NLM Timeline

Timeline of Alaskan History

Most of the timeline entries are based on articles which appear in the magazine, and it will be updated and expanded as new issues are published. 

 15,000-4,000 BCE: First people crossed the Bering Land Bridge to Alaska.


• 1741 – Vitus Bering discovered Alaska

• 1778 – Capt. Cook explored Alaskan coasts


• 1866 – The Esquimaux, Alaska’s first newspaper, published at Libbysville, Port Clarence, Russian America. 

• 1866 – Major Robert Kennicott, aged 32 years, dies unexpectedly at Nulato.


• 1879 – John Muir and Rev. Samuel Hall Young explore Glacier Bay.


• 1880 – John Muir and Rev. S. Hall Young map the Inside Passage route to Sitka.

• 1885 – Sheldon Jackson appointed General Agent of Education in Alaska.

• 1886 – Gold is discovered on the South Fork of the Fortymile River.


• 1894 – The Alaska Steamship Company was formed.

• 1895 – The Right Reverend Peter Trimble Rowe appointed first Missionary Bishop of the Espicopal Church in Alaska.

• 1896 – Josiah E. Spurr led the first expedition to map and chart the interior of Alaska for the United States Geological Survey.

• 1897 – Klondike Gold Rush.

• 1897 – Photographer and author Clarence Leroy Andrews came to Alaska as part of a climbing expedition to Mt. St. Elias.

• 1897 – Photographer Eric A. Hegg arrived in Skagway.

• 1897 – Young Florence Barrett, later the novelist Barrett Willoughby, sailed to Alaska and Dawson City with her parents on their schooner.

• 1898 – Photographers William H. Case and Herbert Horace Draper opened a studio in Skagway at the height of the Klondike Gold Rush.

• 1898 – The “Three Lucky Swedes” find gold on Anvil Creek near Nome.

• 1898 – John Hummel finds gold in Nome’s black sand beaches.

• 1898 – Edward S. Orr arrives in Dyea, Alaska, on the Klondike trail.

• 1898 – Capt. Edwin F. Glenn heads an expedition to Tanana.

• 1899 – The Harriman Alaska Expedition explores the Alaskan coastline.

• 1899 – Edward S. Orr arrives in Dawson City, Yukon Territory.


• 1900 – Nome Gold Rush

• 1900 – U.S. Senate Committee on Military Affairs publishes an important gathering of reports by Frederick Schwatka, Ivan Petrof, W.R. Abercrombie, Henry T. Allen, and many others, comprising the records of expansion of non-natives’ knowledge of the territory.

• 1900 – The Kink is blasted in the North Fork of the Fortymile River.

• 1901 – Jim Haly’s Roadhouse was built in Fort Yukon.

• 1902 – Addison Powell crossed the Copper River and spent several weeks camping at the base of Mt. Wrangell.

• 1902 – Gold discovered just north of Fairbanks by Italian prospector Felix Pedro.

• 1903 – Katalla, on the gulf coast of Alaska, was founded after the nearby discovery of the first commercial quantities of oil in Alaska.

• 1903 – The Sourdough Roadhouse, originally known as Hart’s Road House, was built on Sourdough Creek, near the Gulkana River, sometime between 1903 and 1905.

• 1903 – James Wickersham made the first recorded attempt of Mt. Denali; the route he attempted is now known as Wickersham’s Wall.

• 1903 – Sydney Laurence arrives in Alaska to prospect and paint.

• 1904 – The Black Rapids Roadhouse was built in either 1902 or 1904.

• 1904 – Reverend Hudson Stuck, an Episcopal priest, moved to Alaska.

• 1905 – Fairbanks is the largest community in Alaska.

• 1906 – Ed. S. Orr moves his freighting company to Valdez, Alaska.

• 1907 – Gold is discovered near present-day Ruby.

• 1907 – The Alaska Steamship Company and the Northwest Steamship Company are bought by The Alaska Syndicate, funded by the Guggenheim & Morgan Company.

