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United States/Covers & Postmarks : One More Trip!

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BenFranklin1902
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Tom in Exton, PA
04 Sep 2017
11:50:35pm

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I was itching to do another post office road rally. For those who don't know me, I am working on a collection of New Jersey post marks on cover representing all offices both past and current. As of today I have 618 unique cancellations. The albums have over 1,000 covers, maybe more. There are over 2,000 possibilities.

I keep an envelope full of stamped envelopes and cards in my car's glove box just in case I pass a post office in New Jersey that I need for my collection. Last Thursday I left my office at 4:00pm and I knew that there were two small post offices within 15 minutes, and a few minutes apart. Can I do this? Yes! I got all excited and set my GPS for Blawenburg, New Jersey.

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As I had seen on Google Street View, The Blawenburg post office is a tiny little shed like structure that's seen better days. It sits on a country road surrounded by farm fields, pretty much what you'd expect from the name, in Somerset County. The Blawenburg office was established in 1832 so the town has been around forever. I parked out front and entered the tiny building. I was met by a young woman at the counter. I politely asked if I could have a post mark for my collection. She smiled and said, "Of Course!" I had to pinch myself. She then told me that she gets a lot of requests for cancels, and mail in requests too. She is proud of the town and is happy to help! What a breath of fresh air! I couldn't believe it. She asked where I was headed next. I told her I was going to Skillman and she informed me that it was their sister office and they'd be happy to help me as well, but unfortunately they close at 4:00pm so I missed it.

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The nice lady was pretty good with the hand cancel. She even cleaned it, reinked and practiced on a piece of paper before laying down this perfect cancel on my blue card.

I looked at the list of post offices I keep and saw the Nassau Street office in downtown Princeton was 10 minutes away. It was 4:15 so I was game. Unfortunately I got there just as they locked the door at 4:30. Another day.

Now my appetite was awakened! I had to spend Friday morning in the New Brunswick, NJ office. I had already scooped up all the easy towns surrounding it on an earlier trip, so I consulted my list and the USPS website as I plotted to see where I could go. I decided to do a southern trip down the Route One corridor that would send me in the direction of my home in Pennsylvania. Only with many twists and turns!

I was supposed to leave the office around noon, but got stuck until 2:00pm. That left me 2 1/2 hours until the general closing time of 4:30pm to plot my course. My first stop was chosen to be Belle Mead on Route 206 in Somerset County. Google said it was 16 miles away and the closest of the offices I hoped to cover. So I headed south on Route One until my Waze program had me veer off to the right into farm country. For those who think of New Jersey as full of inner city chaos, you'd be amazed at how much open land there is that has never been built upon. Much of it looking little different than the Revolutionary War days except for the pavement.

The Belle Mead post office was one of those 1960s colonial look brick buildings. I was met by an older Indian man who had no problem cancelling my gold envelope. I could see he didn't understand what I wanted as he told me the date could be read. I explained that I was more interested in the town name, he shrugged his shoulders. But I had my cancel and moved on!

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Bellemead was one of those towns affected by the US Board on Geographic Names 1890 report. The town was founded as Belle Mead in 1885, but the ruling that eliminated spaces in names renamed it Bellemead in 1894. It again renamed itself Belle Mead in 1944.

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Here's the 1894 - 1944 version above. So I have two of the three eras with this trip.

While you may have already noticed the colorful covers, I should mention that I recently emptied out a box of old stationary goods from my parents' house. They've been gone a dozen years, but I'm still finding things. Deep in the box was a large envelope full of envelopes. They were all unused and in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. They came from stationary sets and greeting cards. My parents were pretty frugal so of course she saved usable envelopes! I thought with the family themes that run through my collection, it would be ideal to put them to use! So we've added some interesting bits to the albums. Since I house the collection in two pocket pages, as long as a cover is less than 5 1/2" x 7", it fits nicely!

