Al D’Andrea and Margit Ahlin visited 444 Maine post offices – all of them – from 2010 to 2022. Here they are at one of their favorites, in West Boothbay Harbor. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

If Margit Ahlin and Al D’Andrea ask you to join them on a trip to the post office, you might want to pack a bag and get somebody to water your plants.

Beginning in 2010, the Boothbay Harbor couple spent 12 years visiting all of Maine’s post offices – 444 at the time. They took overnight trips to every corner of the state, from remote islands off the Down East coast to the tip of northern Aroostook County. At each post office, they got a stamped envelope canceled and postmarked by hand, as proof they were there. So the physical evidence of their adventures fits neatly into an oversized shoe box.

But for Ahlin and D’Andrea, who moved to Maine in 2009, the knowledge they gained about their adopted state is much more expansive.

“The discovery part was huge. You never knew what you’d find. We walked into some, and they were in a thrift shop or in a convenience store,” said Ahlin, 64, sitting in the couple’s home. “There’s no better way to learn about a town than to find its post office.”

Both Ahlin and D’Andrea are stamp and postmark collectors, and the idea for their postal trek was sparked by the 2010 release of a stamp honoring Maine artist Winslow Homer, who painted at Prouts Neck in Scarborough. They thought it would be fun to bring that stamp on an envelope to the tiny Prouts Neck post office and get it canceled and postmarked by hand instead of by a machine, which is what happens with most mail. They finished their collection in the fall of 2022 in Frenchboro, an island town south of Mount Desert Island.

“At some point, we thought it would be interesting to see if we could get that stamp (of Homer) canceled at every Maine post office,” said D’Andrea, 75. “It’s a variation on the topical theme. Some people collect stamps with paintings on them, but this would be one stamp, canceled at more than 400 post offices.”



Ahlin and D’Andrea, who have been married for 32 years and previously lived in New York City and Los Angeles, are longtime theater professionals. After moving to Maine, they started a theater company, Snowlion Repertory, which stages productions in Portland and in Boothbay Harbor. (Next up is “My Witch: The Margaret Hamilton Stories,” June 27-30 at Carousel Music Theater in Boothbay Harbor.)

Some of the postmarked stamps Ahlin and D’Andrea got on their Maine post office adventure. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Besides the canceled stamps, the couple documented their epic post office errand by taking pictures and keeping all the marked-up maps and detailed lists of hours they made for each location. Their post office excursions brought them to places most Mainers will never go and act as reminders of the crucial role post offices play in Maine, especially in rural areas, as centers of community and communication. They visited post offices in towns with less than 200 residents, including Meddybemps and Vanceboro in Washington County and Kingman in Penobscot County. They took 12 different ferries to reach remote island post offices.

“It really is a lifeline for a lot of rural places. A lot of places don’t have a town hall or even a general store, so the post office has been a place where people meet and talk to each other,” said David Shepherd, 68, who retired as postmaster in East Winthrop in 2014 and is an officer with the Maine chapter of the United Postmasters and Managers of America.

Shepherd is pretty sure he remembers D’Andrea coming to his post office in 2013, though he didn’t catch his name. He recalls a man walking in and asking for a stamp to be canceled and postmarked by hand. Not many people ask for that, Shepherd said, so he figured the man was on a pretty important errand. He took out a piece of paper, put some “good ink” on the postmark stamper and told the man to take a couple of practice tries. When they were successful – no smudges, the date and location clearly legible – he let the man do it on his stamp and envelope.

D’Andrea remembers the East Winthrop encounter, too, and appreciated the careful assistance he got from the post office worker. D’Andrea found that quite a few postmasters understood the importance of what he and his wife were doing.


“A few postal clerks were so concerned about providing a nice hand cancel that they asked me to do it myself. East Winthrop was the first time I was asked to do that, and the gentleman was very kind and really wanted it to be perfect and for me to be pleased,” D’Andrea said. “I had never done a hand cancel before, so it was quite challenging but rewarding being postal clerk for a minute.”

Ahlin and D’Andrea say the post office at West Boothbay Harbor has the best view of any in Maine. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer


They often visited post offices in chunks, as many as 25 in a day. They started with Greater Portland, where there are a lot of post offices that are close together. They visited post offices on the way to vacations in Canada. But often, they’d just carve out a couple days to take a trip to some part of Maine and hit as many post offices as they could. The couple are used to planning their theatrical productions down to the most minute detail, and they did the same with their post office treks.

They used U.S. Postal Service cellphone apps to find the address and hours of each post office, which can be pretty sporadic in small Maine towns. Some were open only mornings or just for a couple of hours a day; others were closed for lunch. They traced their routes on paper maps and wrote out detailed itineraries for their trips.

