Image of the Month Archive

Welcome to the An Post Museum Image of the Month Archive page.


Parcel Post – Egg label

Image of the Month - March

It was once very common to send food through the post in Ireland. Turkeys and geese at Christmas will be remembered by some people but game, rabbits and, of course, eggs, could also be sent. There were strict regulations, of course, about how things should be packed and, in the case of eggs, a rigid box with partitions for each egg would be used. The spaces around the eggs were to filled up with “newspaper or cotton waste” and the parcel marked clearly “EGGS”.

To make it easier for customers, the Post Office supplied a special pink label like this one which dates from 1946. With the eggs carefully packed and the label on the outside, the eggs were ready to make their way by post from the farmer’s coop to the breakfast table!

Sorting Letters - Rotunda 1916

Image April 2013

The destruction of the GPO in April 1916 meant that there was no sorting office for day-to-day sorting of mails. Within days of the rebellion being over, however, the GPO authorities secured temporary premises up the street from the shell of the GPO at the Rotunda Rink. Make-shift sorting benches were arranged as best they could and staff were soon at work, surrounded by mountains of mail, dealing with the back-log that had built up over Easter Week.

The story of GPO staff during the Rising, from the first moment when the telegraphs lines were cut to the re-establishment of normal business, is a fascinating one, full of adventure and much quiet heroism.

The Ashworth Letter Box

Image May 2013

Did you ever think what a great invention the post box is? You can just drop your letter into it and know that it will be collected, transported and delivered anywhere on the planet! The letter box on this stamp is unique; it’s over 150 years old and was probably introduced to Ireland by the novelist Anthony Trollope who worked for the Irish Post Office as a surveyor. Before post box design was standardised, there was scope for some local variation and that’s why this one is a one-off. It’s currently on display in our museum in Dublin’s GPO and if you post a card in it, you get a special Museum postmark.


Image June 2013

Hat by Philip Treacy
This beautiful hat, kindly donated to An Post by Philip Treacy, featured on our 2010 Irish Fashion designer stamps. Irish stamps portray different facets of our history and wide-ranging culture and, when they are used on a letter or post-card going abroad, bring with them a sense of what it is to be Irish. Philip Treacy’s hat and other beautiful creations by a few of our leading designers are currently on display in a temporary exhibition, Fashion & Philately at the GPO, in the An Post Museum.

The Fiddler – Jack Yeats post card

Image July 2013

The National Gallery earlier this year mounted an exhibition of Jack Yeats’ sketchbooks, the drawings and sketches which he made in the note books he almost always carried with him. They represent his many interests - political and sporting events, the west of Ireland, faces and situations that appealed to him – and so forth. The post card shown here was sent to a friend in Trinity College Dublin in December 1902 and is now in An Post’s archive collection. It is a quick, ephemeral little thing but there is drama and verve in the red-coated fiddler seated high up on a table as he plays at a party or wake perhaps. Such hand-illustrated post cards are often very attractive examples of postal art.

Sri Lanka and Ireland - a common postal heritage

Image of the month - August

As part of her design studies here in Dublin, one Sri Lankan woman, married to an Irish man, decided to explore through stamps and postal history the similarities and differences between her native and adopted countries. In the course of her work she produced a number of stamp designs which draw attention to aspects of life in the two countries and featured here, side by side, are her beautifully detailed drawings of the GPO buildings in Dublin and in Columbo, Sri Lanka. Other examples of her work will be on show in the An Post Museum in the GPO over the next couple of weeks.

James Larkin Centenary Stamps

Image of the month - September

The centenary of the Dublin Lock Out, which saw a fierce and often violent dispute between the representatives of capital and labour, was marked by An Post with the issue of a new set of commemorative stamps last month.
It was not the first time, however, that a central figure in that event, James Larkin, had been honoured by a stamp. The charismatic union leader and founder of the ITGWU, who was born in Liverpool of Irish parents in 1876, appeared on a commemorative set in 1976. His organisational ability and oratorical powers brought him to prominence within the labour movement and into conflict with employers, notably the businessman William Martin Murphy. The Lock Out, which caused great suffering and division in Ireland, ended when near-starving workers were obliged to return to work.

