The Nov-Dec issue of Alaskan History Magazine is now available! Articles in this issue cover a wide range of topics, including Mottram Dulany Ball, a founding father of Alaska, and de facto governor of the territory; Alexander Hunter Murray, who built the stockaded fort and Hudson’s Bay trading post at Fort Yukon; The Episcopal Church, which brought medical services and other comforts to Iditarod and Flat City; The Silent City, Dick Willoughby’s startling news that he had discovered a mirage above the Muir Glacier; Nellie Cashman, the “Miner’s Angel,” who earned the respect of miners from Arizona to Alaska; Rand McNally’s 1922 guide on how to hire, drive, and care for an Alaskan dogteam; and The First American Musher in Alaska, by Thom “Swanny” Swan, about Robert Kennicott, the first known American to travel via dogteam in Alaska. Available from Northern Light Media, click here to order.
The May-June, 2020 issue of Alaskan History Magazine is currently at the printer, but with delays in production and potential delays in delivery, the issue will possibly not arrive until around the first of June.
The digital edition will be available at issuu by May 10th. If you are a subscriber or have purchased a single issue and would like to access the digital magazine, simply send me an email and I will return the access code to read or download that issue.
The May-June, 2020 issue of Alaskan History Magazine features articles on the Matanuska Colony Project, the 1918 influenza epidemic, an unusual stone storehouse built in 1896 in Hyder, a pioneering packhorse trip to the upper reaches of Kluane Lake, Stephen Birch and the Kennecott Copper Company, and the wide-ranging travels of Archdeacon Hudson Stuck, who ministered via dog team and riverboat across the northern reaches of the Alaska territory.
Production of the July-August issue is underway, and my plan is to have publication and mailing back on schedule to arrive in mailboxes the first week of July.
The May-June, 2020 issue of Alaskan History Magazine features articles on the following topics:
• The 1935 government social experiment known as the Matanuska Colony Project, which brought 200 farm families to Palmer.
• A unique historic look at the 1918 influenza epidemic from the Alaskan legislature, in which Governor Thomas Riggs, Jr. explained the situation.
• The pioneering packhorse trip of the English journalist E. J. Glave and the cowboy trailblazer Jack Dalton, from the coast near Haines to the upper reaches of Kluane Lake.
• Stephen Birch and the Kennecott Copper Company, and the infamous Alaska Syndicate.
• The wide-ranging travels of Archdeacon Hudson Stuck, who ministered via dog team and riverboat across the northern reaches of the Alaska territory.
• The history of an unusual stone storehouse built in 1896 in Hyder, on the border of Alaska and Canada.
Additional regular columns will make this another wonderful and wide-ranging exploration of Alaskan history!
To order the May-June issue, or back issues, or to subscribe, visit this page.
Six non-fiction books briefly noted in the inaugural issue of Alaskan History Magazine, presented here with links to their digital versions, free to read online, where available.
The Ascent of Denali (Mount McKinley), by Hudson Stuck (1918)
Hudson Stuck, an Episcopal Archdeacon, organized, financed and co-led the first expedition to successfully climb the South Peak of Mt. McKinley (Denali). With co-leader Harry Karstens (later the first Superintendent of Mt. McKinley Nat’l Park), and four native youths, Stuck departed Nenana on March 17, 1913 and reached the summit of McKinley on June 7, 1913. Walter Harper, a native Alaskan, reached the summit first. Illustrated with Stuck’s photos from the journey and published in 1918 by Charles Scribner’s Sons, “The Ascent of Denali” is Stuck’s fascinating account of that pioneering expedition.
A Woman Who Went to Alaska, by May Kellogg Sullivan (1902)
“Two trips, covering a period of eighteen months and a distance of over twelve thousand miles were made practically alone. Neither home nor children claimed my attention. No good reason, I thought, stood in the way of my going to Alaska…”
With these words the plucky and determined May Kellogg Sullivan opens her book, recounting her extensive travels to Yukon and Alaskan gold camps and beyond, seeking adventure and her fortune, at a time when few women ventured anywhere alone. Published in 1902 by James H. Earle & Co.
