History You Hold in Your Hands...
The 2010 Iditarod Race Cover
Act now to own a special souvenir cover personally autographed by DeeDee Jonrowe, the world’s most celebrated female musher, after she completed the 2010 Iditarod Race. The cover bears the Alaska Statehood, Pony Express and Transpacific Airmail stamps plus a map of the 1,049-mile route and cancellations marking the beginning and end of the race. Only 500 Iditarod covers were created and autographed by DeeDee.
DeeDee Jonrowe –
The Iditarod’s Fastest Female Musher
DeeDee Jonrowe’s 1998 Iditarod finish was the fastest time recorded by a female musher. In 2003, she completed the 1,049-mile race weeks after finishing chemotherapy for breast cancer. She is the only musher in history to compete in both the Iditarod and the Alpirod race for three straight years.
The Iditarod – “The Last Great Race on Earth”
Settlers flocked to Alaska in the 1920s following a gold strike. They traveled to coastal towns by boat, but the forbidding winter closed roads to the gold fields. The only way to travel in the winter was in sleds pulled by dog teams. The Iditarod Trail soon became the major thoroughfare, carrying people, supplies – and mail, much like the Pony Express once did.
In 1925, sled dog teams and the Iditarod Trail were center stage. Isolated from the outside world, Nome experienced a diphtheria outbreak. There was serum in Anchorage but no way to get it to Nome in time to prevent an epidemic – except by sled dogs along the Iditarod. People around the world waited anxiously as 20 mushers and 150 sled dogs relayed lifesaving diphtheria serum from Anchorage to Nome – covering hundreds of miles in frigid temperatures and blinding snow to prevent countless deaths. Thee event became known as the “Great Race of Mercy.”
Airplanes replaced sled teams a few years later and the dogs, once a staple along the Iditarod Trail, became scarce. During the 1970s, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was introduced to preserve this chapter of Alaska’s heritage. The 1,049-mile race features competitors from around the world and is a major social event.
A Limited-Edition Collectible
These covers were first cancelled in Anchorage, Alaska, on March 6, 2010, when the race began. They were then cancelled again 10 days later on March 16, in Nome, where DeeDee completed the race. The large 6 by 9 inch cover shows DeeDee and her team in action plus tells their inspiring story and the history of the race.
Act now to own this neat piece of history.
Alaska’s Final Dog Sled Mail Route
On January 8, 1963, Chester Noongwook made his final trip delivering mail in Alaska via dog sled.
Mail delivery in Alaska has long been more of a challenge than in other parts of the United States. The extreme temperatures and long stretches of undeveloped land in the 1800s made mail delivery difficult.
Letters sent from the continental US could take weeks or even months to reach their destinations. Often, mail would be sent to Washington where it was loaded on to steamships in the Puget Sound. These ships would then carry the mail to southeastern coastal towns. From there, the mail was transported into the interior sections of Alaska by river steamers and later trains. However, trains couldn’t reach some of the most remote areas and ships couldn’t pass frozen rivers, so other methods of delivery were needed.
Sled dogs proved to be the answer. They could travel long distances day or night, over frozen lakes and through dark forests. Native malamutes, huskies and Eskimo dogs were a natural choice. They were strong, had thick coats, furry paws, and didn’t need special housing. At one point they tried using horses, but their feed was expensive and they couldn’t handle the cold as well.
Most dog sled teams consisted of eight to ten dogs pulling sleds carrying between 500 and 700 pounds of mail. The mail was carried in rubber-lined waterproof bags and the dogs wore moose hide moccasins to protect their feet from sharp ice.
By 1901, Alaska had a system of mail trails that ran along almost the entire length of the Yukon River. Much of the mail was carried along the 2,300-mile Iditarod Trail from Seward to Nome.
Dog sled mail delivery made a huge difference to the people of Alaska and it was widely in use for the first three decades of the 20th century. Then in the 1930s, airplanes slowly began to replace dog sled mail. The change was relatively quick and smooth in aviation centers such as Fairbanks. But it was a much longer process in the more remote areas where they needed to develop airfields.
By the 1940s, most sled dog teams were replaced by airplanes. However, one sled dog team continued to operate into the 1960s. Chester Noongwook made weekly 100-mile mail runs from Gambell to Savoonga. Even as airstrips were built in both towns, he continued to carry the mail when the planes couldn’t make it in. He made his final trip on January 8, 1963.
Upon his retirement, Noongwook was invited to Fairbanks, though he didn’t know why. Ironically, he was to fly to Fairbanks, but the plane was delayed by four hours due to poor weather. Once he finally arrived in Fairbanks, he was honored to receive a special award for being the last sled dog mail carrier.