‘Networking a Nation’ exhibit opens Feb. 21 at Smithsonian museum

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A new exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum – “Networking a Nation: Star Route Service” – opens Tuesday, Feb. 21 and features a full-size Freightliner Columbia heavy-duty truck cab-cutaway. Support for “Networking a Nation: Star Route Service” was provided by ARI and Freightliner Trucks.

More than 150 years ago, the U.S. Post Office hired contractors to serve new routes and allowed them to use any form of transportation to carry the mail, be it snowshoes, mules, canoes, trucks, dogsleds or stagecoaches. The transportation networks became known as “Star Routes” because of legislation that required contractors to carry the mail with “celerity, certainty and security.” Weary of repeatedly writing these words in ledgers, postal clerks substituted three asterisks – “* * *” – and the phrase “Star Route” was born. Star Routes were renamed Highway Contract Routes in 1970, but they still are known by their original name.

The museum is at 2 Massachusetts Ave. N.E., in the Old City Post Office Building across from Union Station in Washington, D.C. The museum is open daily, except Dec. 25, from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For more information, go to www.postalmuseum.si.edu.