• 1908 – The first All Alaska Sweepstakes sled dog race in Nome.

• 1909 – Gold is discovered at Iditarod.

• 1909 – Judge James Wickersham is seated as a congressional delegate for the District of Alaska.

• 1909 – The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle.

• 1909 – Eustace Paul Ziegler arrives in Cordova to manage a mission.


• 1910 – S. S. Farallon, a wooden steam schooner, wrecked at Illiamna Bay.

• 1910 – Hallock C. Bundy publishes a traveler’s guidebook to Alaska.

• 1910 – Ed. S. Orr sells his stage line to the Northern Commercial Co.

• 1910 – The Woodchopper Roadhouse is built around this time.

• 1910 – Copper River & Northwestern Railroad is completed to Chitina.

• 1910 – Orr Stage Company opens an office in Chitina.

• 1911 – Professor Henry Peterson, a music teacher in Nome, fabricated the first airplane ever built in Alaska. Dubbed the Tingmayuk, Eskimo for bird, it never flies.

• 1911 – Elizabeth Wanamaker [Peratrovich] is born in Petersburg.

• 1912 – Passage of the Second Organic Act in 1912, establishing Alaska officially as a United States territory with a legislature.

• 1912 – Mount Katmai produces the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century.

• 1912 – The original Slana Roadhouse was built by freighter, miner, mail carrier and fur trader Lawrence DeWitt just east of the Valdez-to-Eagle Trail, on the trail to Chisana.

• 1913 – Hudson Stuck, Harry Karstens and four native youths are the first expedition to successfully climb the South Peak of Mt. McKinley (Denali).

• 1913 – In Fairbanks, pioneer British aviator James Martin and his wife Lily provide the first aerial exhibition in Alaska.

• 1914 – Leonhard Seppala runs his first All Alaska Sweepstakes race.

• 1914 – The U.S. Government begins construction of the Alaska Railroad.

• 1914 – Northern Commercial Company dissolves the Orr Stage Company.

• 1915 – Nellie Neal arrives in Seward. She would become a roadhouse keeper at Grandview, Deadhorse, and Kenai Lake – and gain widespread fame as “Alaska Nellie.”

• 1916 – World traveller and lecturer Frank Carpenter visits Alaska researching his 1923 book ‘Alaska, Our Northern Wonderland.’

• 1917 – Alaskan Engineering Commission official photographer Phinney S. Hunt dies suddenly in Seward while on A.E.C. business.

• 1918 – Canadian Pacific steamboat Princess Sophia sinks in Lynn Canal after running aground on Vanderbilt Reef, between Skagway and Juneau; no survivors.

• 1918 – 16-year-old Margaret Murie visited Yost’s Roadhouse on the Fairbanks-to-Valdez Trail.


• 1920 – The Black Wolf Squadron lands in Nome to demonstrate how the East Coast could be linked to Siberia and the Far East via an airway crossing Alaska.

• 1922 – Roy F. Jones, of Ketchikan, starts the first commercial flight service in the territory, Northbird Aviation Company.

• 1922 – Alaskan aviator Carl Benjamin Eielson arrived in Fairbanks to teach math and science at Fairbanks High School.

• 1923 – The U.S. Government completes construction of the Alaska Railroad.

• 1923 – Carl Ben Eielson becomes Fairbanks’ first commercial pilot.

• 1924 – Carl Ben Eielson secures the first airmail contract in the territory, from Nenana to McGrath, navigating by rivers and sled dog trails.

• 1924 – 25-year-old Noel Wien arrived in Alaska with four years of flying and over 500 hours of barnstorming and stunt experience under his belt.

• 1925 – The great Serum Run to Nome, when an outbreak of diphtheria threatened the isolated town.  

• 1925 – Ted Lambert worked as a sled dog mailman and freighter. 

• 1927 – 13-year-old Benny Benson wins the Alaska flag design contest.

