This Week in Boring Postcards – Tok, Alaska

Quick post today. Back in the 1970s, my grandparents visited The Last Frontier—Alaska. Amongst the memorabilia of their voyage was this postcard, featuring the tiny hamlet of Tok.


And the reverse, informing us that this another “Alaska Joe” original (which makes me wonder about his other originals…)

Alaska Joe

Tok, in case you’re wondering, is a town of ~1300 people in the southeast of Alaska, with several theories about the origin of the name. From Wikipedia:

In one version, the name Tok is derived from the Athabascan word for “peaceful crossing.” The U.S. Geological Survey notes that the name “Tok River” was in use for the nearby river around 1901, and the Athabascan name of “Tokai” had been reported for the same river by Lt. Allen in 1887. In another version the name is derived from the English words “Tokyo camp”, although the major war benefit was supporting the transfer of airplanes to the Soviet Union. Another version claims the name was derived from the canine mascot for one of the Engineer units that built the highways. The name has no connection to the western Alaskan community of Newtok.

Another version comes from the proposed road construction of the highway to Richardson Highway. In the 1940s and 1950s, another highway, the Tok Cut-Off was constructed and connected Tok with the Richardson Highway at Glennallen. It was a “cut-off” because it allowed motor travelers from the lower United States to travel to Valdez and Anchorage in south-central Alaska without going further north to Delta Junction and then traveling south on the Richardson Highway. When originally being surveyed from the air, the map marking showed the “T” intersection, and the letters “OK” to confirm the location was suitable.

Having been to Alaska a couple of times, I can confidently say there are much more interesting things to make postcards of, so I’m kind of at a loss as to why my grandparents chose this one. Though, since it was never sent, I can only assume they decided after purchasing it that it wasn’t worthy of sharing.

Bonus: Download your own “Alaska Joe” graphic in JPG or SVG format!

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