Union membership dues – Dublin September 1913

Image of the month - October


This union contribution book shows the payment of regular membership dues by means of stamps stuck into the book. What’s particularly interesting about it is the hand-written annotation showing that the member, Richard Dunne, a merchant seaman who was affected by the 1913 Lock-out has been allowed eight weeks’ membership without payment. This, and the original 1913 Proclamation, banning the famous Jim Larkin meeting outside the GPO in the 31st August 1913, are currently on display in our museum in the GPO.

Savings Certificate old poster

Image of the month - November

With the Irish budget putting up the tax on savings again, anyone who has anything to save might well be thinking of the Post Office as a good place to save! It has a good pedigree in this regard for the Post Office Savings Bank was set up by the Government way back in 1861 as a way of encouraging ordinary people with small amounts of money to save. Savings certificates and other products were gradually introduced over the years and have proved very popular down through the generations for anyone who can afford to put a little bit of money away for a few years - perhaps for a holiday or retirement as shown in this poster - while the tax-free interest accumulates.

Christmas, Post and Poems

Image of the Month - December

This stamp from our 2003 Christmas series and the poem in the post below are part of a few we have picked out to celebrate the Christmas season. They are on display from the 6th December in one of our cases in the An Post Museum in the GPO.

I saw a Stable

2003 Christmas Stamps wordpress

I saw a stable, low and very bare,
A little child in a manger.
The oxen knew Him, had Him in their care,
To men He was a stranger.
The safety of the world was lying there.
And the world's danger.
- Mary Coleridge

Water, water everywhere – Rates bill for Cork post office 1859

Image of the Month - January 2014

With a good deal of rain over the last month, flooding in parts of the country and water meters gradually being introduced, here is a nice little item from our archives, a water rates bill for Cork Post Office in 1859. At least it shows that paying for water is by no means a new idea and that the convenience of piped water has long been appreciated as something worth paying for.

Valentine's Day Card

Image of the Month - February 2014

Expressions and tokens of love are never out of fashion, of course, but the tradition of sending cards to someone we love through the post grew rapidly – with cheap postage – from the middle of the nineteenth century. In 1863 the Postmaster General reported that 430,000 valentines passed through the London office alone and added that he saw “ no tendency to abandon” the practice. He wasn’t an old kill-joy but was a bit worried about the greatly increased mail volumes and the extra costs they imposed on the Post Office. The card displayed here, published by the firm of Ernest Nister, is from our archive and is a nice early twentieth example of a picture valentine where the message is conveyed in a rather cute combination of words and pictures.

Keen to do our own bit to keep romance alive, we will have our Museum in the GPO open free on Valentine’s Day this year and visitors who enter a little competition there will have the chance to win one of our new stamp mugs depicting – what else? – a love stamp!

Saint Patrick's Day Card c. 1910

Image of the Month - March 2014

As we enter March, the thoughts of Irish people everywhere turn to St Patrick and the day set aside in honour of Ireland’s patron saint, the 17th March. Special postcards have been produced by printing firms for well over a century and the tradition of sending postcards to family and friends throughout the world survives, though to a much reduced extent, today. A study of these cards is an interesting exercise as it reveals the creation and portrayal of a particular iconography associated with Ireland – the shamrock, of course, saints, a bit of blarney and a land of Celtic mist at the edge of the world. This card, produced in Belfast in the early years of the last century, is an attractive example of the genre.


Image of the month - April

This is an early twentieth century stamp album bearing a figure distributing letters. Any idea who it represents? Well, if you're guessing Mercury or Hermes (the classical Greek version) take a bow - you're right! Mercury was the messenger of the gods and hence a suitable figure to appear on post-related items. He, or perhaps she in this rather androgynous version, carries a staff entwined with snakes, the symbol of his authority and wears winged slippers and a helmet. The figure appears on our own GPO here in Dublin as one of the three statues on the roof of the building.

