Postal Updates

National Postal Museum presents postal history awards

May 15, 2024, 10 AM

By Linn’s Staff

On May 1, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C., announced Justin Gage and Stephen P. Hay as the recipients of the 2024 National Postal Museum awards for scholarship in postal history.

“Their diverse work advances postal history scholarship in new and exciting directions that demonstrate the centrality to American history of the postal service and the mail it carries,” the museum said.

The National Postal Museum presents these awards every two years to recognize scholarship on the history of the American postal system. The awards are meant to raise awareness of the significance of the postal system in American life.

Gage, assistant professor in the department of history at the University of Arkansas, received the $2,000 award reserved for work by scholars and professionals (faculty members, independent scholars and public historians) for his book We Do Not Want the Gates Closed Between Us: Native Networks and the Spread of the Ghost Dance.

Gage’s book explores how Native American networks utilized colonial infrastructure, such as boarding schools and the postal service, to assert their needs and spread the Ghost Dance movement. Through extensive archival research, Gage uncovers the role of communication networks in Native American communities and challenges conventional narratives.

The National Postal Museum said the book “offers an important corrective to common narratives about the agency of Native communities and a fascinating expansion of our understandings of the crucial position and role of the postal system in American history.”

Hay, who completed his doctorate in history at the University of British Columbia in 2020, won the $1,000 award reserved for graduate students for his dissertation titled Distance and Difference: Seamen and Maritime Communication in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and the Atlantic World, 1730-1800.

Hay’s dissertation “tackles the understudied questions of whom working at sea communicated what to whom and why,” the National Postal Museum said. Hay explores maritime communication in Colonial America, revealing how seamen transmitted information across social strata and geographical boundaries.

By analyzing reports and interactions, Hay uncovers the pivotal role of seamen in shaping public opinion and Colonial resistance to British rule, challenging existing historical narratives.

Submissions for the 2026 awards will be accepted in the fall of 2025. Additional information about the awards is available on the museum’s website.

For more information on the National Postal Museum, call 202-633-1000 or visit the museum’s website.

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