Arago: Handstamps


USS Nautilus postmark handstamp


On August 3, 1958, Frank Holland and John Krawczyk commemorated the first trip by a submarine under the North Pole with this specially-crafted handstamp. The journey below the pole was made by the USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear submarine, in the midst of the Cold War.

The ship first tried to pass under the pole in July but found the ice was thicker than anticipated. Crew member John C. Yuill later recalled that the ship was forced to “grope along near the bottom, trying to find a way through into deeper water. It was tedious at times and nail-biting at others as we passed under ever-thickening ridges of ice forcing us closer and closer to the sea bottom.” Commander W.R. Anderson ordered the ship around when the ship had only about six feet of space between it and the ice above or sea floor. The crew would try again later.

Crew members helped cancel 1,528 envelopes with Krawczyk and Holland’s hand-made devices. The cachet was added on the trip up and the date stamp applied while the sub was seven hundred feet below the pole.

The Nautilus emerged northeast of Greenland on August 5, 1958. Commander Anderson was airlifted off the ship and flown to Washington, D.C., for a press conference. He brought along the specially-cancelled mail in a sack entrusted to his aide, Captain E.P. Aurand. Postmaster General Summerfield assured Anderson that the mail would be put into the mail stream, despite having been cancelled by a ship crew, not postal workers. True to Summerfield’s word, the envelopes were placed into the mail and made their way to their destinations.

USS NAUTILUS / NORTH POLE / 1928 / AUG 3 / 11.15 pm
wood; rubber; adhesive
Other (Length x Width x Depth): 3/4 x 4 x 2 1/8 in. (1.91 x 10.16 x 5.4 cm)
Museum ID:

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