Every Friday we’re inviting our experts and guests to share a letter to something they love linked to the post.

Dear Blue Post Box 

Here’s a confession – you are my favourite object in a museum full of wonderful things. Why? Well, partly because you are beautiful – delicately coloured, amongst your weightier, more solid, more self-important siblingsPartly because you didn’t exist for very long and speak of a time when posting a letter abroad was complicated and important. And partly because you are so evocative – of a time when the world was big but getting smaller, when flight was still fairly new, when society was rapidly changing.

Photo of a blue airmail pillar box in the museum gallery space.

You are quite rare – you only existed for a few years in the 1930’s. You’ve got 2 slots where paper lists of the times of flights to exotic destinations could be updated as the flight times changed. You are blue – I like to think that reflects the romanticism of the people in the GPO who picked your colour. I imagine them thinking of overseas skies and seas and painting you accordingly. 

Poster of a blue air mail pillar box, by Lee Elliott.

Poster of a blue air mail pillar box, by Lee Elliott.

What must it have been like to walk down a road in Britain in the 1930’s to post a letter in you to Tanzania, Canada, Brazil or Australia? A time before the Second World War changed the way we all see the world. It’s surely not a coincidence that you disappeared in 1939 – withdrawn to be painted red, your glamour and exoticism lost to practicality. 

1934 Air Mail pillar box. Air Mail pillar box in street.

1934 Air Mail pillar box in street. (POST 118/1)

And now here we all are – in our homes, unable to travel, yet so aware of how connected we are to everyone globally, dreaming of a time when we can once again visit foreign lands. Many of us are rediscovering letters and postcards, sending our love across the country, gratefully receiving handwritten messages from friends and family. Sometime soon, I hope, I will see you again – and stand in front of you, grateful for our connected, recovered world. 

Laura Wright
CEO, The Postal Museum

Read more about the story of the first airmail.