Tag Archives: Books

Irving M. Reed

oie_21234926N4BBt391In his classic 1969 book, Boyhood in the Nome Gold Camp (Mineral Industry Research Laboratory, University of Alaska), Irving McKenny Reed records the observations made by an enthusiastic young boy in one of Alaska’s great gold mining towns at the height of its glory: Nome between 1900 and 1903.

An article in the July-August issue of Alaskan History Magazine highlights the young Reed’s adventures in Nome. He was only ten years old when he, his mother, and his six-year-old sister traveled by ship from Seattle to Dutch Harbor, where Irving’s father was developing a sulphur mine. It was a storm-tossed, 34-day voyage, but only the beginning of his life of Alaskan adventures. Irving Reed would grow up in the remote mining camps of Nome, Iditarod, Livengood, and Takotna, and he would go on to be a respected mining engineer, Alaska’s first fire warden, a State Game Commissioner for 12 years, and the Territorial Highway Engineer.  His complete biography can be read at the Alaska Mining Hall of Fame, and a collection of Irving Reed’s photographs at the University of Fairbanks, including several photos from the Iditarod Trail in the 1920’s, can be found here.

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Article in the July-August issue of Alaskan History Magazine.

 

Barrett Willoughby

oie_2132217v9Yn62AlThe July-August issue of Alaskan History Magazine features an article about Barrett Willoughby, Alaska’s first commercially successful female novelist. Her romantic stories, set in various parts of Alaska, were serialized in the most popular magazines of the day, and two of her books, Rocking Moon and Spawn of the North, were made into motion pictures. In addition to her popular novels, she wrote short stories, travel books, and character sketches of significant Alaskan pioneers.

oie_21323170HlUIHvEThe daughter of a riverboat captain and named after her mother, Florence was raised on Alaska’s waters. Some of her earliest Alaskan experiences are recounted in her first novel, Where the Sun Swings North (1922), available to read online free at Gutenberg.org. Florence – later taking the family name Barrett as her first name – grew to love Alaska, its land, history, and people—and all but one of her novels have an Alaskan setting. Many of her male protagonists were, like her father, riverboat captains, and all of her female protagonists shared her love of Alaska.

Barrett Willoughby bioBiographer Nancy Warren Farrell wrote in Barrett Willoughby, Alaska’s Forgotten Lady (University of Alaska Press, 1994): “Willoughby’s novels were romantic adventures. And therein existed one of the keys to Willoughby’s personality and her writing. If one word depicted Barrett Willoughby as a person and as a writer, it would be ‘romance.’ It was the romantic outlook which urged her on, which kept her excited about the future. Her journey in life was like a steamer trip north: ‘A warm and magical Alaskan wind that fills me with expectancy and makes me sure that ahead––up around that next beckoning bend––lies something I’ve always longed for. I don’t know what it is exactly, but it’s beautiful; and it has in it youth and bouyancy––and that elusive, golden will o’ the wisp––Romance.’”

Sondra O'MooreBibliography
Where the Sun Swings North (1922)
Rocking Moon (1925)
Gentlemen Unafraid (1926)
The Trail Eater (1929)
Sitka, Portal to Romance (1930)
Spawn of the North (1932)
Alaskans All (1933)
River House (1936)
Alaska Holiday (1940)
The Golden Totem, a novel of modern Alaska (1945)

Filmography
Rocking Moon
Spawn of the North

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Sled Dog Tales

 

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Tanana Flats, April, 1912 

The May-June issue of Alaskan History Magazine included an article on the All Alaska Sweepstakes sled dog races, which ran from Nome to Candle and return from 1908 through 1917. The races spotlighted the hardy sled dogs which made travel in Alaska’s harsh winters possible, the ever-reliable dog teams being the primary mode of travel in territorial Alaska. It is to our good fortune that thousands of photographs of mushers and their teams were captured, such as the one above, showing a musher and his dog team crossing the Tanana Flats in 1912.

Ten Thousand MilesThe colorful history of dog team travel in the north country was surprisingly well documented, and to read the exploits of these early-day mushers is to venture back to a time when men depended on their dogs for their very lives. Driving a team of huskies for hundreds of miles through mountain ranges, across glaciers, over frozen lakes and rivers, and through vast unpeopled valleys required a caliber of strength and endurance almost unimaginable today. The mail drivers and freight haulers of old left civilization behind when they hit the trail, and they were on their own when trouble or tragedy struck, as it often did.

In the frozen north, the singular capabilities of a good sled dog often meant the difference between life and death. In the Nome Daily Nugget newspaper, April 2, 1917, a poem by Esther Birdsall Darling told the tale of a heroic rescue which had taken place only a few weeks before. Sled dog driver Bobby Brown, working at Dime Creek on the Seward Peninsula during the winter of 1916-17, was badly mangled in a sawmill accident. The man who would later become a legend in the north country, Leonhard Seppala, was nearby with his team, and he loaded the injured man onto his sled, wrapped him in wolf robes and set out for the nearest hospital, at Candle, over fifty miles away. With a dog named Russky in the lead, they made the hospital and delivered Bobby Brown to the doctors, but his injuries were too great and he died a few days later.