• 1927 – First commercial airline in Alaska, Wien Air, is formed.

• 1928 – A second, larger Slana Roadhouse was built where the original stood in 1912.

• 1929 – Carl Ben Eielson dies when his plane crashes in Siberia.

• 1929 – Russell Merrill departed Anchorage on a flight toward Bethel and never returned. Merrill Pass and Anchorage’s Merrill Field were named in his memory.


• 1930 – Jack and Kate Welch buy the Woodchopper Roadhouse. 

• 1931 – Father Bernard Rosecrans Hubbard, a Jesuit priest, headed a sled dog expedition which took him 1,600 miles down the frozen Yukon River, visiting missions.

• 1931 – Charles Lindbergh and his wife Anne Morrow Lindbergh refuel in Barrow and Nome on their survey flight to establish the shortest air route from New York to China.

• 1933 – James Wickersham retires as Alaska’s delegate to Congress.

• 1935 – The U.S. Government brings 200 farm families to the Matanuska Valley.

• 1935 – Will Rogers and Wiley Post killed when their plane crashes south of Barrow.

• 1935 – Fred Machetanz visits his uncle Charles Traeger at Unalakleet. 

• 1937 – The Black Rapids Glacier advanced across the valley at the rate of a mile a month, winning the nickname the “galloping glacier.”

• 1939 – The Federal Writers Project Guide to Alaska is published.

1940 and beyond

• 1940 – The Alaska Steamship Company begins commissioning sled dog portraits from artist Josephine Crumrine for their menu covers.

• 1941 – Roy & Elizabeth Peratrovich write to Gov. Gruening.

• 1942 – Japanese invade Attu and Kiska in the Aleutian Islands.

• 1942 – Alaska Highway construction begun.

• 1945 – Alaska Legislature passes the Antidiscrimination Act.

• 1959 – Alaska became the 49th state

• 1964 – Good Friday Earthquake 


• The Alaska History Timelineat the eReference Desk offers a chronological timeline of important dates, events, and milestones in Alaska history, noting “Alaska’s modern history is very short; it was not discovered by the developed world until halfway through the 18th century,” also quite correctly reminding us “the indigenous peoples of Alaska have been here for quite some time.” It also point out “The name ‘Alaska’ derives from the Aleut word Alaxsxaq (also spelled Alyeska), meaning ‘mainland’ (literally, ‘the object toward which the action of the sea is directed.’)”

Although it only notes the years of events, it’s a lengthy timeline, reaching from the 16th century, when Cossack Chieftain Yermak Timofief was on an expedition in central Russia when he heard word of rich sable and valuable furs in the east, sparking the interest in Alaska, to the 21st century, specifically 2010, when musher Lance Mackey made history by winning his fourth consecutive Iditarod sled dog race.

• Alaska’s history is broken down into monthly events at the Alaska Historical Society’s timeline, This Month in Alaskan History, citing notable events which happened from January to December.

• There is a brief, succinct timeline at the Alaska Public Lands Information Center, running from when the first people came to Alaska about 15,000 years ago to the 1989 grounding of the Exxon Valdez.

• There is a good and very interesting timeline relating specifically to Anchorage history at the Cook Inlet Historical Society’s Legends & Legaciessite. It includes events such as this: “1797:  Tyonek Dena’ina, or Tubughna people, under the leadership of Quq’ey, destroy the Russian post at North Foreland.  The Lake Illiamna post is also destroyed in the late 1790s.  Due to Dena’ina resistance, Russian penetration into most Dena’ina territory, including Upper Cook Inlet, interior regions, and most of the Kenai Peninsula was minimal for most of the nineteenth century.” The timeline runs through 2015, when President Barack Obama visited Anchorage.

• Another detailed but ad-heavy timeline appears at Timelines of History, tracing events from 100 million B.C., when land masses collided to create Alaska, to 2015.

• A nice little timeline for kids can be found at AlaskaKids, sponsored by LiteSite Alaska, with links to learn more about the historic events.