Golden Alaska, An Up-to-Date Guide, by Ernest Ingersoll (1897)
Subtitled “a complete account to date of the Yukon Valley; its history, geography, mineral and other resources, opportunities and means of access.”
The Dial, a literary journal of the time, noted in their July 1, 1897 issue that Ingersoll’s book was “a timely publication just issued,” citing the author as “a well-known writer of books of travel,” and noting the book was “well printed and contains numerous half-tone reproductions from photographs of Alaskan scenery.” Published in 1897 by Rand, McNalley & Co.
The Alaska Railroad 1914-1964, Bernardine Prince (1964)
Bernadine LeMay Prince, who joined the U.S. Government-run 470-mile Alaska Railroad company in 1948, worked with seven Alaska Railroad managers. In the early 1960’s she used her almost 20+ years of experience and knowledge of the railroad to compile a remarkable two-volume photographic record of the construction and growth of the Alaska Railroad.
Utilizing photos from the Alaska Engineering Commission’s photographers, among others, she traced the railroad’s history from it’s beginnings in 1914 through decades of sometimes difficult change, to the earthquake of March, 1964. Included are over 2,100 b&w photographs and line drawings. Published by Ken Wray’s Print Shop, Anchorage, 1964.
Not available in digital format.
Compilation of Narratives of Exploration in Alaska (1900)
By the Senate Committee on Military Affairs, United States Congress, 1900. 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. Assembled to facilitate a review of territory covered, and the possibilities of opening all American routes to the interior of Alaska.
“Henry Allen in his report of the reconnaissance of Copper River and Tanana River valleys states that the Indians drew a number of maps. The one he reproduces …. shows the route to Cook Inlet via Suchitno river.” Sixteen reports with 27 folding maps and 33 b/w plates. U.S. Gov’t. Printing Office, 1900.
Old Yukon Tales-Trails-Trials, James Wickersham (1938)
Territorial judge James Wickersham describes his career as a pioneer attorney, judge, and later as a congressional representative, assigned to a district extending over 300,000 square miles. He made the first recorded attempt of Mt. Denali in 1903; the summit he attempted is now known as Wickersham’s Wall.
Once seated as a congressional delegate for the District of Alaska, beginning his term in 1909, Wickersham orchestrated changes to Alaska’s relationship with the federal government, in passage of the Second Organic Act in 1912, establishing Alaska officially as a United States territory with a legislature. Wickersham would go on to serve several more terms as Alaska’s delegate to Congress, his last term running from 1931-1933. Published by Washington Law Book Co., 1938.
Not available in digital format.
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.
The 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.
The 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)
Dog 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!
“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
Alaskan History Magazine’s second issue ranges widely through Alaska’s past to bring an assortment of topics for readers to enjoy! In the opening photo feature the focus is on the missionaries who blazed trails across territorial Alaska, sharing their various versions and interpretations of God’s Word and building hospitals, schools, and churches which would change Alaska forever. Many missionaries, such as Hudson Stuck, wrote extenisvely about their northland adventures, leaving first-hand accounts and invaluable records of the times.
The cover touches on the main feature for this issue: the aviation pioneers who braved Alaskan skies with sketchy flying machines and even sketchier maps of the land below. Flinging themselves aloft with fragile contraptions of fabric and wood, they too changed Alaska forever.
Other articles in this issue explore Alaska’s first newspaper, the Alaska Steamship Company, a 1916 horseback trip across the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska’s first commercially successful novelist, and an exciting childhood in the gold rush town of Nome.
The back section of each issue begins with a photo collection highlighting one aspect of Alaska’s history, and for tihis issue we’ve chosen the ubiquitous plain white canvas tent which gave shelter to countless explorers, pioneers and homesteaders. Here are tent stores, banks, schools, hospitals… One might say the history of Alaska was written on white canvas.
Wrapping up this issue are brief highlights from half a dozen classic books on Alaska’s history, and a guide to some of the sources and resources used in researching this issue. You won’t want to miss this one!
Click here to go to the orders page for subscriptions or single issues!