Maynard Sundman fell in love with stamps at the age of 12 and from there, beginning in 1945, created one of the nation’s largest coin and currency business. Shown here, his son David, addresses attendees at the 2016 Maynard Sundman lecture at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. The lecture series was established in 2002. [Image courtesy National Postal Museum]
In the 1930s and early ’40s, Maynard Sundman’s vision of sending stamps and coins through the mail for customers to look at before buying served as the foundation of his business. But it was his wife Fannie’s enthusiasm for Littleton, New Hampshire that made it grow. Fannie’s excitement about Littleton clearly shines through on a newly digitized sound clip made from a rediscovered tape recording. She recounts her first look at the town. We felt this recording was so integral to the company’s history that we included it in the virtual exhibit at the Smithsonian about the U.S. Postal Service and mail order business.
From L.L. Bean to Williams-Sonoma – Littleton is in “good company”
We’re excited to be one of ten catalog companies featured in the museum’s virtual exhibit, titled America’s Mailing Industry. The exhibit showcases the partnership between the U.S. Postal Service and private companies in small towns and urban areas. Because of the mail, companies big and small could reach customers who lived in rural and urban areas and grow their business. Littleton stands among giants in the mailing industry – L.L. Bean, Lillian Vernon and William Sonoma, along with others – all in the Smithsonian Postal Museum’s virtual exhibit.
Lillian Vernon – businesswoman Lillian Vernon was among the first to offer a smaller catalog (instead of big books like Sears or Montgomery Ward), monograms and free gifts.
L.L. Bean – Leon Leonwood Bean of Freeport, ME borrowed funds to redesign defective boots he had designed earlier and built L.L. Bean into an outdoor gear and clothing dynasty.
Williams-Sonoma – Charles E. Williams had a hardware store in Sonoma, CA, but on a trip to France he fell in love with French cookware. He transformed his hardware business into a catalog that offered high-quality French cookware for restaurant and home use.
We’re honored to take part in this exhibit because Littleton Coin has had a long and prosperous relationship with the Postal Service. After all, we started as a mail order stamp business back in 1945 when Maynard returned from overseas duty after WWII. However, it was Fannie, working as a dress buyer while he was away, who picked the location for the business to reopen in… When she asked her associates about New Hampshire towns, they told her to look at Keene and Littleton, and when she did she said,
… Keene I knew from having gone there… it was too citified for me, I came from Cherryville, CT a very small village. So I thought I’d look at Littleton… I stayed at a hotel across from the post office. I got in at night… and [the next day] when I opened the door and saw that post office… it was so elaborate…!”
That decision made all the difference! Today, we continue to send thousands of coins in approval selections through the mail to collectors around the nation. Simply put, without the mail we wouldn’t be where we are today.