Sunday, February 03, 2013

Kicking off Letter Month at the Post Office

I was in Toronto for a library conference for the last few days (great, by the way) and made some time on my lunch break to whiz over to Toronto's First Post Office on February 1st to kick off Letter Month!

What a place, and what a perfect thing to do. I was able to write a postcard for my first letter of the month, and buy stamps right there -- could have sent it too, but didn't think of it! This is because the First Post Office is not only a historical site and museum, but is an operating Canada Post outlet as well. The postcard I sent had this vintage picture of the original building, an image found in the Toronto Public Library collections -- appropriate since I was in Toronto at a library conference, I thought.

It's such a neat place -- do pop over to their website and read about their history. The building was restored from ruin and is governed by the Town of York Historical Society. It includes a museum of postal history, with letters and pens and accoutrements, also including information on the politics of the 1837 Rebellion which had an enormous effect on the post office, including the dismissal of the postmaster James Scott Howard who was suspected of collaboration with rebels -- possibly because he refused to open the mail of suspected rebels?? It was a fascinating exhibit to examine. You could also test out your handwriting with a quill pen, so of course I did! My poor writing hand is suffering a bit right now from tendonitis so my handwriting is not quite as nice as I like it to be -- but it was still great fun, though the ink smudged a little, oops!

Of course I also picked up a variety of postcards, plus some really cute buttons (on the lower right) that are clearly made there -- and now I once again covet a button machine myself. They had some nice ones made with old stamps, but I had to stop myself somewhere! Their self-guided tour brochure was very interesting as well, and I'm glad I made time to wander around and view their location. There were also many intriguing local history and postal history books available but I couldn't buy everything so limited myself to the easily carry-able things below. I intend to go back next time I am in town.

Something interesting that I found out is that there is a Toronto PAL-SAC group that meets at the First Post Office monthly. Too bad their meeting was the week before I was there, or I would have dropped in! If you aren't familiar with PAL-SAC (the Post A Letter Social Activity Club) it's a great organization based in Toronto that is focused on setting up drop-in letter writing events in many different cities worldwide. There are 3 groups active in Toronto listed on their website, and many others too, ranging from Vancouver to Copenhagen! They have an old post on their website that shows people enjoying PAL-SAC at the Post Office -- great to get an idea of what the museum looks like with people using it :)

This was a great lunch-hour excursion, lots of fun, and a great kick off to Letter Month! So glad I discovered them on Facebook before I actually went to Toronto. Serendipity.


  1. How fun--and a perfect way to kick off a month of letters! PAL-SAC sounds a little like the Letter Writers Alliance--are you familiar with that? I belong, but I've not done anything lately-I had two penpals via them but unfortunately both sort of fizzled! I think I will be writing more postcards this month than letters, but I want to try and squeeze in a few of those as well. I have a stack to write out when I finish here as a matter of fact! :) It's interesting that post offices seem to be tied in with rebellions and revolutions--I was thinking of Dublin in 1916 (is that the right year?) when rebels took over their post office. The lone postcard I've received from Ireland via Postcrossing is of their post office museum as a matter of fact. Love the postcard by the way!

  2. Danielle - yes, I belong to the Letter Writers Alliance as well; now I have a collection of mini-buttons to do with letters and writing :) I used to have quite a few regular penpals but I seem to have lost track of them all. So sad! I have quite a few birthdays in February to send cards for, and a few letters but otherwise I'm not sure how I'll finish up! So interesting about the connections between post offices and rebellions...perhaps the same as Twitter and revolutions now?

  3. What a fun excursion! You found some neat treasures too. There is a national postal museum in Washington DC that I'd like to visit one day it seems like it would be such fun. There used to be a post office store at the Mall of America near me but it closed a few years ago. They sold collector's stamps, t-shirts, all kinds of fun stuff. I got my stamp collecting sister something from there once but didn't manage to get anything for myself before they closed!

  4. So you know that I have walked past it many times and have never gone in! Shame on me when it sounds do lovely! I will be joining the postal challenge sometime soon and will have to make a point to go here!

  5. What a great way to kick off Lettermo!

  6. Thanks for coming by Toronto's First Post Office, and for writing about it! Next time you come in, ask to get your letter sealed with wax!

    Good luck with Writing Month... I plan to catch up at the next PALSAC. :)

    Kate McAuley
    Assistant Curator
    Toronto's First Post Office

  7. Stefanie - I love mail ephemera and this was neat to visit. Apparently there was a postal museum here but now it's folded into the Museum of Civilization -- still lots online though

    Heather - hope you get a chance to pop in, it doesn't take long as it is small, but interesting!

    Amber, for sure! I enjoyed picking up some postcards etc.

    Kate - will do! I am hoping that I will be in TO at the same time as a PAL-SAC meeting someday...


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