AHS Blog

150th Anniversary of the Alaska Treaty of Cession Statewide Calendar of Events

Date Posted: September 30, 2016       Categories: News

alaska-150th-logoThe 150th anniversary of the Alaska Treaty of Cession is 2017. On March 30, 1867, U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward and Russian Envoy Edouard de Stoeckl signed the treaty in Washington, D.C. Less than seven months later, on October 18, the ceremonial transfer took place at Sitka and the U.S. replaced the Russian administrators.

To commemorate the significant event, the Alaska Historical Society is coordinating a Statewide Calendar of Events, promoting discussions by posting a series of articles and images and documents on our website.

The public is invited to submit material to our Statewide Calender of Events by using our on-line Event Submission Form. Please direct questions and concerns to Anna Lee at members@alaskahistoricalsociety.org.


Seward’s Day

Date Posted: March 30, 2017       Categories: 49 History

Today is Seward’s Day! While the official state holiday was observed on Monday, today – March 30 – marks the true anniversary of the United States’ purchase of Alaska from Russia. This year, we celebrate for the 150th time, and kick off a year-long commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the Treaty of Cession. Many events are being planned, in Sitka and around the state. Check out the latest news from the Sesquicentennial Steering Committee on their web site at https://alaska150.com/. The state Office of History and Archaeology has also assembled information on events and activities happening statewide at http://dnr.alaska.gov/parks/oha/designations/150Anniversary.

For those in Anchorage today, you can see the original check, the signed treaty, and Emanuel Leutze’s famous painting of the signing, all on display at the Anchorage Museum as part of its Polar Bear Garden exhibition.

So get out there and party like it’s 1867!

Denali National Park Turns 100: Descendants of Sheldon and Karstens Meet for the First Time

Date Posted: March 15, 2017       Categories: 49 History       Tags: Denali National Park; conservation

By Erik Johnson, Denali National Park Historian

Charlie Sheldon and Don Striker donation ceremony

Charlie Sheldon and Denali National Park and Preserve Superintendent Don Striker sign paperwork acknowledging the donation of Charles Sheldon’s rifle to the park (photo credit Erik Johnson)

This year, Denali National Park and Preserve is celebrating its 100th anniversary and hosting events throughout the year. During the final week of February, the Park held its annual Winter Fest which coincided with the Park’s centennial on February 26th—the day President Woodrow Wilson signed the Park’s enabling legislation in 1917.

As a part of the celebration, Charles Sheldon’s hunting rifle was donated to the Park, in person, by his grandson, Charlie Sheldon. The donated rifle was the only one Charles Sheldon used during his time in Alaska in the early 20th century. Representatives of the Governor’s office, Senator Lisa Murkowski’s office, and members of the Boone & Crockett Club were present for the ceremony.

Another highlight of the centennial celebration was an open house at the recently rehabilitated Old Superintendent’s Office at the Park’s Headquarters.  The building was originally constructed in 1926 under the guidance of first Park Superintendent Harry Karstens. Karstens’s great grandson, Ken Karstens, attended the open house and brought mementos of early park history.

Brief History

Charlie Sheldon and Ken Karstens

Descendants of Charles Sheldon and Harry Karstens meet at the Old Superintendent’s Office as a part of Denali’s Winter Fest celebration (Charlie Sheldon left, Ken Karstens right; photo credit Erik Johnson)

Charles Sheldon spent time studying Dall sheep in the region north of Denali between 1906 and 1908. During this time he was guided by an experienced mail freighter and prospector named Harry Karstens, and the two developed a strong bond. Sheldon wrote about the idea for “Denali National Park” in his 1908 journal and later proposed the idea to the Boone & Crockett Club (an elite hunting and conservation group started by Theodore Roosevelt and others in the late 19th century, of which Sheldon was a member).

When the Alaska Railroad began laying track in 1915, Sheldon and other conservationists became alarmed about the threat to wildlife north of the Alaska Range, and were spurred into action. The legislation creating a national park was introduced in 1916 and passed Congress in February of 1917. Once the Park finally received an appropriation in 1921, Karstens was hired as first Superintendent, based on Sheldon’s recommendation.

The names Sheldon and Karstens have been inextricably linked to the Park’s establishment. The recent centennial celebration was an extraordinary occasion because it brought together the descendants of two of the most historically significant individuals in the Park’s history for the first time.