Patrick Scott (1921-2014) – artist and stamp designer

Image of the month - May

Patrick Scott, who died earlier this year, was an Irish artist of international renown whose distinctive signature image – a disc of shimmering gold leaf applied to a plain canvas – is instantly recognisable. This stamp, designed by him for the World Ploughing Championships in 1973, shows a different aspect of his graphic talent.

Born in Kilbrittain in county Cork his interest in painting was encouraged by a far-sighted school-teacher at St. Columba’s College in Dublin and later by his association with the White Stag Group of painters who experimented with various aspects of modernism. Scott trained as an architect and worked for Michael Scott’s practice. Following his success at the Guggenheim in New York and the Venice Biennale he left the practice in 1960 to devote himself to artistic work.

He was a man, however, whose creative genius spanned many disciplines: he worked on the Busáras building, created many beautiful tapestries, had fun inventing street decorations and also found time to design a number of postage stamps for the Post Office.

On display in the GPO Museum at the moment are a couple of Scott-related items drawn from An Post’s archive.

Don't forget to look up!

Image of the month - June

It's 200 years this year since building work started on the GPO and while many people would recognise the fine classical facade of the Post Office, not so many pause to admire its fine architectural features and the detail that can often be found by looking up. This photograph highlights the beautiful ceiling inside the GPO's main public office so next time you are in town, do come in and admire it and learn a bit more about the building in our museum.

Conservation Before and After: Patience is the Key

Image of the month - July

Safeguarding archival material for the future is a worthwhile job and one of the main responsibilities of those who work in the heritage, museum and archive sector. It’s work, however, which depends on the expert skills of conservation specialists who are able to achieve seemingly wonderful transformations through the application of gentle cleaning, stitching, Japanese paper and – most importantly, patience. This is a nineteenth establishment volume relating to postal staff in Limerick which was in a very bad condition when it was given into our care. It is not complete but Limerick records from the period are very scarce so it was worth conserving. Skilful work by The Ox Bindery in county Sligo means it can now be safely accessed and used in dealing with some of the genealogical queries we receive.



The GPO – Happy 200th birthday on Foundation Day!

Image of the month - August

It is 200 years since work began on Dublin’s famous GPO, headquarters of the Irish Post Office, city landmark and command post of the leaders of the 1916 Rising. To mark the occasion, we’ve decided to give free entry to the Museum on the anniversary, Tuesday 12th August, so do drop in to the GPO and acquaint yourself with the building and some of the people and the events that have gone on here in the GPO over the last two hundred years. During the month Mercier Press will be publishing a new book about the GPO by our Curator, Stephen Ferguson, and we’re also planning to run, at the end of the month and into September, a little exhibition on the history and architecture of the building in co-operation with the Irish Architectural Archive in Merrion Square in Dublin.

So now is the time to visit one of Ireland’s iconic buildings, one that has been at the very heart of Irish life for two centuries.

GPO – Hall porter’s chair

Image of the Month: September 2014

This rather splendid chair with its sedan style hood used to sit in the entrance hall of the GPO in Dublin. The porter on the Prince’s street side of the building, at what was known as the Minister’s entrance, to the GPO used to sit in this and welcome visitors from his unusual vantage point. This type of chair was often found in institutional settings and in the hallways of grand houses. I am unclear as to its origins and how it came to be in the GPO after 1916 but it is an interesting piece in our collections and can currently be seen on display in an exhibition – The GPO – Two Hundred Years – running at the Irish Architectural Archive, 45 Merrion square, Dublin.

Reuniting families: the story of Thomas Hollinshead – GPO Surveyor

Image of the Month: October 2014

Over the centuries a great many people have worked for the Post Office in Ireland and I regularly receive enquiries from people who are trying to piece together their family history. It’s well-known that a great deal of Irish historical material has been lost and the GPO’s role in the 1916 Rising means that Irish postal records suffered a like fate. Occasionally, however, it is possible to find out information that does help people in their research and the case of Thomas Hollinshead is one such.

