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Exhibitions Home | Current | Upcoming | Past | Virtual

Presidential Mail: On Official Business

January 19, 2001 – March 26, 2001

Museum: Postal Museum

Location: Benjamin Franklin Foyer, Atrium Escalator Cases

On view are examples of envelopes "franked" by presidents from Jefferson to Carter. The franking privilege (the use of a signature as postage) began in the Colonial era so that officials could disseminate information about the newly established government. The franking privilege was conferred to members of Congress and to each president while in office.

Highlights include:

  • A 1802 franked letter cover signed by Thomas Jefferson
  • An 1862 letter cover rimmed in black with Mary Todd Lincoln's signature, "Mrs. L," as postage
  • President William H. Taft's signature on an envelope in 1916; Taft continued to use his signature as postage even after he left office
  • Jimmy Carter's special Inauguration Day cover from 1977, sent by frank to then-Speaker of the House Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill, Jr.