March 7, 2021

Editor’s Staff

Help Us Solve
the Mystery of this Card #6

Dawson City, Heart of the Klondike

The Americans and Canadians who delivered mail in the Klondike region of the Yukon Territory and eastern Alaska are men of legend. There are wonderous tales of courage and endurance when it comes to making sure the mail was delivered.

One such story involves a fellow named Ben Downing. Ben had two teams of sled-dogs: a six dog team and an eight dog team. He kept one team at each end of his route. The routine was usually “out” with one team, “return” with the other. Along Ben’s mail route one day (likely in the 1910s) Ben fell into some icy water and was forced to seek shelter in a local roadhouse. He managed to get going again within a few hours despite his feet being frostbitten. The legend ends with Ben hobbling into the Dawson City Post Office leaving footprints stained with blood.

In or about 1915, the United States Post Office Department (it became the Postal Service on July 1, 1971), because of increasing volume was forced to create a new mail route from Dawson City, in Canada’s Klondike region to Eagle, Alaska. In that era a mail route was called a trail. The trail was 102 miles long and for many of those miles it followed the banks of the Yukon River. With very few exceptions the trail was followed by one man whose name is now legend.

In his 35 years on the job, on the same trail, week after week he traveled over 100,000 miles by dog team. Finally, in 1950 the contract on the trail was discontinued in favor of “air” mail.

Our hero died in a Dawson hospital in February 1951.

In 1977, in Dawson’s Diamond Jubilee year, a new annual event was held to memorialize and honor the celebrated mail carrier who through his relentless determination earned the title “Iron Man of the North.”

This month’s mystery card was used to announce the event. The honoree is pictured in his traditional cold-weather attire.

Name him.

Send your answer to editor@postcardhistory.net.

*  *  *

Postcard History wants to thank all you postcard sleuths who have participated in this Mystery Card feature over the last six months. To date four of the five mystery cards have been identified or the locales discovered.

Mystery Card #1 – Presented in October – is still unidentified.

Mystery Card #2 – Presented in November – was identified as the Kansas governor’s mansion. Solved by Terry C.

Mystery Card #3 – Presented in December – the mis-identified street scene was discovered to be in New Canaan, Connecticut. Solved by Eugene.

Mystery Card #4 – Presented in January – the “Slit Rock” was located in Hague, New York. Solved by Alexander.

Mystery Card #5 – Presented in February – the “Opening Night” theater card was discovered to be the Foothills Theater in Oakland, California. Solved by Sheila D.

Mystery Card #6 – Presented today – If you want to solve this mystery, you better get started.

Postcard History’s Mystery Card series will resume in July 2021.

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