Dog-Puncher on YukonThe mail drivers, freight haulers, and other early mushers faced danger on a regular basis, but it was just part and parcel of their job. By 1901, a network of mail trails throughout Alaska was in use, including a system that followed almost the entire length of the Yukon River. Adolph “Ed” Biederman was a contract mail carrier between the towns of Eagle and Circle. Delivering the mail on the Yukon River by dog team over the 160-mile section took six days one way, then a day’s rest, and six days back. Biederman ran this route thirteen times over the course of each winter, with loads of mail often exceeding 500 pounds, following a string of roadhouses located at intervals along the river.

“I spent almost the entire winter freighting with my dogs to the outlying creeks, and so was away from civilization most of the time. There was more money in it than in ordinary freighting to the mines, and the life suited me better. I had to camp out, but this was less difficult now than formerly, as by this time we all had tents and stoves.” — Arthur Treadwell Walden, ‘A Dog-Puncher on the Yukon’ (Houghton Mifflin Co., 1928)

Baldy of NomeDog teams were indispensable to Arctic explorers, missionaries, lawmen, doctors, gold seekers, mail drivers, and anyone who needed to travel the winter trails in Alaska, leading the venerable Judge James Wickersham to state in 1938, “He who gives his time to the study of the history of Alaska, learns that the dog, next to man, has been the most important factor in its past and present development.”

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Many stories of early Alaskan mushers and their dog teams are featured in the book, Alaskan Sled Dog Tales: True Stories of the Steadfast Companions of the North Country, by Helen Hegener, published in 2016 by Northern Light Media. $24.95 plus $5.00 shipping & handling. 320 pages, 6′ x 9″ b/w format, includes maps, charts, bibliography, indexed. Click this link to order. A wonderful gift for any dog-lover!

Sled Dog Tales“These trustworthy creatures could be relied upon to do the heavy work, while remaining—as Hegener eloquently reminds us—our most treasured friends. Relying upon material written from the late 1890s through the early ‘30s, [Hegener] catalogues how sled dogs provided Alaskan residents the ability to traverse enormous distances, deliver critical supplies and maintain communication from within and outside Alaska. The episodes she recounts are stirring, filled with human and animal bravery. Some are simply mind-boggling, filling the reader with awe and enormous respect for dog and driver alike.” David Fox, in the Anchorage Press

May-June at issuu

M:J at issuuThe May-June issue of Alaskan History Magazine is available to read online, download, or share via email, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest at the digital magazine site issuu, an electronic publishing platform which was named one of Time magazine’s 50 Best Websites.

The 48-page May-June issue, which carries no advertising in its 8.5” x 11” format, is an anthology of excerpts from books published by Northern Light Media, featuring a look at the construction of the Alaska Railroad; a 1918 trip by Margaret Murie, traveling the Fairbanks-to-Valdez Trail as a 16-year-old girl; Addison Powell’s 1902 adventures in the Copper River Valley, the great All Alaska Sweepstakes sled dog race, the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle, and the 1935 Matanuska Colony barns. Shorter articles include a photo-feature of snowshoes, a look at a few Alaskan photographers, and brief reviews of a half-dozen classic books on Alaska.

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The inaugural issue will be free to view by anyone; future issues will be available only to subscribers and anyone who purchases that print issue of the magazine. The July-August issue is currently in production. For more information and to subscribe or purchase a single issue (also available at Amazon), visit the Alaskan History Magazine website.

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Writing Alaska’s History, V. 1

Writing Alaskas History 1In 1974 the Alaska Historical Commission projected the publishing of a series of five booklets under the title Writing Alaska’s History: 

Vol. 1. A Guide to Research

Vol. 2. A Comprehensive and Cooperative Plan for Publishing the Great Land’s Past

Vol. 3. A Guide for Preservation Research and Preservation Plans

Vol. 4. A Guide to Oral History Research and Transcription

Vol. 5. A Guide to Pictorial Reseach

The only one of these guides I’ve been able to locate is Vol. 1: A Guide to Research. The other guides don’t come up in any searches and I assume they were never developed (if anyone knows differently please advise). 

The one I have located is a gem of a book, edited by Robert A. Frederick, who was at the time Executive Director of the Alaska Historical Commission, and while it was written as a guide to researchers, it is, itself, an interesting research project. The Alaska Historical Commission was barely a year and a half old in 1974, comprised of a staff of one (see above), appointed by Governor Bill Egan, and a part-time assistant, Patricia A. Jelle, and they described a herculean task set before them in encouraging the researching and writing of Alaska’s history.  