While in the Belle Mead post office lot, I again hit the USPS app and asked for the nearest post offices. I saw that Hillsborough was less than three miles away, a five minute drive. Pointed the PT Cruiser that away!

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The clerk was very happy to help and the visit yielded a very nice cancel on my oversize greeting card envelope. Hillsborough has been around since 1875, but was briefly known as Hillsboro from 1894-1902, but back to Hillsborough for the last 115 years. The post office again hailed from the 1960s. While there, I noticed my envelope supply was fairly finite and asked to purchase some postal cards. The lady didn't have any in her drawer, so she went in the back and came out with a huge shrink wrapped stack, I'm assuming 100. She counted off ten and sold them to me. I felt bad that she now had 90 postcards in her personal stock!

My next stop took me back down Route 206 towards Skillman, which was our destination the evening before. I laughed to myself as I drove right past the Belle Mead post office on my way back south. Off of 206, I drove through Harlingen, a rural area that had a post office from 1823 to 1957, when the mails were sent to Belle Mead. It's amazing how this collection has taught me the geography of the state! Sharp eyes will note that this card was mailed on Christmas Eve and received on Christmas Day!

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Skillman was another one of those brick post offices. USPOD must've had one heck of a construction program in the 1960s! As the lady at Blawenburg told me, the people at Skillman were happy to give me a cancellation on my postal card!

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A nice clean cancel from Skillman on one of the Belle Mead cards!

As I set my Waze GPS program for Rocky Hill, it declared the address "The Historic Post Office at Rocky Hill", so I got a bit excited. This whole area of Somerset County is rich in history and worth roaming around. As I entered the small town of Rocky Hill I was surrounded by ancient architecture of a town that progress had passed on by. Other than the constant traffic that buzzed through! I immediately found the post office and easily parked right out front. This was Mayberry complete with a couple of locals sitting on the bench out front. They objected as they saw me setting up to take a photo, so I told them to move if they didn't want to be in it! They weren't too upset since they didn't budge! The Waze program usually shows a photo of your destination, but this time it asked me to provide a photo. So I uploaded this photo to their system.

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The building had been given a brick front that took away from the historic nature of the building. Inside I met a friendly clerk, a guy in his 60s, and I told him I was happy to be at the "Historic Rocky Hill Post Office" and asked him when it was founded. He squinted a bit and said, "At least since the 1950s." I replied that I had an 1870s cancel from the town. I cannot imagine working in such a history rich place and being totally oblivious to it! He did give me a post mark on my mother's nice blue envelope so I cannot complain.

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Rocky Hill is another one of those places with the curse of 1890 name changes. It started out as Rocky Hill back in 1828 and went to Rockyhill in 1895, and back to Rocky Hill in 1905.

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Rocky Hill from the 1870s. The cancels seldom had the year in them in this era.

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A boutique photo of the historic Rocky Hill Fire Department building a few doors down from the post office. It was a picture perfect day and yes, I had the roof down on the PT Cruiser.

From Rocky Hill I was headed for Plainsboro. Another one of those towns I scratch my head that I don't have in the collection since I once worked in town. I knew I was driving through the small town of Kingston but I already had the cancel in my collection. As I slowed down for a traffic light, there it was on my left! I thought it would be an easy grab, so I went for it. I parked on the street and went inside. The post office was in a small commercial building with two store fronts and offices above it.

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The counter guy was an older fellow who was more interested in talking with a co-worker than helping me. He gave my card a quick whack and missed! The town name was off the top of the card. I asked him to give it a second cancel below and he whacked it again, with the town name into the zip code of the previous cancel. He appeared embarrassed at this point and carefully gave it a third cancel to the left. Man, I'm glad I didn't need that cancel! Checking the collection, I have a commercial cover from 2007 with a nice clean cancel, which may have come from that same cancellation device. Oh well.

