Tag Archives: US Postal Service

Mail from the moon

Amongst the many stand holders at the London 2010 International Stamp Exhibition are stamp dealers Buckingham Covers, who will be offering visitors the rare chance to view two special – and rather controversial – envelopes which have been to the moon.

None of the millions who watched the historic flight of Apollo 11 around the world knew that the spaceship contained more than just scientific equipment. Without official approval from NASA, astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins each took a few special envelopes; Buzz Aldrin took 104, Neil Armstrong took 47 and Michael Collins took 63.

Apollo 11 cover, signed by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins

Apollo 11 cover, signed by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins

When the astronauts returned to earth all the envelopes were placed in quarantine, and have the special markings to prove it. The envelopes were also autographed by all three astronauts. As to how we can be so sure about the number of envelopes carried, these were noted by Aldrin on the paper bag in which the envelopes were handed in to be postmarked. Aldrin signed the bag, and recently it fetched £2,000.

The paper bag on which Buzz Aldrin listed how many covers had flow with each astronaut on Apollo 11

The paper bag on which Buzz Aldrin listed how many covers had flow with each astronaut on Apollo 11

Even more controversial were the covers flown on Apollo 15. Dave Scott and the rest of the crew took 398 envelopes to the Moon, many of them hidden in Scott’s space suit. These were later confiscated by NASA and remained in their possession for a number of years, until NASA themselves flew first day covers for the US Postal Service. Dave Scott sued for the return of his covers and eventually won the case.

One of the controversial Apollo 15 covers

One of the controversial Apollo 15 covers

All three of the Apollo 15 astronauts later signed an affidavit stating that the covers had been flown to the Moon.

Affidavit signed by the Apollo 15 astronauts

The affidavit signed by the Apollo 15 astronauts

There is more about the Apollo 15 covers controversy on Wikipedia.

Two Apollo covers will be on display at Buckingham Covers, stand 110 at the International Stamp Exhibition at the Business Design Centre in Islington, from 8-15th May.

Post Abolition: Commemorative stamps from around the world

The first event on the London 2010: Festival of Stamps calendar opens today at the Museum of London Docklands. This new display can be found in the London, Sugar and Slavery gallery, and looks at how the abolition of slavery has been commemorated through postage stamps from the 1930s onwards.

A 1963 US stamp depicting a broken chain and the words "Emacipation Proclamation", produced to celebrate 100 years since the abolition of slavery.

1963 US stamp celebrating the abolition of slavery

Post Abolition is created in partnership with the Sands of Time Consultancy. It features over 30 designs, together with new stamps created by students from Barnet College as part of a community project with the Museum.  Key stamps in the display include a 1965 Jamaican stamp marking Paul Bogle and the Morant Bay uprising. Also featured are the ‘Black Heritage’ series of stamps launched in 1978 by the US Postal Service featuring Harriet Tubman, known as the Moses of her people for helping men and women escape from the American slave states.

Tom Wareham, Curator at the Museum of London Docklands, said: “The great thing about these stamps is that they are not just miniature works of art, they also convey what the abolition of slavery has come to mean to people in different parts of the world. This display highlights the subtle messages and symbolism often contained within the designs.”

Nigel Sadler from the Sands of Time Consultancy said: “These stamps feature people who fought for freedom, rebellion leaders who died for independence together with iconic images of emancipation and life on the plantations. Stamps providing a history of slavery and its abolition commemoration are a rare sight in museum exhibitions. Sands of Time Consultancy is pleased to have been able to support the Museum of London Docklands with this display to coincide with London 2010: Festival of Stamps.”

The exhibition runs from 18 January – 30 June 2010. There are also a number of related events taking place. For more details on opening times and how to get there, please visit the Museum of London Docklands website.