The Travers Papers are shown courtesy of the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. Jack Rosenthal owned these papers. He and his family donated them to the museum in honor of Tom Alexander and Wilson Hulme. Hulme, then curator of philately at the museum, arranged that the papers would become available after the publication of The Travers Papers: United States Postal History and Postage Stamps: Official Records compiled by Thomas J. Alexander, George W. Brett, and W. Wilson Hulme II. Tom Alexander turned over the papers in collaboration with the U.S. Philatelic Classics Society. Scholars using images and content from the Travers Papers should credit: Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum.
Scope & Content
The material illustrated consists of correspondence files of the Third Assistant Postmaster General spanning the period from 1851 to 1912. Not included are records pertaining to the 1847 issues; these were unavailable for scanning. Two other omissions should be noted. The entire 1890-91 correspondence is missing, as is most of the 1860s. The status of these documents is unknown to us.
Most of the several thousand documents consist of, but are not limited to, communications between the Post Office Department and:
- Private companies that engraved and printed postage stamps;
- Private companies that produced stamped envelopes and postal cards;
- The Bureau of Engraving and Printing;
- U.S. post offices, regarding placing of orders or their fulfillment;
- U.S. postal administrations in Cuba, Porto Rico, The Philippines, and Hawaii.
Patient researchers will find much to study here, including discussion threads on stamp and envelope design, printing and delivery volumes, costs, and contract difficulties.
Documents are arranged in sections (accessed via the icons at the top of this page) that match the general headings under which they were filed by the Third Assistant Postmaster General, e.g. stamps, stamped envelopes, postal administrations abroad, etc. Within each section, documents are arranged chronologically by the year and month in which a letter or telegram was written (in the pull-down menu under the intro text). In the occasional instances where a document pertains to more than one subject, it is filed in each of the relevant sections.
Because the Third Assistant PMG was dealing with so many correspondents, replies will seldom be found in close proximity to an original letter. In many cases a stream of correspondence can be established by the file number written in pencil in the letter’s upper left corner. In the absence of such numbers, letters can be linked using the context of a discussion.
The researcher will notice the inclusion of gray-paper file jackets. These were used to hold several documents on a similar piece of post office business and as a place for docketing. Docketing comments consists of dated, hand-written notes of actions taken subsequent to sending or receiving a letter, so any given jacket may span a period of days to months. They are filed under the latest date on which a docketing entry was made.
Post Office Department Letters prior to 1885 were hand-written, so cannot be searched using standard optical character recognition. Post-1885 letters were OCR scanned and are searchable. However, since each letter is a separate file, and since most letters are only one or two pages, it is usually faster to simply read the letters.
To learn more about the Travers Papers, please consult the following book:
Alexander, T.J., Brett, G.W., and Hulme, W.W., 2011: The Travers Papers, Official Records, United States Postal History and Postage Stamps, B.R. Mueller, Ed. Cary, Ill., James E. Lee, Publisher, 2 vols., 1,283 p.