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Museum Temporary Exhibit Will Showcase America’s Only Floating Post Office and Other Great Lakes Service Vessels

June 27, 2022 (Toledo, Ohio) – On Thursday, June 30, the National Museum of the Great Lakes welcomes a new temporary exhibit titled “By the Pail: J.W. Westcott and Great Lakes Service Vessels.” The exhibit takes an indepth look at the J.W. Westcott Co. and other vessels that serviced the sailors of the Great Lakes through the years including bumboats, grocery providers, and a butcher boat.

“Most people don’t know the Detroit River is home to America’s only floating post office, which was the inspiration for the exhibit’s name,” shares lead curator Carrie Sowden. “In the early days, a rope would be tossed to a waiting rowboat by a passing ship. While being towed along the ship’s side, service boats would load correspondence and supplies into a bucket lowered by the ship’s crew. Long coined “mail-by-the-pail,” the system remains little changed today.” 

Life aboard a Great Lakes vessel can be isolating and lonely. A note or package from a loved one or access to personal items and food were real morale boosters. In 1948 the J.W. Westcott Co. began delivering mail to sailors passing by on vessels as an official postal service which still operates today under the zip code 48222. “By the Pail” uses images, video and artifacts to take a deeper look at service vessels including the J.W. Westcott II and the important role they played through the years.

Exhibit admission is FREE for members and included with any museum admission purchase. The temporary exhibit will be open during regular museum hours through August 14. Individuals can purchase same-day tickets at the door or online in advance. For additional information visit nmgl.org/events or call 419-214-5000.