AAS Visit

On the recent visit to the American Antiquarian Society, there were three items that caught my attention, so I chose to focus on those three. The first item is The Progress of the Century image [1] which was printed in 1876 in color. This was made on a printing press, which is interesting to think about because we have been focusing more on word print instead of image print, but they were both done during this time period. The image itself focuses on technological innovations that have arisen in the century, such as the lightening steam press, the electric telegraph, the locomotive and the steamboat, all modes of communication that is being communicated through an image. I believe this print is considered a chromolithograph, which is a method for making multi-color prints. Because a printing press would only utilize black ink, color pictures would need to be colored some other way. One way was to color it by hand, and the company that created it is called Currier and Ives and is located in New York which would often use hand painting. But this print is unique, as it was not hand painted but rather color printed in a sense. Chromolithography would apply each color to the respective area by using a stone or plate that would line up to the area on the image. The image would then run through the process for as many colors as it took to complete the page. I am not sure exactly what this image was used for, maybe as a poster? It is interesting because the paper is not that thick, so it doesn’t seem too durable, like a poster would be. The image itself was used to show the general public the progress America has achieved, so it would have had to have been somewhere publicly accessible, any ideas?

The second artifact that I focused on caught my attention first, as that was its actual purpose as an advertisement. It was the American Post Office Poster [2] made in 1844, which in large, bold text reads POST OFFICE. I believe the purpose of this poster was to raise awareness of the post offices and their purpose to get people to use them. It mentioned the major cities that had post offices, how much stamps cost, and that letters were only to be sent through the mail. It states “their purpose is to carry Letters by the most rapid conveyances, and at the cheapest rates” which speed was greatly emphasized. This makes sense because as what was implied in the Coquette, sending letters took time, so finally now there was something that was faster! It was also interesting that the poster mentioned that letter containing money would not be accepted and would need to be transported by carriers instead. This item represents printing communication, while also advertising how to communicate more efficiently through the postal service.

The final artifact that I found was a little book called The Post Office: An Illusion of Prayer. [3]It was published in 1844 in Boston, and told the story of a young boy who sent a letter in the mail. The majority of the book is a dialogue between the boy and his mother, who told him about the process of dropping the letter off at the post office and how it got separated and sent off to its destination, while also mentioning the consequences if the letter was lost. Yes I did read the whole book, as it was incredibly intriguing. Towards the end, after the explanation of the postal service, the mother somehow ties in religion and talks about God for about eight pages, which completely blows my mind because it came out of nowhere. With the small, pocket-size book and large font, I would assume the book was geared towards young children as well as the way the book taught about the post office. I think during this time, religion was a huge part of people’s lives, so why not tie it into a book, seemingly unrelated?? I also think the book was a bit of propaganda as well, with passages promoting letter writing and mailing, such as

   “what a valuable art is that of writing! By which we can make a sheet of paper             express our meaning as plainly as we could speak it: and what a great convenience is the post-office, by which, for a small sum, we may send a letter to a person a hundred miles distant so safely and so speedily, instead of the great fatigue, expense, and loss of time of every person going a journey on his own business, or sending a messenger on purpose!” [4]

      This passage is so painfully obvious that it is advertising the post. Print material like this, and the others mentioned in the post are helpful to historians and those studying them in identifying what was popular and common at the time period these materials were created. Obviously, the post office was an example of American progress with its aid in making communication easier and the govt. wanted people to know that, as seen through these artifacts.


[1] The Progress of the century (New York: Currier & Ives, 1876), facsimile.

[2] “American post office. : The American Letter Mail Company have established post offices in New-York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Boston,” (n.p., 1844).

[3] Massachusetts Sabbath School Society, ed. The Post-Office; or An Illustration of Prayer. From the London edition. Boston: Mass. Sabbath School Society, depository, no. 13 Cornhill, 1844.

[4] The Post-Office; or An Illustration of Prayer. , 1844. 15-16.


2 thoughts on “AAS Visit

    I think that your analysis of the children’s book concerning the Post Office is very interesting and you raise some unique points in regard to it. I found it especially intriguing that you mentioned the subliminal (or not so subliminal) “propaganda” that was present within the story of the book and how it portrayed letter writing as a “valuable art”. I think that you are spot on that this book is likely extremely biased towards the Post Office within its content and thus I would be interested to find out who published it. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it had been written by an author somewhat connected with the Post Office or if the book was a direct product of the federal institution itself. I also liked that you brought up the random religious ranting that occurred towards the end of the book, which I think is very telling of how religious people were in the Early Republic contrary to the secular nature of the federal government and consequently the United States Post Office. Anyway, good post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I liked your inclusion of the two pieces on the post office, and mentioned that they were used as propaganda. In Henkins article he noted that the postal service had began to focus more on he fact of being a business, than just a mail service, so the constant propaganda pieces would support that. The poster is also intriguing because I feel as though now a days you would never have the brutal honesty that one did when referring to the money. They were aware it wasn’t a totally honest system and warned the people using it. Now I feel like they would just try and cover up the fact that money would go missing. I also liked the quote you included at the bottom, because yes it is very clearly intending to advertise for the post office, but it made me wonder whether it was strictly for advertising, or if that is actually the way they felt about the postal system at that time.


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