Blair House, among the most stately and historic buildings in America, receives its philatelic recognition on a new 15-cent postal card.

Located across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, Blair House is traditionally the place where foreign dignitaries stay while visiting Washington, D.C.Blair House's guests have included Emperor Hirohito of Japan, Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Edinburgh, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Deng Xiaoping of the People's Repulic of China.

In 1982, after a natural gas leak, the house was closed for extensive repairs. Restoration work has been in progress in recent years.

The stately house, constructed in 1824, received its name from Francis P. Blair, who purchased it in 1836 after the death of its original owner, Dr. Joseph Lovell.

Blair's eldest son, Montgomery, served as postmaster general in President Abraham Lincoln's cabinet.

Blair House was acquired by the U.S. government in 1942. It served as the home for President Harry Truman in the first few weeks of his administration in 1945, and from November 1948 to March 1952, when the White House was being renovated.

First-day cancellations are available, however the cards are being sold at philatelic centers only. To provide your own for servicing, send the cards to: Customer-Provided Postal Cards, Postmaster, Washington, D.C. 20066-9991. Cards must be post-marked by July 3.

For USPS servicing, enclose a money order or personal check of 15 cents per card and send to: Blair House Postal Card, Washington, D.C., 20066-9992. Deadline is July 3.

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What is penalty mail?

Penalty mail is the postage used by the federal government's outgoing mail for official government use only. It helps the Postal Service and federal agencies keep track of postage expenses.

Unauthorized use carries a fine of $300, thus the stamps are called "penalty" stamps. However, collectors may purchase them for their albums only. The penalty stamps are not sold in post offices but are available by mail order from the Philatelic Sales Division in Washington, D.C.

The Postal Service has issued a pair of the penalty mail stamps of 15-cent and 25-cent denominations. The new issues resemble earlier official stamps by featuring a portion of the Great Seal of the United States in white on a blue background. "Official Mail USA" appears in red above the vignette. "Penalty for private use $300" appears in red along the bottom. The denominations are in black.

If you would like to buy the new penalty mail stamps, enclose a money order or personal check (plus 50 cents for handling) to: Penalty Mail stamps, Philatelic Sales Division, Washington, D.C. 20265-9997. Remember to specify which denomination, 15 cents or 25 cents, you are ordering. The item numbers are 0760 for the 15-cent stamp and 0766 for the 25-cent stamp. Orders should be postmarked by July 11.

The Postal Service will affix all stamps for first-day cancellation. Customer-affixing is not permitted for these issues.

First-day cancellations may be obtained as follows:

Your envelope or postal card must bear the return address: "U.S. Postal Service, Washington, D.C. 20066, Official Business" in three lines in the upper left corner. The return address may be printed, typed or rubberstamped, or a gummed label may be used.

The price is 15 cents per card and 25 cents per envelope submitted. Both stamps will be affixed and cancelled for 40 cents. Orders must be postmarked by July 11 and addressed: (15 cent), (25 cent) or (Combination) Penalty Mail Cancellations(s), Postmaster, Corpus Christi, TX 78350-9991.