.... September 23th 1897


.... March 22th, 1902


.... July 21th, 1870



.... 1946



 ..... March, 3th, 1967





..... Dec 24th, 1886


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The concept of mail-art started in the 1960-ies.


decorating mail started almost immediately after the starting of the mail-system.

May 1, 1840.

The date that the Mulready Envelope was put on sale in Great Britain (just a few days before the 1st ever postage stamp, the Penny Black, was introduced.

Here's one:


Is it only when postage was instituted that traveling packages, letters, or any decoratively packaged mail could be considered as art-mail officially?  We've wondered about this. Hope somebody can answer here.



the idea of mail-art as a movement in the arts started in the 1960s. the artist ray johnson is almost universally credited with founding the mail-art movement. the iuoma is very much a continuation of this movement. the mail-art movement is historically associated with avant garde art, in particular concept art and Fluxus. yes, people have always sent decorated items, artwork, correspondence, etc. through postal systems. it is of some historical interest to look at decorated mail pre-dating the mail-art movement and comparing it with current practice. however, they are not technically mail-art as it is currently defined.  you need to think of mail-art as a distinct movement in the arts. much has been written about the mail-art movement. you might want to do some research

Thanks for the clarification. We are wondering, tho', what might be our best bet as far as reading material goes.

If you have Mail and if you have Art, then you have Mail Art.

This debate is a bit like 'When did rock'n'roll start? Who made the firest ever rock'n'roll record?"

No-one knows. there are many competing claims. Just because a DJ says 'rock'n'roll' doesn't mean he invented the genre.

Zapot. (Or whatever)

Ray Johnson might have initiated the modern Mail-Art movement and IUOMA is certainly continuing the tradition, but Ray did not invent Mail, or Art, or the linking of the two.

As Plush-Possum suggests the combination of Mail and Art has a much longer history.

There is also what I call the 'Ruud Janssen position': "If you think it's Mail-Art it is". And many people did way, way before Ray Johnson came along.


Thanks for the further edification of this group. This seems a longstanding argument, but from a sidelined position, and with more to learn, it can make for interesting conversation. We are pleased it can unfold here, and will be curious what else may yet arise out of your gathering. If the others can shape it their own way, it must be it is an individual's choice what to regard as belonging to either genre. Mail as art. Or Mail-Art.

Fascinating discussion!

Dear Plushes and Roses,

If you are not entirely convinced by the 'It all began with Ray Johnson' school of thought, a really good book to read is John Tingey's "The Man Who Posted Himself and other Curious 0bjects". It tells the fascinating story of an eccentric Englishman who challenged the British Post office in the first part of the 20th century by posting all sorts of strange things including vegetables, a bicycle pump, a rabbit's skull, and even himself...plus children (but not his!) along the way.

Another good book -- but this less historical and more, well, practical -- is Harriet Russell's "Envelopes". This is another British postal adventure, this time set in the early part of the 21st century, i sets a series of challenges to the Post office to deliver her intriguinly addressed envelopes.

If you come across any good ones, please let me know. Thankk you.

Regards, Val

PS there is, i think, an IUOMA Group which focusses on Mail Art literature, and you should take a look at that, too.


Yes--thank you, Val.

The Tingey and Russell books nobody here is familiar with. We'll check that out shortly.

I recently stumbled upon another title, "An American History Album: the story of the United States told through stamps." This was during an online dig. The title wasn't Mail-Art derived, so I thought it'd be better to check here.

I personally also visited your Mail Art Literature Group, but it was already more fully underway than this newbie could catch up with. I  quite frankly knew I was out of my league. There is so much to see and learn here, if one is new, it's a bit like a grand bazaar with everything imaginable under one roof! It's getting more interesting all the time.

Thanks! Mr Amazon UK had a copy of the book in stock (at a greatly reduced price) and I habe just ordered it.

I have the same problem as you about finding my way around the literature. What one really needs is a '101 -- why don't you suggest it to Rod.

On refelection, that's not a bad idea.

Talking of Rod, his book 'IUOMA 1988-2008' contains a very good historical (if history starts at 1988) overview of what he and others have achieved.

Regards, Val

IUOMA started in 1988, but mail-art is there much longer. Ray Johnson started his Correspondance, and I know in soe of the early books on mail-art (from the 80-ies) there are texts written about it. Check out Daniel Pluncket with his magazine ND.


Have to look in the archive for such details. Mail-Art started in te 60-ies, 70-ies.



see: http://iuoma-network.ning.com/group/books where in the first postings thare are some of the books from the 80-ies that surely give a detailed answer.




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