Professional and graduate student awards given for 2022
The Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum sponsors biennial awards for recent scholarship in the history of the postal system in the United States and its territories and their antecedents. The US Postal Service launched these awards in 2007 to honor its first historian, Rita Lloyd Moroney. These awards—now the National Postal Museum Awards for Scholarship in Postal History—are designed to recognize scholarship in the history of the U.S. postal system and to raise awareness of the importance of the postal system in American life. Work by scholars and professionals (faculty members, independent scholars, and public historians) is eligible for a $2,000 award, graduate student scholarships are eligible for a $1,000 award, and public history presented online are eligible for a prize of $1,000.
The 2022 winners are:
Cameron Blevins, Paper Trails: The US Post and the Making of the American West. New York: Oxford University Press. (2021)
In Paper Trails: The U.S. Post Office and the Making of the American West, Cameron Blevins, Ph.D., collaborates with disparate and fascinating sources to bring a critical institution, the U.S. Post Office, to the forefront of 19th-century American history, particularly as it relates to the rapid colonization, conquest and dispossession across America. West. Its narrative smoothly transitions from intimate family histories to a larger statecraft project to demonstrate how individuals were closely tied to the federal government through the United States Postal Department. It also examines the administrative and logistical flexibility essential to the department’s creation of a rapidly evolving western communications network. The book’s companion website visualizes both this rapid change and adaptation through accelerated digital maps and the enormous scope of the department’s presence compared to those of other federal agencies. paper traces makes a significant contribution to postal history and to American history more broadly.
Blevins is an associate professor, clinical teaching track in the Department of History at the University of Colorado at Denver.
Graduate Student Awards
Efrat Nechushtai, “Making Messages Private: The Formation of Postal Privacy and Its Relevance for Digital Surveillance.” Information & Culture: A Journal of History, 54, no. 2 (2019): 133-158.
“Making Messages Private: The Formation of Postal Privacy and Its Relevance for Digital Surveillance” by Efrat Nechushtai, Ph.D., draws on a wide range of understudied primary sources to convincingly demonstrate that the legislative decision to prohibiting the opening of letters, which was enshrined in the Post Office Act of 1792, resulted from political and, above all, commercial considerations. These ranged from the belief that a republic should not monitor the mail of individuals to providing merchants with reliable and confidential networks for correspondence. An expectation developed that an individual’s personal communications were confidential. As the author shows, this expectation is challenged in today’s debates about an individual’s rights to privacy in their digital lives that echo, but also differ in important ways, from discussions about postal confidentiality at the end of the 18th century. This essay is therefore a valuable contribution both to historical scholarship and to today’s pressing debates about the regulation of digital media networks.
Nechushtai completed her doctorate in communications at Columbia University in 2020 and is now an assistant professor at George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs.
The National Postal Museum congratulates Blevins and Nechushtai and thanks everyone who submitted material. Their diverse work advances postal history research in new and exciting directions that demonstrate the centrality of American history to the Postal Service and the mail it carries.
More information is available on the rewards.
About the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum
The National Postal Museum is dedicated to showcasing the colorful and captivating history of the national postal service and displaying one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of stamps and philatelic material in the world. It is located at 2 Massachusetts Ave. NE, Washington, DC, across from Union Station. For more information about the Smithsonian, call (202) 633-1000 or visit the museum’s website at postalmuseum.si.edu.