Friday, December 10, 2010
Melvil Dewey's Library Postal Card
Since today (Dec. 10) is the birthday (159th) of Melvil Dewey, I thought it would be an appropriate occasion for a post about the postal card which the United Stated Post Office Department (USPOD) issued in 1898 as a result of lobbying by Dewey. The pre-stamped postal card which Dewey lobbied for is the same size as a library catalog card and is commonly referred to in philatelic circles as a "library card". Dewey was largely responsible for standardizing the size of the catalog card at 12.5 cm x 7.5 cm and he felt that postal cards should also be standardized at a similar size. Interestingly, it was the early government issued postal cards (the first one was issued in 1873) that influenced the size of the catalog card, specifically its height. The "p" in "p-slip" stands for postal. Dewey took credit for getting the USPOD to issue a library sized postal card in an 1898 Library Journal article. Dewey himself made heavy use of the new library size postal cards. The unused postal card above documents Dewey's move from Albany to Lake Placid after his resignation as New York State Librarian in 1905. Postal cards could be purchased in a single sheet of fifty to facilitate pre-printed addresses and/or messages. The New York Library Club utilized library size postal cards to send out announcements of its meetings.