Friday, July 19, 2019

A Lost Letter That Launched a Book by Guest Blogger Rachel Fordham

Lost mail? Is that story worthy? I asked myself those same questions after touring an old post office and first hearing about lost mail and how it was sent to the Dead Letter Office. I didn’t have to ask myself these questions very long. Of course, lost mail was story worthy! This was only confirmed to me when I began researching the postal system and its history.

One of the hard parts of being a historical writer is finding mounds and mounds of delicious historical details and only being able to utilize a small portion of it in your story. The first third of Yours Truly, Thomas was once longer but with each edit the start was trimmed downed in order to get our lead characters together sooner. As a result, I had to cut out some fascinating pieces of trivia. Here are just a few. For more info, I highly recommend the Smithsonian’s archives. They have an entire postal museum, and if you’re like me the vast amount of info will keep you scrolling and reading for hours.

Originally there was only one dead letter office. It was located in Washington, DC. The employees were paid decent wages for the time. Men made more than women. More women worked there than men. There are different theories for why that is. Some say it’s because the women were more trustworthy and wouldn’t steal; others said it was because of the pay difference.

These postal workers were essentially detectives. They would start with the outside of the envelope and look for clues. Often words were just spelled wrong, especially if the writer was an immigrant and was not an English speaker. If they couldn’t “solve” the mystery based off the outside they were the only postal workers that had permission to open mail. They’d scour the inside contents for clues. The amazing thing to me is that they could rehome these letters with no internet to search for answers!

Often the mail contained boring pieces: bills, taxes, legal documents…but sometimes there were live animals, rare valuables, and family secrets. Items that couldn’t be rerouted were sold at auction after a certain amount of time, and money was put in the national treasury.

When I was dating my husband, we were apart for a couple months. We wrote old-fashioned letters to each other. We’d pour our hearts into those letters and send them off assuming they’d make their way across the many miles that separated us. They always made it, but it’s not so hard to believe that sometimes even love letters were lost. This idea grew in my mind until I’d create my character Penny. She works at the dead letter office, and some letters become personal to her. Thomas’s letter was one of those. Opening that letter changed her life.

Has a letter ever changed your life? Could it?


1bgpayne said...

Love this book!

Regina Scott said...

Me too. :-)

Connie Porter Saunders said...

This is one of my most favorite books EVER! It reminded me of my youth and the letters that I wrote to friends, cousins, and even a pen pal. I loved going to Azure Springs and I hope to read the previous book set there.

Regina Scott said...

I know what you mean, Connie. There is something special about letters.

Rachel Fordham said...

I’m so glad!

Rachel Fordham said...

Connie! That’s such a fine compliment. I had pen pals as a kid too and loved it. My husband still writes me letters❤️ I love it.

Jenny said...

Can't wait to read this book! I heard about it through the Postables.