21 December 2009
Letters to Santa
Stamps and postmarks are part of everyday life here in Team Americas: the BL has one of the world's greatest collections of philatelic materials, I used to spend a lot of time dating letters from postmarks when I worked in Manuscripts, and we receive lots of letters and parcels from the Americas (the ones from some Latin America countries are especially fun - the boxes almost like art objects, covered as they are with sheets of colourful stamps). This morning we received a Christmas card from a U.S. bookseller, well known for their humorous use of cartoons and graphics. It seemed particularly suited, given that this year is a special anniversary for Sesame Street, that the postmark cancellation is Kermit in a Santa hat.
The cancellation is part of the US Postal Service's annual letter-writing campaign, involving charities and members of the public responding to 'to children’s letters addressed to Santa Claus, the North Pole and other seasonal characters.' Turns out that this 100-year old tradition was under threat this year for grimly understandable reasons, but thanks to new system of redaction, it will continue.
Good news not just for these young letter writers, but for future researchers; sociologists, educationalists and historians have all mined these collections for information about the minds, culture and assumptions of america's young.