By Vicky House
GUILFORD – On April 24, the Guilford Post Office was the second Post Office in the county to participate in the Pictorial Postmark project. The Pictorial Postmark is one of many programs the Chenango County Civil War Commemoration Project is doing to remember the soldiers, events and happenings during one of this nation’s worst of times.
Also on that date, the US Post Office released its second set of Civil War Commemorative Forever Stamps. Each year, through 2015, the Post Office will release two new Forever Stamps each depicting an important date and battle of the Civil War.
Pictorial Postmarks feature words and graphics related to a specific event – in this case, the Civil War. However, Pictorial Postmarks have a great deal of history dating back to the time of the Civil War. Once postage stamps were introduced, a rich variety of locally produced pictorial marks were used to cancel stamps. Postmasters made cancellers or “killers” from several materials, primarily cork, and stamped a wide variety of designs such as coffins, Masonic symbols, stars, crosses, grids, flags, hearts and birds – limited only by their imagination and carving skills. You can learn more about the role of The Post Office During The Civil War when you attend a Pictorial Postmark. History boards will be on display at each event with highlights of the history and conflict that came about when two post offices existed at that time.
Mount Upton commemorated the 151st anniversary of the Civil War with a Pictorial Postmark on April 12. Both Mount Upton and Guilford are still offering their Pictorial Postmarks using the mail-back service provided by the Post Office. However, Mount Upton Pictorial Postmarks cannot contain the newly released Civil War Forever Stamps that came out on April 24. Only the 2011 Civil War Forever Stamps can be used on Mount Upton’s mailings. Guilford’s Pictorial Postmark can have either 2011 or 2012 Civil War Forever Stamps. The reason Mount Upton postmarks can only use the 2011 stamp is that this is a dated item and the postmark was done before the April 24 release date.
The next post office to have a Pictorial Postmark and postal display will be held in Greene on May 16. The display will be in the post office from May 9-23 and will give some history the Post Office during the Civil War. If you would like to participate, just bring envelopes or postcards with postage to the post office that day and the postmaster will apply a Pictorial Postmark while you wait. Envelopes with Civil War images (some of local interest) and postage will be available to purchase that day. Remember, after the May 16 date, you can still obtain a Pictorial Postmark either by sending to taking your envelopes or postcards to the Greene Post Office and using the mail-back service if necessary.
If you cannot attend the day of the event, the Postal Service provides mail-back service where customers can mail pre-stamped envelopes and cards to a designated Post Office to receive your pictorial postmark. This service is available for 30 days from the date of the actual pictorial postmark date. You still have until May 12 to get a Pictorial Postmark from Mount Upton and May 24 to get a postmark from Guilford. Remember to include a return, self-addressed stamped envelope with your request so the Post Office can send back your items.
This Pictorial Postmark project has drawn a lot of interest from not only the community, but for stamp collectors and those interested in the Civil War. As each postmark is held, more people are coming in and sending in their requests for the postmarks. Remember, this helps support your local post office as well.
Due to the large number of requests for the dates in advance, we are adding a list of Pictorial Postmarks that are scheduled to be held through November 2012.
Greene Post Office, May 16
Afton Post Office, June 13
Bainbridge Post Office, July 18
Sherburne Post Office, Aug. 15
Norwich Post Office, Sept. 19
Oxford Post Office, Oct. 10
South Otselic Post Office, Oct. 24
Smithville Flats Post Office, Nov. 14
The rest of the post offices will participate in the Pictorial Postmarks after the first of the year and ending in August 2013.
Vicky House is the Oxford Town/Village Historian and a member of the Chenango County Civil War Commemoration Project Committee.