Ak Historical SocietyThe 1960’s and 1970’s were a banner time for Alaskan history, with the founding of the Alaska Historical Society, the scholarly periodical Alaska Journal, establishment of the State Archives and Records Management Program, and passing of the Historic Preservation Act of 1971, which resulted in surveys of Alaska’s historic sites, buildings, and more. Still, the Guide reported that most Alaskan towns and villages lacked histories and biographies, and also noted: “Alaska lacks the published research tools (bibliographies, directories, dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc.) which aid investigation in state and local history. To add to the complexity of the task, research materials are not easily available. Much of Alaska’s ‘paper trail’ which does exist, is in manuscript collections outside the State. The same is true of artifacts, evidence of material culture. In addition, until very recent times, the history of Alaska’s native peoples has been preserved only through the oral tradition.” 

oie_8EhK79sN6VVbA couple of pages later this is explained further: “Compared to her sisters, some of whose paper trail has accumulated for 370 years, the Great Land’s historiography is in its childhood, if not infancy. Historical assessment which does exist is scattered, incomplete, and fails to include the histories of at least one-sixth of the State’s population. Until this decade, there has been no significant paper trail contributed by Alaska’s major native cultures. Most often, the oral tradition has not been freely shared with those outside a culture.”

And later: “With all the global, national, state and local attention to Alaskan anthropological and historical study in this century, relatively little is known about man’s experience here in the last 20,000 years.”

Those realities were the impetus for the projected Writing Alaska’s History guides, and potentially the most interesting would be Volume Two: A Comprehensive and Cooperative Plan for Publishing the Great Land’s Past, “….which constitutes, a master publication plan of Alaskan history.” 

I would love to find a copy of that booklet!

 

Books from NLM

 

Northern Light Media publishes Alaskan History Magazine, but the company, founded in 2007 by Helen Hegener, also publishes non-fiction books on Alaskan history. There are now more than a dozen titles in print, including Alaskan Roadhouses, The 1935 Matanuska Colony Project, The Alaska Railroad 1902-1923, Alaskan Sled Dog Tales, The First Iditarod, and many more.

A new website focuses almost exclusively on the books, with in-depth descriptions and ordering information for every title. Photographs, excerpts, quotes and more from each book can be found on their individual book pages, easily accessed from anywhere on the site via the book titles listed in the right sidebar. A page about the company, Northern Light Media, and founder Helen Hegener, along with a page and link to Alaskan History Magazine round out this new site.

Check out this great new resource, here’s the link again! 

 

 

In the Mail

20190505_192056The May-June issue of Alaskan History Magazine is in the mail and should be delivered this week to subscribers and anyone who ordered a single issue. If you have ordered an issue or paid for a subscription, and don’t receive your issue by May 10th, please let me know. If you haven’t subscribed or ordered yours yet, you can do so at the Alaskan History Magazine website or send a check or money order to:

Alaskan History Magazine
PO Box 870515
Wasilla, Alaska 99687-0515

20190505_192157A single issue of Alaskan History Magazine is 10.00, a one-year subscription (6 issues) is $48.00 (save $12.00), prices are postage paid to U. S. addresses. Issues will be available soon at Amazon for foreign orders, postage dependent on delivery destination. A digital edition will soon be available free to all subscribers.

Alaskan History Magazine is active on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram; the website address is http://www.alaskan-history.com and the email address is alaskanhistory@gmail.com.

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The 48-page May-June issue, which carries no advertising in its 8.5” x 11” format, features a look at the construction of the Alaska Railroad, with historic photos of bridges halfway built, a narrow trail above Turnagain Arm which would become the rail roadbed, and Anchorage as a city of white tents along Ship Creek. From driving the first spike at Ship Creek to President Harding driving the final spike at Nenana, the story unfolds across 21 years of construction, from 1902 to 1923.

Also featured in the May-June issue is a tale about Margaret Murie, who would become the “Grandmother of America’s conservation movement,” traveling the Valdez to Fairbanks Trail as a 16-year-old girl. Early Alaskan explorer and scout Addison Powell tells of adventures in the Copper River Valley in 1902, and other articles include the great All Alaska Sweepstakes sled dog race, the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle, and the 1935 Matanuska Colony barns. Shorter articles include a photo-feature of snowshoes, a look at a few Alaskan photographers, and brief reviews of a half-dozen classic books on Alaska.

The new magazine is published by Northern Light Media and edited by Alaskan author Helen Hegener, whose books include Alaskan Roadhouses, The First Iditarod, Alaska & the Klondike, “A Mighty Nice Place:” The 1935 Matanuska Colony Project, The Alaska Railroad 1902-1923, The Beautiful Matanuska Valley, and many others. The inaugural issue of the magazine is an anthology of excerpts from her books; future issues will include a wide variety of writers and new features.