The portrait, by Lawrence of Dublin, shows the distinguished figure of Thomas Hollinshead, an Englishman whose family was long settled in Staffordshire. He had joined the privately owned Electric Telegraph Company in 1854 and, when telegraph work was taken over by the Post Office, found himself a postal employee. He moved to Ireland and transferred to the survey branch of the Post Office, being appointed Assistant Surveyor of the Irish Midland District from 1884. He ended his days in Wales and died in 1910.

The photograph was kindly donated to the An Post Museum & Archive by his descendants when the Canadian and Irish branches of the family joined up and met me in the GPO recently. When, a couple of years ago, I received similar genealogical enquiries about Thomas Hollinshead from both Canada and Ireland, it was rewarding to be able to reunite family members who had lost touch over the intervening generations.


Image of the Month: November 2014

Infectious disease is something very much in the news at present and serves as a reminder of another ailment that was very much feared in Ireland and continues to be so in many parts of the world. Consumption, an older word for tuberculosis, spread rapidly in areas of overcrowding and poverty and was the cause of death for many thousands of people here. The establishment of national sanatoria, a better understanding of the disease and a more caring attitude towards those who suffered from it, in addition of course to antibiotic drugs, brought great improvements but vigilance remains necessary. The Post Office, as a place where people met and transacted business, provided a space where the Postmaster General could bring the disease to the attention of people and point out one very common form of transmitting it.

Christmas at the Post Office

Image of the Month: December 2014

While technological changes have meant that the volume of Christmas cards has declined dramatically in recent years, the tradition of sending turkeys and geese through the post is a distant memory now and the days of having 1800 telephonists on duty over Christmas are long gone, it’s still a very busy time of the year for the Post Office. People still very much like our Christmas stamps and I have picked out here a selection of some of the attractive stamps we have issued over the years.

The Irish Post Office first issued a special Christmas stamp in 1971 and since then there has been a great variety of designs and styles – from the iconography of Trinity College’s famous Book of Kells and paintings by the great masters to the fresh artistic expressions of children. The GPO’s traditional nativity scene is on display in the Public Office and with the building marking its bicentenary this year, it’s a good time to visit the Museum, post your cards and maybe buy a few souvenir items in our Philatelic Shop, special stamps or prize bonds as Christmas presents.

Dramatic tales – The Last Post by Just the Lads Theatre Company

Image of the Month: January 2015

Irish theatre has long enjoyed a high reputation which was confirmed by something I saw a few weeks before Christmas. The Last Post is an innovative and engaging piece of drama which is centred on the people and activities of a fictional Returned Letters Branch of An Post. The directors, Liadain Kaminska and Darren Sinnott, and their team invite the audience into the lives of those who write and sort letters and in the process, make us think about the human need to communicate and connect with others as part of life. Using all the resources of the old fire brigade station in Rathmines as the stage , the audience is guided by the postal staff on an intimate and at times anarchic journey which culminates in a chance to sort letters in a way that would never be officially countenanced at An Post! It’s a creative and amusing piece of drama that deserves to be seen.

Valentines, love and all that…

Image of the Month: Febuary 2015

Expressions and tokens of love take many different forms and while the tradition of sending special cards on Valentine’s Day to someone we love through the post is not as strong as it once was, the Post Office still expects additional volume around the 14th February. This special mug, for sale in the GPO Museum in Dublin, depicts a stamp which takes a creative slant on the nature of love. The designer focuses on the Red Setter rather than the pair of toe-touching lovers and, by declining to portray the human faces, our minds are cleverly turned to thinking of love in a new way.

The Penny Black – 175 Years

Image of the Month: March 2015

This is a big year for stamp collectors as they mark 175 years since the world’s first adhesive postage stamp was introduced back in 1840. The little square of black paper with a finely engraved profile of the young Queen Victoria has become an item that many collectors want to have. It’s not that expensive a stamp – it’s significance lies more in being the “first” and in what it meant for people who wrote letters. At just a penny, it really opened up correspondence, news and education for people who were formerly excluded by the high cost of postage.

