New N.W.T. postmark depicts northern lights

A new pictorial postmark was recently shared on Twitter by a self-described “life-long student of philately and postal history.”

Australian-born Peter Congreve, who has spent the past 20 years living and working in Japan, shared an image of a Dec. 12-dated postmark from Inuvik, N.W.T., showing a polar bear below the northern lights. It’s part of what he called a “side collection” of Canadian pictorial cancellations he receives from a correspondent in Ontario.

“I love Canada’s pictorial cancellations for the fascinating insight they give into the cultural icons, events and history that each city/town chooses to represent itself with. I have learnt a great deal about Canada through collecting these postmarks,” Congreve told CSN, adding the Inuvik cancellation is “a personal favourite.”

“It has a wonderful balance in design and a great flow, which successfully draws the eye initially to the polar bear before drawing it upwards to the aurora. The iconography, while not representative of any particular object or building in Inuvik, creates a strong sense of place and feeling that is often missing in other designs.”

For comparison, Congreve also shared an image of Inuvik’s 2017 pictorial postmark featuring an inuksuk (the stone figures traditionally constructed by the Inuit) with a blazing sun in the background.

Inuvik is located 200 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle on the east channel of the Mackenzie River delta, which flows into the Arctic Ocean.


Congreve, who was introduced to stamp collecting as a child, lists both social and postal history among his areas of specialization.

“My main interest is in exploring the social and postal history behind postally used covers, researching how the sender and addressee were connected socially, and the myriad of factors that dictated the cover’s journey—culturally and in terms of the post office,” he said, adding his father was a “childhood collector” while his grandfather “was an active collector his entire life and was an author of several articles on stamps of the Indian states.”

Congreve is also a “keen marcophilist” (someone who collects and studies postmarks, cancellations and postal markings applied to mail by hand or machine) that specializes in Australian short-term slogan cancellations.

In addition to his Twitter account – Congreve’s favourite way to connect with the philatelic community – the long-time collector will have an article appearing in the February 2021 edition of The American Philatelist, the monthly journal of the American Philatelic Society. It will detail “the philatelist as a social historian,” leading readers through a case study in explaining the approaches he uses to research the social history behind a cover.

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