, exhibit cases often contain examples of the Civil War memorabilia collected by Miss Slusser, which were donated to the Postal History Foundation upon her passing some years ago.

These exhibits also change, depending upon special events at the Postal History Foundation.  Examples of exhibits that have been displayed here include:

  • Space memorabilia on the occasion of the recent stamps commemorating the Messenger spacecraft and the astronaut Alan Shepard;
  • Memorabilia of the 300th anniversary of the death of Padre Kino, from the Diocese of Tucson and other sources;
  • An array of early Mexican stamped revenue papers from the Special Collections Library of the University of Arizona, coinciding with the meeting of MEPSI at the ARIPEX2011 show.

Photographs by Sarah Imholt