04 March 2016
Stamp & Coin Mart reader Aranya Dutta shares his impressive collection of stamps and covers sent from some of the strangest post offices on the planet
Stamp & Coin Mart reader Aranya Dutta shares his impressive collection of covers sent from some of the strangest POs on the planet…
How long have you spent collecting unusual mail and unusual post offices?
For last four years or so. It started as an offshoot of my collection of unusual stamps used on cover, and then proceeded towards unusual post offices and unusually carried mail.
What attracted you to this subject?
From my childhood I was attracted to collecting things which are curios and artefacts, not very expensive and from the place of origin.
My travels also included Bhutan and there, among other artefacts I collected a set of record stamps, which are stamps of vinyl records. That immediately struck a chord with me and I thought that there must be more such stamps around the world.
What is your favourite item and why?
My favourite items are those unusual post offices where very little is known and not much information is found on the internet even.
They are kind of discovered by me, of course with help of my friends across the world. In this respect the Eilat underwater post office is one of my favourites.
The Sea Floor post office in the Bahamas opened on 16 August, 1939 and closed some time in 1941.
Many covers were postmarked at the undersea Post office and mailed to collectors all over the world. Covers like this one had pictorial cachets; others just had different varieties of cancels indicating the unusual place of posting.
The undersea post office was created by US photographer John Ernest Williamson (1881-1966). He is remembered today as a pioneer in undersea photography and was involved in the production of films including one based on Jules Verne’s Twenty-Thousand Leagues under the Sea.
Williamson’s father had invented a kind of tube which could be used to facilitate communication and the flow of air down to depths of more than 200 feet.
In 1912, Williamson designed a kind of chamber with a thick glass window which was attached to the tube and then lowered to the sea floor. From this vantage point Williamson was able to observe the undersea creatures and to take photographs. He called his invention the ‘Williamson Photosphere’.
The Half-n-half Post Office of Texarkana is split down the middle between the state boundary of Texas and Arkansas in the USA.
This was once the city’s Federal Building/Courthouse/Post Office. It is built out of limestone and is in the middle of this street, straddling the state line.
The Postmark of the cover, dated 1953, shows the names of both the states, ‘Ark-Tex’.
Underground Cave Post office in Carlsbad Cavern National Park, New Mexico, USA.
Postcard dated 1961, with nice postmark ‘Mailed 750 ft underground’. 750 feet below the surface is a lunchroom that has been built into place in Carlsbad Caverns with concession stands selling cold and hot drinks. There is also an underground post office selling postcards. Truly a unique post office deep in the bowels of the earth.
First day cover commemorating the new postmark of Old Post Office Tree, Mossel bay, South Africa.
Dated 20 December, 1963. The Old Post Office Tree acted as a mail system for seagoing men in the 1500s. It’s an old milk-wood tree on which sailors used to hang their shoes with notes in them for safe delivery.
There is a post box at the Old Post Office Tree where people can drop in letters and postcards to their loved ones.
The letter-box is shaped as a boot as it is presumed that the first letter left under this old tree was found in a sailor’s shoe back in 1500.
Today all outgoing mails from this letterbox have a special flank to commemorate the importance of this tree as the first post office of South Africa.
During the British India era (pre 1940s) the Himalayan areas like Sikkim, Bhutan and the Darjeeling area of North Bengal were served by Mule Mobile Post Offices.
These were actually postmen riding mules to different rural locations nestled in the hills, which were unreachable by any other means of transport.
The philatelic cover, issued in the occasion of Junior’s Day, 14 March, 1982, depicts the Mobile Post Office on Mule in Six Mile Bazaar, Darjeeling.
Even today, in the Thar desers of Rajasthan, camels serve as mobile post offices for the far reaching villages of India. A stamp issued to commemorate the Camel mobile Post office of India is also illustrated.
Detroit River Mail Boat Service cover. Seasons First Mail Run 1991 with ‘Mail by the Pail’ cachet.
The Detroit River Post Office Station is the only postal unit in the world devoted to the delivery of mail to vessels that are under way.
During the months when the Detroit River is navigable (from the first week in April to mid-December), the Mail Boat delivers mail addressed to those on board passing ships and picks up outgoing mail from them.
The little boat rides alongside the big ships as they move up or down river. Mail from the ships is lowered to the Mail Boat in a pail fastened to a rope; deliveries made to the ships are hauled aboard using the same process.