“In all communities which maintain any pretence at civilisation and up-to-date methods, an efficient postal service is an absolute sine qua non.” — Confederate States of America: Government Postage Stamps (1913) by Frederick John Melville Early in 1861, when his home state left the Union, John H. Reagan left the U.S. House of Representatives. Soon […]

Frederick Bailey Deeming was bad in so many ways. A swindler and bigamist, he graduated to murderer when his first wife and their four children became inconvenient. He buried them under the kitchen floor of a cottage in Rainhill, England, and cemented them over. A few months later he killed another wife in Melbourne, Australia, […]

In 1864, the second edition of Standard Guide to Postage Stamp Collecting by Henry John Bellars and John Hunter Davie introduced a new rarity to stamp collectors, one which quickly became known as the Mormon Stamp. The stamp featured a crude, block-printed likeness of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Latter-Day Saints. The […]

Certainly, there are thousands of Adolf Hitler postcards out there, including perhaps the creepiest Christmas postcard ever, but these were commercially produced and clearly do not qualify as mail art. However, during his time in Vienna (1908-1913) the young artist made a meager living by painting watercolors and selling them to tourists. Some histories say […]

Where to begin. A friend sent me a copy of Goat Mountain by David Vann, and it dredged up all kinds of memories. My grandfathers were both hunters, as was my father, but I never went hunting with them, and I thank God for that. I was too weak, too small, too much like a […]

Politics makes strange bedfellows. Such a true statement, but where did it come from? I searched for its origins, and found some very lazy scholars on Google. One said it was “an obscure saying from the nineteenth century.” Surely, we can do better. Shakespeare is widely credited as the first to create a “bedfellows” phrase. […]

This is not about drinking a lot of beer. Many people do, especially in college, and very especially in the service. Granted, thirteen quarts of beer in one evening is a lot for anyone, but this is not about an attempt to get into the Guinness Book. Rather it’s what happened after. But first, some […]

Mail art by George Henry Edwards, 1900 Whenever I read that mail art began “in the 1960s,” I roll my eyes. Mail art has been around as long as creative people have been mailing, and wonderful examples from the 19th and 20th century abound. [1] Mail art, 1873 Mail art by Hugh Rose, 1910 Mail […]

It was 1960. I was in a theater in downtown Buffalo. I don’t remember the movie I’d gone to see, but I remember the preview for The Purple Gang. It was a movie about Detroit gangsters. (Gangsters, like pirates and Nazis, are always box office gold.) Having never missed an episode of TV’s The Untouchables, […]

It was a youth meeting in the basement of the Kenmore Baptist Church. I was a boy, and the pastor said, “Who is your hero?” I said, “Willie Mays.” Then an older girl said, “Jesus,” and that was, of course, the correct answer. But I stuck with Willie, and one of my special treasures was […]