In the winter of 1910, a snapped telegraphic cable severed communications between the people the Magdalen Islands north of Cape Breton and the mainland. Faced with isolation, the leaders of the community rigged a ponchon—a large barrel used for transporting molasses—with a rudder and sail, marked with the inscription “WINTER MAGDELEN MAIL.”
After testing to ensure their jerry-rigged vessel was watertight, they piled in steel boxes filled with letters, including one explaining the situation and imploring the finder to mail the letters. Launched on February 2nd, the ponchon was found at Port Hastings, Nova Scotia, more than a week later, by Murdoch McIssac—who forwarded the letters as requested.
Prior to the air mail advances of World War I, the only reliable method of mail delivery in northern Canada in winter was by dog team, a practice that persisted in more remote regions until the early 1960s. Dog breeds and sledding equipment varied, depending on the terrain, climate and era. Today, every January, the Gold Rush Trail Dog Sled Mail Run allows mailers to have envelopes carried by dog team and delivered via Canada Post.
Title: Methods of Mail Delivery – Canada
Date of Issue: 16 May 2011
Denominations: 2 x 59¢