“We’d look at the hours, make up these lists and figure out when we could go,” Ahlin said. “It was a lot of work.”

Sometimes, they ventured out without knowing exactly how they’d get to a post office. They took a ferry to get to the island of Matinicus, some 20 miles out to sea from Rockland. But the post office was in the middle of the island, and they weren’t sure they could walk there and back in time to catch the departing ferry. If they missed it, D’Andrea says, they’d be stranded until the next ferry, in three days. So they asked a kindly man with a pickup truck to drive them on their postmark mission. Lucky for them, he did.


On a trip Down East, they visited 31 post offices in two days, from tiny Surry to Lubec, home of the easternmost post office in the country. They met a postal clerk in Cutler who told them she was a native of Brooklyn, New York, and came to Cutler years ago for a summer visit. She was so enthralled by the wild beauty, she never left.

Margit Ahlin and Al D’Andrea, when they visited the last Maine post office on their list, in the island town of Frenchboro in 2022. Courtesy of Margit Ahlin and Al D’Andrea

They found that several post offices in Maine have detailed murals, inside or outside, including a shipwreck scene in South Portland, a logging scene in Millinocket and a painting of Indigenous people in canoes in Dover-Foxcroft. The buildings themselves ranged from ornate granite structures, like in Eastport, to a log cabin in West Rockport and a tiny toll booth-sized block building in Danville, between New Gloucester and Lewiston. The couple found just as much variety in the weathervanes on many post offices, which were in the shapes of a moose, a skier, an eagle, a tree, a sailboat and an ice cream cone.

They likely would have finished their postal mission earlier, if not for the pandemic, which closed post offices and everything else down in 2020.

When they started visiting post offices, D’Andrea and Ahlin lived in Portland. One of their favorite post offices early on was the small white building in West Boothbay Harbor, with expansive views of the ocean just across Route 27. D’Andrea said that post office was not the reason the couple eventually moved to Boothbay Harbor in 2022, but “it didn’t hurt.”

Like several post offices in Maine, this one in Winslow was part of another business. It’s been closed about three years. This photo is from when Ahlin and D’Andrea visited in 2012. Photo by Margit Ahlin


While Ahlin and D’Andrea’s trek to every Maine post office is unusual, it’s not unprecedented.


Kelvin Kindahl, for one, has done it. He’s secretary of the Maine Philatelic Society, a stamp collector’s group, and a member of the national Post Mark Collectors Club. He’s visited some 12,000 post offices around the country over the past 45 years, including every one in Maine. He collects postmarks at each one and has used his trips to help inform his research for the Maine Philatelic Society’s 2022 book, “The Post Offices of Maine,” a history and listing of state post offices. It’s out of print but available online at

Kindahl, 61, became fascinated with collecting stamps as a kid, and once he started noticing the place names on postmarks, he wanted to collect those, too. That led to a desire to physically go to places he never heard of and had no other reason to visit, just to get the postmark in person.

“Going to remote places takes some effort, and I find that exciting,” said Kindahl, who is retired from the restaurant business and lives in Florence, Massachusetts. “I have seen a lot more of the country than most Americans because I like to go to post offices.”

The outgoing mail slot inside the Bustins Island post office, in 2019. Photo by Margit Ahlin

Anyone else trying to visit all the post offices in Maine won’t have to work quite as hard as D’Andrea and Ahlin did because several have closed since 2010, when the couple began their mission. There are now 417 post offices staffed by postal employees in Maine, according to Steve Doherty, a communications specialist with the United States Postal Service based in Boston. But that doesn’t include post offices in stores or ones that are run by individuals under contracts with the postal service, Doherty said. If you add up all the contract post offices, the total in Maine is probably about 437, according to Kindahl and his colleagues at the Maine Philatelic Society.

Some of the post offices Ahlin and D’Andrea visited that are now closed include one at a gas station and convenience store in Winslow and one in the Cape Cottage section of Cape Elizabeth. Doherty said the postal service doesn’t keep a list of closed post offices in Maine.

One of Kindhal’s postmark collecting friends, Evan Kalish of Queens, New York, has been to 401 post offices in Maine and more than 11,500 across the country. Kalish is not sure when he’ll finish visiting all the Maine post offices, because getting to all the island locations is “a real challenge.”

Kalish, 37, got the itch to visit post offices as a child. His father was a postmark collector and would always visit one or two out-of-the-way post offices on family vacations. About 16 years ago, he decided to drive across the country and stopped at post offices along the way. He’s been doing it ever since. Just last week, he took a trip to Martha’s Vineyard, off Cape Cod, to visit six post offices there.

“I just really love visiting communities other people in my age or demographic wouldn’t get to visit,” said Kalish, who works as a freelance writer and researcher. “And that leads to getting experiences I otherwise wouldn’t get and meeting some wonderful people.”

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