On December 7, National Letter Writing Day is observed by many, including me. It’s something which may be a dying form of communication. I believe letters are important for several reasons:

  • Handwritten letters tell our history in a way e-mailing, texting, and Facetiming never will. Last year I discovered a trove of letters, mostly written by my parents when I was in college and into my early married years. Dad’s were always written on office letterhead, dictated by his secretary, often with an enclosure. Mom’s were sometimes typed, but often handwritten, keeping me up-to-date on the goings-on with my four younger brothers at home. It’s fascinating to learn a first-class stamp cost all of 15 cents in 1978, and that typing was done on mimeograph paper (it provided you with more than one copy for those too young to remember!). These treasures were also bittersweet – a letter from my late brother Stephen while he was away at school, telling me about his classes and saying ‘hi’ to a long-forgotten boyfriend. I could truly hear his voice.
  • One of my nieces, a junior at Drake University, asked mom and I to be pen pals with her which has been awesome. Her rules – handwritten only! She’s studying abroad this semester, so we’ve had to resort to texting for speed. But next semester we’re back on!
  • The other aspect of letter writing (or handwritten thank you notes, for example) is that people appreciate you taking the time to sit down and formulate what you want to say to them.
  • The last point is that for the most part, little kids love mail! My older niece, Emily, has seven kiddos and they are thrilled to get the cards and letters I write them. I’ll take that excitement as long as it lasts.

In celebration of National Letter Writing Day, here are some fun facts in the history of American letters.  Cap off the day by writing a letter to someone.

2013 Disrupting the system:

The US Postal Service agrees to offer Sunday delivery of Amazon packages.

1918 First airmail:

Daily airmail flights were instituted by the U.S. government between New York and Washington D.C.

1847 First stamp:

The first American stamps featured Benjamin Franklin and George Washington and were authorized by an act of Congress.

1494 Columbus returns:

On returning to Spain from the Americas, Christopher Columbus writes to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, reflecting on his conquest in an era before airmail.


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