The Star Route Service

Finding the Right Fit

"Mush! Husky and malamute! Keep to the trail! They're depending on us, for the government mail!"
—1904, Unknown Author, Council City News

Whether riding on horseback, wagon wheels, or massive truck tires, contractors adopted methods that sped the movement of mail.

Freezing temperatures and snow-drenched landscapes demanded special transportation. By the late 1800s, dogsled mail routes crossed the Alaskan landscape, moving mail between mining camps, roadhouses, and communities. This handcrafted hickory sled was first used by Adolph "Ed" Biederman to carry the mail between Eagle and Circle, Alaska, from 1922 to 1935 and by his son Charlie until 1938. In temperatures plunging below negative 40 °F, Charlie transported up to 500 pounds of mail on 13 round trips totaling 4,000 miles. In 1924, airplanes began replacing dogsleds. By 1963, Alaskan dogsled mail delivery had ended.

Alaskan dogsled
Alaskan dogsled, 1922
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Alaska dog mail team

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Contractor with horse drawn toboggan, Idaho. Courtesy of USPS

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In 1899, Ben Atwater and his sled dogs transported the first mail to Americans in Dawson, Yukon Territory, Canada. Courtesy of the Yukon Archives, E. A. Hegg Collection