10 Postmasters General Who Weren't Boring

If pressed, most people probably couldn't remember the name of any of the United States' Postmasters General (yes, we're going with "Postmasters General"). The job just isn't all that glamorous and, quite frankly, sounds a little boring. It might not be an A-List position, but that doesn't mean Postmasters have led D-List lives. Here are 10 surprising stories that illustrate how wild and crazy—or brilliant and powerful—the highest-ranking mailman in the country can be.

1. Charles Wickliffe (1840 – 1845)

After being stabbed in the chest by a madman (luckily the knife bounced off his sternum, preventing any serious injury), Wickliffe traveled to the Republic of Texas on a secret mission for President John Tyler. He was sent to convince the leaders of Texas to invade Mexico. If the invasion was a success, America could then negotiate with Mexico for the annexation of the land. Sadly, the powers of the Postmaster were not enough to immediately send the Texans to war, but his visit did help drum up support for annexation.

2. Aaron Brown (1857 – 1859)

Shortly after the Mexican-American War began in 1846, then-Tennessee Governor Brown, asked his constituents for 2,600 volunteers to help fight in the conflict. When 30,000 men answered his call, the “Volunteer State” received its famous nickname. But that wasn't the end of Brown's influence in American history. He was also one of the members of the Nashville Convention of 1850, where many Southern states first got together to debate action against the U.S. Government over the issue of slavery, including the possibility of secession. And, well, we all know how that turned out.

3. Joseph Holt (1859 – 1861)

Holt started his political career as the Commissioner of Patents and was appointed Postmaster General two years later. When the Civil War broke out, the U.S. Government saw many resignations and shuffling of positions, so Holt was promoted first to Secretary of War and later to Judge Advocate General of the Army. Holt held this position when President Lincoln was assassinated, meaning he presided over the trial of the accused conspirators. During the trial, Holt was personally accused of withholding evidence, and of forcing the execution of conspirator Mary Surratt before her sentence could be officially reduced to life in prison.

4. John Wanamaker (1889 – 1893)

Before he became Postmaster, John Wanamaker was the Sam Walton of his day. He owned many large businesses where he sold clothing and household items, considered by many to be the first department stores. He also revolutionized marketing by offering written guarantees, fixed pricing, and a return policy. The spectacle of his Wanamaker's stores made them tourist attractions as well as shopping destinations, much like the Mall of America is today. Wannamaker's was the first department store with electric lights, the first store with a telephone, the first store with pneumatic tubes for sending documents between departments, and the first store with a restaurant inside. He was also a pretty great guy to work for—he was an advocate for employee benefits, some of which we don't even find today, like free healthcare, educational assistance, pensions, and profit-sharing.

5. George Cortelyou (1905 – 1907)

Before George Cortelyou came along, the media and the Oval Office were barely on speaking terms. Just prior to becoming Postmaster General, Cortelyou revolutionized the relationship between the two by providing reporters with room to work in the White House, briefed journalists on political news, and gave President Teddy Roosevelt clippings from newspapers in an effort to use the media to gauge public opinion. It's nearly impossible to imagine our world today without his contribution.

6. George von Lengerke Meyer (1907 – 1909)

After serving as Postmaster General, Meyer moved on to become Secretary of the Navy. It was under his leadership that the U.S. Navy began experimenting with aircraft, including the successful take-off and landing of airplanes from Navy warships in 1910 and 1911. These feasibility tests led to the modern aircraft carrier.

7. Will Hays (1921 – 1922)

Hays' tenure as Postmaster General only lasted one year before he left to become the first President of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America (MPPDA), the forefather of the modern Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). The organization was founded to clean up Hollywood's image after the trial of Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, in which Arbuckle was accused, and later found innocent, of raping and murdering a woman in his home. Hays was brought in to “clean up the pictures” because he was a Presbyterian deacon and former chairman of the Republican Party. In 1930, he implemented the “Hays Code,” which forced studios to remove any potentially offensive material from their films and seriously dampened artistic expression in film until 1960, when the current age-based movie ratings system was created.

8. Arthur Summerfield (1953 – 1961)

One of the longest-serving Postmasters General, Summerfield made his mark on the world as the man behind the U.S. Postal Service's bizarre idea of “rocket mail” - a scheme that would use missiles jam-packed with letters as a means of delivering the mail. The one and only successful use of rocket mail occurred on June 8, 1959, when a Regulus cruise missile was launched from the USS Barbero and landed at the Naval Auxiliary Air Station in Mayport, Florida. The missile landed safely with assistance from a parachute and the 3000 special edition postcards inside were delivered to their addressees, including President Eisenhower and other prominent politicians. The rocket mail project was abandoned, though, when it was determined that, no matter how cool it might have been, it was not a cost-effective method of delivering the mail.

9. Larry O'Brien (1968 – 1969)

O'Brien's career as top mailman might have been brief, but his influence on American politics has been long-standing. His political career began in 1952 when John F. Kennedy appointed O'Brien as head of the young statesman's U.S. Senate campaign. Later, JFK would use O'Brien as the head of his Presidential campaign, helping many overlook Kennedy's Catholic upbringing as a hurdle to the White House. After his stint as Postmaster General, O'Brien became the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and it was his office at the Watergate Hotel and Office Building that was broken-into in 1972 by “burglars” looking for an advantage in the upcoming Presidential election.

