Exhibit highlights delivery of mail to service members

mail call

Mail Call, a traveling exhibit at Tryon Palace, tells the story of how American service members go their mail through history.

Bill Hand/Halifax Media Service
Published: Monday, May 12, 2014 at 09:42 AM.

Did you know that home mail delivery was a result of the Civil War? Or that during World War II mail carriers would actually run letters to soldiers in foxholes, putting themselves under fire to assure the boys they were still remembered back home?

That’s just a couple of the curious facts that’s part of “Mail Call,” a traveling Smothsonian exhibit showing at the Duffy Exhibit Gallery at Tryon Palace in New Bern through July 20.

The display covers service memebers’ mail and how they got it from the Revolutionary War through the war in Afghanistan.

“Letters are not left behind on a nightstand ... when soldiers go into battle,” a Smithsonian Institution website about the exhibit says, quoting Brig. Gen. Sean J. Byrne in 2003. “They are taken along and read over and over.”

Among the facts in the free exhibit is how, prior to the Civil War, everyone had to go their post office to collect their mail. However, during the Civil War, an Ohio postal employee felt sorry for the long lines of women in the bitter cold at the post office who were waiting to see if there were any letters from their sons and husbands at war. And so he organized the first free home delivery of mail. The practice grew across the Northern states and, after the war, many veterans were hired for door-to-door service.

The exhibit also describes the improvements of mail delivery during World War II when a letter traveled from home to a soldier’s hands in as little as three days. That same mail reached the scene of many island invasions within four days of Marines making their initial landings.

Photographs give life to the display while samples of letters give a hint of service members’ and their loved ones’ loneliness and lives.



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