After a wonderful semester with the Education Division at RRCHNM, I’m now interning with the Curatorial Department at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. My internship director is Calvin Mitchell, Assistant Curator of Philately.
Calvin has several research projects planned for me this semester. These projects will result in physical exhibitions, digital exhibitions, exhibition catalogs, and/or scholarly articles.
One of Dr. Brennan’s questions regarding our internships was: “How connected to the projects and Smithsonian departments do you feel as a ‘virtual intern’?” While it is very early in my internship, I already feel very connected to the research team, which includes Calvin and Peter, a gentleman from California who has vast knowledge about stamps. The three of us spoke in a phone call (with Calvin in DC, me in MA, and Peter in CA), and we were able to discuss plans for the first research project. Since that time, I have been researching the topic and I have been getting frequent feedback from them. They’ve also sent me some of their written work on the topic.
Right now, my work centers on learning about the American Phototype Company, a firm which was involved with Internal Revenue Stamps during the 1860s. I’ve been researching members of the firm and the history of the firm itself, using Chronicling America, Haithi Trust, Ancestry, and other resources. For many years, I’ve been studying Henry Chandler Bowen, a businessman and publisher from Woodstock, CT who lived in Brooklyn, NY. Since he was an Internal Revenue Tax Collector in New York during the Lincoln and early Johnson administrations, I realized that Bowen may be an angle into this topic. During my research, I learned that there were Bowen papers at NYPL that I had not known about, and that these papers related to his work as Internal Revenue Tax Collector. I’ve told Calvin and Peter about this connection, and Calvin plans to go to New York City to look at the documents. I also found an ad for the American Phototype Company in The Independent, Bowen’s periodical, during the 1860s, so I know that he and the firm were aware of each other, at the very least. Timing is everything in life, and I can’t help but think that I am supposed to be here working on this project at this time. I’ve known for decades that Lincoln had appointed Bowen to this post, but I’ve never focused on it. Now, I have been able to make a connection that may prove fruitful to the project, and I’ve also learned about papers that will enhance my work on Henry Chandler Bowen.
I look forward to continuing my work on this project and to beginning the other projects that are scheduled for the semester.