Archive for March, 2010

Tucson’s Postal History Foundation

March 25, 2010

Early Mail Delivery

My book, Arizona Museums: A Trip Down Memory Lane, which will be published by the University of Arizona Press, has been designated as an Arizona Centennial Legacy Project. Arizona will  celebrate 100 years of statehood in 2012.  What better way to celebrate this event than to visit Arizona’s diverse museums which have documented our history in records and photographs. And now gentle reader take your first steps down memory lane. 

Tucson’s Postal History Foundation provides education, philatelic materials and research facilities, museum displays besides serving as a full service post office. The Postal History Foundation is a non-profit educational foundation; because of its use of stamps in the schools. The idea for a postal history museum originated with William L. Alexander when he moved to Tucson in 1959. Alexander caught the philatelic fever from his father, a banker, who collected stamps. In 1960 the Western Postal History Museum was established with office space at the Arizona Historical Society. Thirty years later it changed its name to the Postal History Foundation to reflect a larger worldwide scope, and in 1978, the Foundation moved into its own quarters. 

The Peggy J. Slusser Memorial Library is dedicated to lifelong philatelist, Peggy J. Slusser, whose parents, W. Blaine and Bessie I. Slusser, funded the facility. The library houses more than 25,000 books, journals, U. S. Post Office publications providing a rich source of Civil War literature, memorabilia and ephemera. Library exhibits include an extensive art collection, and Civil War photographs and memorabilia purchased by Peggy Slusser from the estate of General William T. Sherman’s daughter. Museum exhibits include a reconstructed turn of the century Naco, Arizona post office, with a beautiful glass, marble, brass and wood portion from the original structure. 

Through its education programs, the foundation offers free stamps and philatelic materials to schools. It provides speakers who are experts on stamp collecting, supplies postal history research materials and sells collectible stamps, and creates special educational displays. The museum’s research materials include postmarks from Arizona post offices beginning with the Territorial period, original Arizona postmaster signatures, photographs of Arizona post offices and postmasters, special cancels, books describing values of old stamps, federal documents, stamp catalogs from around the world, philatelic sales, and special collections from foreign countries. The Foundation acquires one stamp of each stamp design type ever issued.

The Postal History Foundation operates a stamp affiliated teaching program in the country, which began as a part of a therapeutic program for asthmatic children in 1964. Today its education services reach more than 8,000 children a year. Based on evidence that collecting and studying stamps, enhances and reinforces classroom lessons from kindergarten through junior high, educators at the museum developed specific lesson plans. Every child in participating classes receives stamps along with supporting materials to reinforce the lesson content. All of these services to the schools and the students are free.

Teachers may choose a set of stamps and paper folders for their classes or the Foundation staff will develop a program for them. Whether the focus is matching stamp designs for kindergartners or writing an essay in the sixth grade geography, the teacher can acquire an appropriate series of stamps. Every year hundreds of stamps are accepted by the Foundation’s volunteers, soaked from envelopes, sorted by subject matter, and filed awaiting use in the school program. 

Document, photograph and map archives are also available at the Foundation. Library archives  are not available for checkout, but they may be used at the library. Library contents are available on the web at This material includes official U. S. Post Office Department letters, circulars, notices, instruction, topographical reports, petitions and regulations from 1817. The archivists document milestones in Arizona’s postal history including the camel mail under Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald Beale and Katherine Stinson’s transport of airmail on November 4, 5, and 6, 1915 from the Southern Arizona Fair Grounds to the back door of the Tucson post office. Don’t forget to have your postcards mailed home from this wonderful museum and post office.

Postal History Foundation 920 N. First Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85719 Tel.: 520-623-6652

And now you have taken steps into the past with just one Arizona museum and there are many more to come.