The stamps were used in Ireland, of course, since the Royal Mail covered both Britain and Ireland at that time and the interesting story of how one very early Penny Black came to be used on a letter from Dublin to London in May 1840 is told in a little booklet, which contains an exact replica of the letter and stamps, available from our philatelic department.

Easter Rising and the GPO

Image of the Month: April 2015

Easter was earlier this year than it was in 1916 and we have marked the occasion already but our picture shows the ruined GPO after the destruction caused by the Rising. The event brought out plenty of people to see what had happened at the Post Office that year and some of them will have wondered perhaps why the rebels chose the GPO as their headquarters. The building was in a central location of course and it commanded a strong position but it was the fact that it controlled communications, and particularly telegraph communications, that made it particularly attractive to the 1916 leaders. The story of how the building was occupied and the reaction and role of the postal staff who were on duty is not well known and it is a theme explored in the GPO Museum’s Letters Lives & Liberty exhibition which is due to close in the next few weeks. So drop into the GPO and get the background in time for next year’s centenary commemorations!

May Day

Image of the Month: May 2015

Today is the day we remember the place of work and working people in society. Postal staff throughout the world number hundreds of thousands of people with the Post Office remaining a big employer in many countries despite the technological changes of the last generation. An Post's staff numbers about 10,000 people, each with a particular role - be it delivery, clerical, administrative or managerial - so that the services of the Post Office are brought as efficiently as possible to people at home and abroad. The card illustrated is an attractive and early union one issued by the Letter Carriers branch of the Dublin Postmen's Federation and it symbolises union and friendship between staff throughout the land.

The 1916 GPO flag-pole

Image of the Month: June 2015

This small section of the GPO flag staff, on which the Union Jack had traditionally been flown, is a recent donation to the An Post Museum. It is part of a somewhat longer section found amongst the rubble of the burnt-out building by one of the men contracted to clear up the debris and formed part of a private collection of 1916 and related memorabilia. The piece shows signs of cracking and is split in one place, evidence of the great heat generated by the fires that consumed the building and much of O’Connell Street during the rebellion.

Poolbeg Egg Box

Image of the Month: July 2015

It was common practice in the past to send eggs through the post and to avoid breakage, a sturdy box with individual wrappers like this one, the "Poolbeg", was popular and a Post Office fragile label (see an earlier image) was stuck on the box.

Letter scales

Image of the Month: August 2015

Determining the cost of sending a letter has involved different ideas over the years. The distance to be travelled by the letter was an important factor in earlier times and the number of sheets of paper was also something taken into account. Weight remains the crucial element today but the letter format has also become something to be aware of. Letter scales were used not just at post offices but also by people at home when they wished to check the weight of a letter. This attractive example from An Post’s museum and archive collection gives the weight in imperial measurement but was actually made in Germany, well known for its manufacture of high quality instruments.

Postman's Lamp

Image of the Month: September 2015

This lamp from our museum collection was in use up until about 1930. It contained a small amount of oil, contained in a canister within the lamp, and a wick and was worn by the postman on his chest leaving his hands free fro delivery. It was replaced with a rather safer battery operated model.


Wonky Chinese letter boxes

Image of the Month: October 2015

The Museum & Archive keeps its eyes on interesting postal developments throughout the world but on this occasion would be glad for any assistance in finding out why our colleagues in Taiwan seem to have put up some rather odd-looking letter boxes!

The First World War – the Lusitania tragedy

Image of the Month: November 2015

The sinking of the Cunard liner, RMS Lusitania, by a German submarine off the Old Head of Kinsale on the 7th May 1915 was a terrible maritime tragedy and a highly significant event in the First World War since it was instrumental in bringing the United States into the war on the side of the United Kingdom. The centenary of the tragedy was marked by the Post Office earlier this year through the issue of a commemorative stamp. With Armistice Day this week our image this month is of a recruitment poster from our collection that made use of the tragedy for propaganda purposes.