2017 Student and Emerging Professional Awards

Date Posted: March 6, 2017       Categories: News

The Alaska Historical Society offers two travel awards for its annual meeting in Anchorage, September 27 – 30, 2017. One award will be presented to a post-secondary student who is researching some aspect of Alaska history, and another to an emerging professional in the field. Awards consists of reimbursement for documented travel expenses up to $750 plus a conference registration package.


  • An applicant must be a member of the Alaska Historical Society at the time of applying.
  • Student applicants must be graduate students or upper-division undergraduates in fall 2017 with a course of study related to Alaska history.
  • Emerging professional applicants must be employed in Alaska historical or cultural work and have been so employed for less than five years.
  • Applicants are required to attend the meeting in its entirety and make a presentation at the meeting (proposals send to Program Committee, PO Box 100299, Anchorage, AK 99510).
  • Information about the meeting and the call for papers are at http://www.alaskahistoricalsociety.org/

Application process: Each applicant must submit 1) letter with a statement of eligibility and an explanation of how attending the meeting will enhance academic or professional development, 2) title and abstract of proposed presentation, and 3) CV or résumé. Applications will be judged on the applicant’s achievement in Alaska history relative to current status and the likely benefit of the meeting for the applicant.

The application deadline is May 19. Electronic submission is preferred. Applications should be submitted electronically to Professor Michael Hawfield, AHS Awards Committee at: mchawfield@alaska.edu , or via regular mail to: AHS Awards, PO Box 100299, Anchorage, AK 99510.

2017 AHS Conference Call For Papers

Date Posted: February 15, 2017       Categories: News

Call For Papers

Exploring the Legacy of the Alaska Purchase

Alaska Historical Society Annual Conference

September 27-30, 2017 in Anchorage, Alaska

Once Alaska was known to the world as Russian America. All of that ended 150 years ago when William H. Seward and Edward de Stoeckl signed the treaty that ceded those Russian possessions to the United States. Since then Alaska has evolved from a military district, to a territory, and finally into the forty-ninth state of the United States. This year the Anchorage Museum is hosting the joint Alaska Historical Society/Museums Alaska annual conference. The 2017 theme—Exploring the Legacy of the Alaska Purchase—invites reflections on how that moment charted a new destiny for Alaska. In particular the theme opens the door for indigenous perspectives on the meaning of this pivotal event. Please join us as we examine how Alaska’s history unfolded, is unfolding and may yet unfold since that day in 1867 when Czar Alexander II abandoned North America. Presentations on Alaska history topics are welcome.

Our featured speaker will be Professor Willie Hensley, author of Fifty Miles from Tomorrow and an Alaskan who shaped the state we live in today.



Speakers on History of Alaska and the Law, Mountain View

Date Posted: January 6, 2017       Categories: News

In 2017, Tundra Vision is once again hosting “Thursday Nights in Mountain View” a participatory history series that takes place on the fourth Thursday of each month at the Mountain View Branch Library in Anchorage, Alaska. The theme of this year’s lectures is Alaska and the Law. Each night features a different speaker, and invites history enthusiasts to muse upon how Alaskans used our commonalities as well as our differences to build a system of justice on the Last Frontier.

Time:      Public Engagement Session with Refreshments:  6:00pm

Speaker Presentation: 6:30pm to 7:30pm

Place:     Mountain View Branch Library, 120 Bragaw Street, Anchorage

Featured Speakers

January 26:  Terrence Cole, Professor of History, UAF
The Judge: Tales, Trails, and Trials, Establishing Alaska’s Early Court System

February 23:  Anchorage Youth Court
Justice for Youth by Youth

March 30:  William Iggiagruk Hensley, Professor of Business and Public Policy, UAA
Sesquicentennial Perspectives: Two Historical Views of the Alaska Purchase

April 27:  Mara Kimmel, Attorney and Co-Founded the Alaska Institute for Justice
Newcomers in Alaska: Understanding Immigration Law and Policy

May 25:   Justice Dana Fabe, Retired Alaska Supreme Court Justice
A Conversation with Alaska’s First Female Supreme Court Justice


For more information visit: https://www.facebook. com/Tundra-Vision-Public-History-Consultants-