Alaska’s Polar Bear Post

Attributed to Nehemiah Ames


Appeared in “Foreign Stamps”, date unknown under article heading ‘Choice Cover,’ estimated to be circa 1999


You could go to the end of the earth (well, almost) to find a postmaster who hand-paints his own multi coloured cachets on covers. These paintings, reflecting a pleasant sense of humour, are done with care and usually only ten to fifteen are done on any given day.

          These covers from Alaska’s North Slope, as they call it, are certainly unusual for several reasons. Originating from Prudhoe Bay, the largest oil reserve in the United States, many of the covers are actually marked on the back with an actual drop of that precious oil! Then a Polar Bear Local Post (PBLP) label, featuring an Alaskan Raven, Walrus or even a Polar Bear with her cubs is added, also on the reverse. Even the postmark is a unique visual treat, with its Polar Bear leaning against an oil derrick.

          Although Fairbanks has a small branch post office in the area, named after the local airport, Deadhorse, mail from the larger camps is usually taken by company pouch direct to Fairbanks’ main post office at Anchorage which is located 1000 miles to the south, where it is entrusted to the US Postal Service for its onward transmission.

          Polar Bear Post has its work cut out for it, because many of the ten thousand workers at the construction camps would welcome the opportunity of having the letters they send to their families and friends postmarked in the Prudhoe Bay are itself. That’s one of the motivating reasons for which the PBLP was established. Another purpose is to distribute mail between the sixty-five camps in the area. Plans are accordingly envisioned whereby PBLP will be able to pick up and deliver mail to and from each camp. Certainly no small task! Already, printed PBLP-cacheted envelopes are on sale in six of the camps’ commissary stores as stationery items.  They are usually ‘ready-cancelled’ in the lower left-hand corner of the cover with the name of the camp where purchased appearing inside an oval cancel bearing the words PRUDHOE BAY, DEADHORSE, ALASKA. [Note: The previous wording was capitalized in the original article.]

          Both front and back of a Polar Bear Post cover are shown here; the numeral 6088 indicates that in the six years of making these cachets, this is the quantity sent to date. Surely a labour of love, performed for the sheer enjoyment received from knowing that the covers are treasured by their owners in many parts of the world. 

          <Remaining text from article omitted.>


[There was one other paragraph in the original article with illustrations and an address for obtaining covers from Paul Mills, who is now deceased; and his PBLP is no longer operational.]


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