Year dedicated
1995

Type of material
Stainless steel

President at the time
GW Bush

Annual visitors
2.5 million

Location/what’s nearby
Lincoln, Vietnam, WWII
and reflecting pool

Getting there
900 Ohio Drive SW

If you plan to tour Washington, DC, on your own, then you need to know about the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. It provides a perfect oasis, just off the National Mall and an easy walk from the US Capitol where you can catch some great displays for both kids and grownups focused on something rapidly going extinct: paper mail! Many of us do not remember paper mail. Email began to supplant paper mail by the 1990’s along with social media and texts in the early 2000’s. But paper mail was the backbone of global commerce until then.

Postal services go all the way back to ancient Persia and China and in the United States our postal system was begun by Ben Franklin who had been appointed Postmaster of Philadelphia by the British in 1737. By 1775 Franklin had the colonial postal system operating. The history of the US Postal service – including mail planes, mail carriages and a 1931 Ford Model A Postal Truck are on display at the former City Post Office, now named the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, located at 2 Massachusetts Ave, NW- just to the west of Union Station.

The National Postal Museum is one of the best places to go in Washington, DC. especially if you’ve been here before and want to see more. You’ll get to take a breath, get in out of the heat or cold plus you’ll find all kinds of interesting things to do with your family. There are various age-appropriate hunts around the building, and you need nothing more than an hour or so to take in displays that groups of all ages will remember.

For kids and adults with an interest in stamps, the museum’s enormous stamp exhibit is a must-see. The museum also showcases the various ingenious ways the early US Post Office got mail picked up and delivered. There are early mailboxes from US cities and even a special door knocker for mailmen to save their knuckles long before home mailboxes were required in American towns. The mail went by Pony Express and stagecoaches to the frontier- and you can see exactly how that worked. There is even a crane on display that was used to hook mailbags without stopping the train – as well as a large collection of US Mail small aircraft mounted from the building’s 90-foot ceiling.

When the Smithsonian museums reopen after the Covid 19 shutdown (possibly in early summer of 2021) we expect that the National Postal Museum’s popular free docent-led walk-up tours between 11AM and 1 PM daily will continue. Group tours are can be arranged by calling the museum in advance 202-633-5555.

The Smithsonian National Postal Museum

is located opposite Union Station in Washington, D.C., in the building that once served as the Main Post Office of Washington, D.C. from 1914, when it was constructed, until 1986. The museum houses many interactive displays about the history of the United States Postal Service and of mail service around the world. Also on display is a vast collection of stamps. The museum houses a gift shop and a separate stamp shop, along with exhibits on the Pony Express, the use of railroads with the mail, the preserved remains of Owney (the first unofficial postal mascot), and an exhibit on direct marketing called, “What’s in the Mail for You,” that produces a souvenir envelope with your name printed on it and a coupon for the gift shop. As a Smithsonian museum, admission is free.