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Here we are parked across the street from the Kingston post office. This area is between New Brunswick and Princeton and they claim George Washington slept in every inn. Yes, we did make the right turn towards Monmouth Junction on our way to Plainsboro.

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Even though I had worked in this town, I had never seen the post office before. It was a free standing building, maybe 1980s architecture, in a shopping center with a McDonalds. I was actually pleased since in my excitement I had skipped lunch and was a bit hungry. I got on a line in the post office and was amused that the clerk, a middle aged man, would deflect every question with, "I dunno, I'm just helping out." A pretty young lady on line in front of me was carrying a check and asked to buy a prestamped envelope. He said they didn't have any and she'd have to send it Priority Mail if she didn't have an envelope. I had a few unstamped envelopes in the envelope I carried so I gave her one. She was pleased and the line moved forward.

The clerk gave my card a whack (remember the cards I bought at Belle Mead) completely within the floral design. He was successful with the second cancel. I left and went to McDonalds.

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Next stop was Monmouth Junction, a ten minute ride from Plainsboro. I was met by an older Indian woman who was very nice but said she was unsure if she could give me a cancellation on something that wasn't being mailed. Up to this point I had no resistance at all from postal folks. Every one of them gave me the cancel without question. It was like being back in the 1970s. So I reached into my envelope and produced the postal regulation about courtesy cancels. She read it and was happy to help me. She actually pushed the cancel towards me and asked if I wanted to do the cancel. So yes, I did the upside down cancel! That's when I realized that none of these cancel devices are marked where the top is! And note the abbreviation of Junction. I have no idea why they'd do that, there was more than enough room to spell it out!

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The final stop of the day was at Princeton Junction. I remember going to that post office on my way back from the Washington At Princeton stamps first day ceremony and it was a small broken down building on the main route through town. Since 1977 the local area has boomed and suburbia has dropped thousands of large tract homes in the area. The post office was very new and part of a new town center with the police department, town offices and senior center. Progress. Again no problem getting a cancel on my card envelope.

This brought me to 4:15pm and I again thought about that Palmer Square post office in downtown Princeton. I plugged it back into my GPS and nope! I couldn't get there before 4:30! So I called it a day and pointed the PT back towards Pennsylvania.

The tally for Friday was seven post offices over a 2 1/2 hour period. Not too shabby. Add in the Blawenburg run on Thursday and we hit eight offices. Putting aside the Kingston cover I didn't need that's seven new cancels into the collection. The day went very well. Beautiful sunny day that was perfect convertible weather. No wrong turns, no real opposition to postmarks. That makes for a very good day!

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philb
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05 Sep 2017
08:29:18am

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re: One More Trip!

You are a true believer !Happy

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"If a man would be anything, he must be himself."
smauggie
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05 Sep 2017
09:29:28am
re: One More Trip!

As a collector of my state's postal history I very much enjoy your shared tale of adventure.

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tomiseksj
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05 Sep 2017
11:01:45am
re: One More Trip!

Are you also attempting to collect postmarks from contract postal units?

According to a 2012 GAO report, New Jersey had 23 CPUs actively operating as of March 30, 2012, supplementing the efforts of 708 post offices in operation as of December 19, 2011.

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"APS Member #130102; SRS Member #1570"

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BenFranklin1902
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Tom in Exton, PA
05 Sep 2017
08:01:00pm

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re: One More Trip!

Quote:

"Are you also attempting to collect postmarks from contract postal units?"



I will collect anything with a unique postmark.

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bobstew617
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05 Sep 2017
08:54:23pm
re: One More Trip!

Awww.. you're getting me nostalgic about home, Tom!

Do you have a cancel from Kilmer (Piscataway)?

BOB

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BenFranklin1902
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Tom in Exton, PA
08 Sep 2017
06:12:58pm

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re: One More Trip!

Quote:

"Do you have a cancel from Kilmer (Piscataway)?"



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Easy Bob! Here's Kilmer!

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And Piscataway!
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