COVID Card & USPS Resources
The United State Postal Service: An American History
You can find a current/updated version of this document at the USPS website. Happily, I downloaded the version I used while working on the COVID Card project — it is not sullied by a certain name. I offer that version to you here: https://sketchyspaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/The-USPS-AnAmericanHistory.pdf
A Brief History of the American Dead Letter Office
COVID Card FAQs
What is a COVID Card?
A COVID Card is a postcard featuring a hand drawn image inspired by something related to mail/post. Every day since May 5, 2020, I have created a card and mailed it to someone the following day (Saturday’s and Sunday’s cards are mailed on Monday). The day after a card is made, I make a small blog post about it, sharing what inspired the card.
Why COVID Cards?
This project was not planned. It just happened. One day, I received an invite to a Facebook “event.” It turns out that it wasn’t really an event, but a plea to people to try to save the United State Postal Service (USPS) by pledging to write and mail one postcard or letter per week. Being the over-achiever that I am (I’m actually nothing of the sort), I mailed 7 cards the first day. They were all postcards and greetings cards that I had on hand. As everything was on lockdown, I couldn’t just dash off to the Hallmark store once a week (as if). Nor did I look forward to the prospect of spending hours shopping for cards online and either sending the same designs over and over again, or spending a small fortune on one-of-a-kind cards. And, with the pandemic making everyone a little less eager to spend money on web development (that’s my day job), I found I had some extra time. So, I decided to draw a card every day. My hope was to bring awareness to the dire financial situation the USPS is in (yes, I know, the problems didn’t start with the pandemic — but it has drastically hurt it and the government has offered no assistance). I haven’t done a very good job of that. There’s no room on the back of a small postcard to tell the tale (oops, next time there’s a pandemic, I’ll draw greeting cards — kidding; I won’t do that at all, it had to be postcards).
At first, I didn’t even think about it. It’s just what I wanted to send. No reason at all. I don’t even use postcard postage. I use regular, first class stamps. As time went on and I learned more and more about the post office (see the next toggle), I began to really love the idea of these little original drawings being fed through cancellation machines and sorting machines, getting the postnet slapped on them, and having the (usually) gentle wear and tear that comes with the process of moving a piece of paper from one part of the world to another. With just one exception, if a COVID Card does not have postal marks and scuffs, it’s not real. The one exception is the card I gave my letter carrier, Ian. I thought it would be weird to ask for his mailing address.
What are the images all about?
Since the project is about bringing awareness to the struggles of the USPS, I wanted each card to have a drawing that had something to do with mail/post. As my “thing” is drawing Sketchy Spaces, whatever the inspiration was for a particular card, it would be used in a (often) strange landscape. The first 3 cards feature vintage mailboxes turned into buildings. While mailboxes appeared again in later stamps, it was clear that drawing mailbox buildings was likely to get real old, rather fast. The 4th card uses a stamp motif from card 3. As I searched the web for interesting mailboxes, I found other images: catcher pouches used by trains, lampposts with mailboxes, etc. Then I remembered the pails used to deliver mail from small boats to large ships in the Detroit river. Finally, I stumbled upon this great (and free) publication documenting much of US postal history. Every day, I read until something inspires me. I then either have my idea or I research the inspiration more. This often leads to the usually-dreaded rabbit hole of seemingly endless bits of trivia. As I don’t know when this project will end, a glut of inspiration is a very welcome problem.
Do I really mail originals?
Yes. I really mail originals. If one gets lost in the mail (so far, it looks like #62 may be lost), the real, original drawing may be gone forever (or you may be able to get a sweet deal on it at a Dead Letter auction). I’m no scanning or photographing genius, but I do my best to document each card before it gets entrusted to the USPS. I scan each card with two different scan profiles,and I take a photo of it.
Why mail originals?
Why not? It’s just part of the project. A genuine COVID Card will bear evidence of having travelled through the postal system. The “art” of the project is not (for me) in the drawing, it’s in the project as a whole. To try (not too successfully) to bring awareness to the USPS, I make “art” and put it, open face for the world to see, in the mail. I spend an hour (or two or three or four) drawing, then I document it, address it, stamp it, and trust it to greater forces. I let it go. I’m actually a little exicted to think that card #62 will never reach its destination (it turns out, the wrong zip code was used). It makes it special. The one card that did not go through the mail (it was given to my letter carrier) is also special. I am so very easily amused. These things amuse me. It’s like a game.
When will it end?
Apparently, in May of 2021 — one year after it began.
How can you get a card?
Beg, borrow, or steal from someone who was sent one.