10. Anthony Frank (1988 – 1992)

While serving as Postmaster General, Frank made a guest appearance during the final episode of the seventh season of Murder She Wrote in May 1991. He played opposite star Angela Lansbury as – what else? - her mailman. In the scene, he delivers a package to sleuthmaster Fletcher, played by Lansbury, and informs her she owes him 43 cents because the person who sent her the package must not have known about the new postage rates. A subtle reminder for the viewing audience at home, perhaps? He was listed in the credits as “Postmaster General Anthony Frank as The Mailman.”

Today is October 10, 2010—10.10.10! To celebrate, we've got all our writers working on 10 lists, which we'll be posting throughout the day and night. To see all the lists we've published so far, click here.

10 Stars Who Appeared on Saved by the Bell

While the main cast of Saved by the Bell had varied success in their post-Bayside lives, many of the show's guests star went on to achieve Hollywood success. Here's 10 appearances by now-notable performers.

1. Christine Taylor
The former fake Marcia Brady and current Mrs. Ben Stiller appeared in a 1991 episode of the series (titled "S.A.T.s") where goof-off Zack Morris miraculously scored higher on his SATs than over-achiever Jessie Spano. When Christine's character Heather learned of Zack's great score, she begged him to help her study.

2. Soleil Moon Frye

The Punky Brewster actress appeared in a season four episode of the show during which Screech "invents" a new kind of spaghetti sauce and gets rich quick (using the tag line, "The sauce-a you can have, but the secret? She's-a mine!") But, when it turns out that the geek's recipe isn't legit and he loses it all, Frye ditches him.

3. Scott Wolf
Though he later became a teen heartthrob with his role on Party of Five, Scott Wolf paid his dues as an unnamed extra on Saved by the Bell. He appeared as a waiter at the Max, a movie patron, and as a member of the chorus in various episodes. You can see him in the green sweater standing next to Jessi Spano in this clip.

4. Leah Remini
The queen of Queens is one of the best-known guest stars of Saved by the Bell. She played Stacey Carosi, daughter of the Malibu Sands Beach Club owner Leon Carosi (played by Ernie Sabella aka the voice of Pumbaa in The Lion King). Her role lasted seven episodes and included her signature New York accent.

5. Eric Dane
Now better known as McSteamy from Grey's Anatomy, Eric Dane popped up in a summer episode of Saved by the Bell, while the gang was working at the Malibu Sands Beach Club. He played a former boyfriend of Stacey Carosi and an opponent in an annual volleyball competition. Sneak a peek of him here, in the neon orange shirt.

6. Tori Spelling
After years of chasing Lisa Turtle, Screech finally finds love in Violet Bickerstaff. She appeared in three episodes, including an episode called "House Party," where the gang takes over Screech's house while his parents' are away for the weekend. There is an infamous scene featuring Zack, Slater, and Screech lip syncing to "Barbara Ann."

7. Denise Richards
In the final episode filmed at the Malibu Sands Beach Club, Slater is pursued by Denise Richards, who has some unusual tactics for getting attention, including pretending to drown so he'll have to rescue her.

8. Bridgette Wilson
In 1992, Wilson (who you know from all sorts of movies, including I Know What You Did Last Summer and Billy Madison) appeared in five episodes of Saved by the Bell as Ginger, a ditsy blond. Wilson was not always credited for this role

9. Rena Sofer
Best known for roles on 24 (Marilyn Bauer), NCIS (Margaret Allison Hart), and Melrose Place (Eve Cleary), Sofer appeared as a single mom (and Zack's love interest, naturally) in 1992's made-for-TV Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style movie.

10. Casey Kasem
Playing himself, the well-known radio personality (and voice of Shaggy on Scooby-Doo), appeared twice on Saved by the Bell — first as the host of a dance contest at the Max and the second as the narrator of the episode titled "Rockumentary," during which Zack dreams of the gang (sans Jessi) as Zack Attack, a popular band that rises and falls.

And with this post, our 10.10.10 celebration (that spilled into 10.11.10) comes to an end. Let's do this again November 11, 2011! To see all our 10 lists from the last two days, click here.

10 Awkward Speeches, Interviews and Rants

Pass the mic and prepare for the worst. Here we have 10 awkward speeches, broken interviews, and impromptu rants by celebrities and public officials.

1. In this 1992 Hangin' With MTV interview with Faith No More, vocalist Mike Patton is too busy picking his nose to even listen to the questions.

2. A young Henry Rollins, way back in 1985, turns the tables on the interviewer. Intimidating? Just a little?

3. Sometimes an interview goes smoothly, like this one from 1980 with Dead Kennedys singer, Jello Biafra. Until the final question is asked. Huh?

4. Or, maybe the subject has just had a bad day in the studio, like Mark Motherbaugh of Devo did.

5. And you can't expect a trained killing machine to be coherent after beating someone up, as Mike Tyson demonstrates, in this video from 2000.

6. In 1986, Frank Zappa appeared on CNN's Crossfire... and let the other guest know what he can kiss.

7. At the 2004 Toronto Film Festival, actor Ed Harris demonstrates what the movie, A History of Violence, is about. Yikes.

8. Nardwuar, The Human Serviette is a brutal and obnoxious interviewer from Canada. Most celebrities run from him. But he is no match for Andrew WK, who slices open his own forehead on camera.

9. The late Harvey Pekar made many appearances on David Letterman's show. Unfortunately, he never started his own.

10. Finally, we arrive at what could be a new reality TV show called Bureacracy... starring the Vancouver City, WA City Council.

So, what did we learn about speaking into a mic? Don't stress. It's best when everything goes wrong.

Yesterday was October 10, 2010—10.10.10! To celebrate, we planned a bunch of 10 lists, and the mass listeria has spilled into 10.11.10. To see all the lists we've published so far, click here.


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