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Book Nook: How the Post Office Created America, by Winifred Gallagher


When I was in kindergarten I fell in love with postage stamps and became a passionate stamp collector. This early hobby turned me into a huge admirer of the United States Post Office. A small boy trying to build a stamp collection had to be creative. Des Moines had many tall buildings and a number of them were the home offices for insurance companies. My dad worked at one of them so I was aware that these buildings contained many floors filled with secretaries at desks laboring at typewriters. There were hundreds of desks with many young women seated nearby. Each desk had a waste basket and those trash receptacles were this budding philatelist's Nirvana.

Each wastebasket was filled with discarded envelopes and every single one of those envelopes had small treasures affixed to the corners; U.S. postage stamps. I would walk up to a desk, my head was barely high enough to peer over at the secretary sitting there with her perm and her smoldering cigarette. I would say; "hi, do you mind if I look in your waste basket for any postage stamps that have been thrown away?" My shtick was virtually foolproof. These women were delighted to have this little boy paying a visit. I obtained piles of envelopes and the stamps I collected that way remain in my collection.

My first full-time job was working as a postal clerk for the recently created U.S. Postal Service. That experience cemented my admiration and dedication to the U.S. Mail. I loved sorting letters. At 2 a.m. when the foreign air mail bags would arrive I would rush over to the conveyor belt so I could be the one to sort all the post cards that were newly arrived from Europe on their way to tiny towns across Iowa. I would pause to admire the beautiful stamps on each piece of mail.

I thought I knew a lot about the U.S. Mail. Then I discovered Winifred Gallagher's latest book, a work of history called "How the Post Office Created America." This book was revelation. I always knew the Post Office was important but I had no idea how crucial it was to the very creation of the United States. This book is essential reading.

The Book Nook on WYSO is made possible by six local library systems in southwest Ohio:  the Greene County Public LibraryWashington-Centerville Public Library, MidPointe Library SystemClark County Public Library, Dayton Metro Library, and Wright Memorial Public Library.

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Vick Mickunas introduced the Book Nook author interview program for WYSO in 1994. Over the years he has produced more than 1500 interviews with writers, musicians, poets, politicians, and celebrities. Listen to the Book Nook with Vick Mickunas for intimate conversations about books with the writers who create them. Vick Mickunas reviews books for the Dayton Daily News and the Springfield News Sun.