What is it● A fun hobby that involves some problem solving, art, and going new places.● Rubber stamps, many of which are hand carved, are hidden in various locations by "planters"● Planters leave clues, some of which require deciphering, for people to locate hidden stamps.● Letterboxers find stamps and add to their logbook, leaving their own stamped image.
A little history● In 1854, in Dartmoor, England, James Perrott hid a bottle by Cranmere Pool.● He included his calling card in the bottle so future visitors could contact him and leave their own calling cards.● The bottle was replaced by a small tin box in 1888. Visitors now left self-addressed postcards and the next person to visit the letterbox would retrieve the postcards and mail them back from their hometown.
A little more history● By April 1905 the number of visitors required a better way to track finds. The tin box was replaced with a zinc box which now included a log book.● The idea, which still is seen in practice today, of using a rubber stamp was left as a suggestion in the log book, July 22, 1907, by John H. Strother.
"Reached the pool at 7.10pm, misty daywith cool breeze, and would suggest thata rubber stamp, something like the postoffice stamps for postmarking letters orrubber stamp for putting the address atthe top of a piece of notepaper beprovided and kept here. If this were doneit would be proof that cards posted hadreally come from Cranmere."
Slow-growing hobby● Second letterbox placed at Belstone Tor 40 years after the first!● 44 years would pass before someone planted a third box at Ducks Pool.● 122 years after the first planting only 15 letterboxes were found in Dartmoor.● With the creation of a newsletter in 1976 the popularity grew and by the 1980s thousands of boxes had been planted.
Popularity = Problems● Planters became so enthusiastic about hiding boxes they began dismantling historic rock walls, marking plants with graffiti, and otherwise causing destruction.● Dartmoor National Park proposed to eradicate all but the first two boxes, which now had permanent housing to contain them.● Accepted etiquette, still observed today was agreed upon and kept the hobby alive.
Etiquette● Boxes should not be sited in any kind of antiquity and should not damage site.● Boxes should not be sited in any potentially dangerous situations where injuries could be caused.● Boxes should not be sited as a fixture. Cement or any other building material is not to be used.
Crossing the Pond● In April 1988 Smithsonian magazine publishes a small article about letterboxing hobby starts to take off in the United States.● Eventually Letterboxing North America (LbNA) is founded in 2001 and over 1000 boxes known.● Enthusiasts have now planted boxes worldwide.
Why do it?● Solve puzzles!● Visit awesome places you might otherwise never see!● Collect stamped images, many of which are amazing works of art.
Some Resources● They Live and Breathe Letterboxing Smithsonian, April 1988 http://www.letterboxing.org/Smithsonian. html● Letterboxing North America http://www.letterboxing.org/● Atlas Quest (find clues, location search) http://www.atlasquest.com● Dartmoor Letterboxing http://www.dartmoorletterboxing.org/