AHS Blog  |  49 History

75th Anniversary of the Bombing of Dutch Harbor/Unalaska and the Aleut Evacuation

Date Posted: May 31, 2017       Categories: 49 History

By Nicolette Dent, Community Assistance Fellow, National Park Service, Alaska Region, Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program

AAC History Office Collection, Anchorage Museum, B1980.075.13

On June 3 and 4, 1942, Dutch Harbor was attacked by Japanese bombers. This changed the course of the Aleutian Campaign of World War II and the lives of nearly 900 Unangax^ people who were suddenly uprooted and taken to internment camps in Southeast Alaska. Many villagers were unable to resettle in their homes after being released from these camps. These events forever changed the lives of those who experienced World War II in the Aleutians.

To honor this little-known but significant history, Unalaska will host a three-day commemoration in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Bombing of Dutch Harbor/Unalaska and the Aleut Evacuation. The program kicks off with welcome messages from the Ounalashka Corporation, National Park Service, Qawalangin Tribe, Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, and City of Unalaska Mayor Frank Kelty. Public events throughout the weekend include presentations about World War II and the evacuation, and a chance to meet veterans, elders, and relatives of evacuees, some of whom have traveled great distances to honor this history. The commemoration will close with a memorial ceremony to honor the armed forces who died in the bombing and those Unangax^ who died while interned. Governor Bill Walker, Senator Lisa Murkowski, and military representatives from the U.S. and Canada will join in to share their own words of peace and healing at the ceremony.

For more information about events, see the group Facebook page at: facebook.com/75DutchHarbor

The National Park Service has a website with the public schedule  as well: https://www.nps.gov/aleu/planyourvisit/75th-anniversary-dutch-harbor.htm

Recent Alaska Dispatch News article and video: https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/2017/05/27/pilots-to-fly-historic-military-planes-to-dutch-harbor-for-75th-anniversary-of-bombing/

70th Anniversary of the 4th Avenue Theatre Celebration

Date Posted: May 26, 2017       Categories: 49 History

By Sara Piasecki and Angela Demma

This weekend, Anchorage’s iconic 4th Avenue Theatre turns 70. The aging lady is in peril, say the Friends of the 4th Avenue Theatre, since the current owners applied for and received a permit to demolish the structure. Last month, the state historical commission declared the site culturally and historically significant, and will be considering whether to ask the state to designate the theater as a state historic site or monument. The Friends have organized a slew of weekend events to celebrate the theater’s storied past:

4th Avenue Theatre mural. Dennis Hellawell, 4th Avenue Theatre Collection, Anchorage Museum, B2009.020.13

Festivities for the 70th Anniversary of the 4th Avenue Theatre will begin at 1:00 pm on Saturday, May 27th in front of the Theatre. Saturday’s program will include storytellers; appearances by Ron Holmstrom as Cap Lathrop; performances by the Anchorage Jazz Ensemble, The Blue Notes, and Blackwater Railroad Company; and screening of “The Sword in the Stone”—which was playing during the Good Friday earthquake and “The World in His Arms” which had its premiere here in Anchorage in 1952. FREE event. Food trucks will also be present.

Sunday’s program will begin at 2 pm at the Anchorage Museum. “Cap Lathrop” will introduce the 1924 silent film “Chechahcos” in the auditorium. The screening will be followed by a short presentation by Chris Beheim about the making of the film.

Monday’s program will begin at 7pm at the Anchorage Museum. The Design Forum will host a panel of architects to discuss the future possibilities for the Theatre.

For more information, see the Alaska Association for Historic Preservation 4the Avenue Theatre Update web site at http://www.aahp-online.net/4th-avenue-theatre-update.html

Legends and Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940 Website

Date Posted: May 3, 2017       Categories: 49 History

By Bruce Parham

The Cook Inlet Historical Society is pleased to announce the launch of its new, upgraded website, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940, and it is now available for use by students, teachers, researchers, and the public at http://www.alaskahistory.org.  Featured are 175 individual and family biographical sketches of early residents of Anchorage and accompanying photographs (984 images).  There is a list of additional resources (i.e., libraries, archives, museums, and Native cultural centers) and online research tools for Alaska history to direct users to local, state, and regional primary and secondary sources.  The website also includes a timeline of Anchorage history.

This single use interface substantially upgrades and replaces the former Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935, website.  Coverage was expanded to include noteworthy individuals who lived in Anchorage prior to America’s entry into World War II.  The user interface has been redesigned to improve usability on a variety of platforms (e.g., computers, cell phones, tablets, and other devices) and the site’s search capabilities.

Each of the 175 biographical sketches ranges from one to six pages in length, excluding endnotes and photographs.  These biographies are representative of individuals from Anchorage’s founding families and others, with special emphasis on Dena’ina Indians, women, and the small number of members of ethnic groups who lived in Anchorage for an extended period during Alaska’s formative years.  There is a wide range of individuals who built Anchorage during this period, ranging from early settlers such as Jack and Nellie Brown; bankers Warren Cuddy and Harry Hamill; formerly well-known, but now obscure figures such as druggist Z.J. Loussac, educator Orah Dee Clark, business tycoon and self-made millionaire Austin E. “Cap” Lathrop; many of the City of Anchorage’s early mayors such as James J. Delaney and Oscar Gill; pioneer aviator Russel Hyde Merrill; former Anchorage fire chief Tom Bevers; and Anchorage post-war real estate developer, hotelman, and politician Walter J. “Wally” Hickel.  The site includes photographs from the Atwood Resource Center at the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Alaska Collection at Z.J. Loussac Library; Archives and Special Collections at the University of Alaska Anchorage Consortium Library; Wells Fargo Heritage Library and Museum, Anchorage; Alaska & Polar Regions Collections & Archives, Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks; and the National Archives at Seattle, Seattle, WA.

The Legends & Legacies project is part of the mission of the Cook Inlet Historical Society to foster discussion, research, and publication of the history and ethnology of the Anchorage and Cook Inlet region of Alaska.  What began as John Bagoy’s book, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage:  Publications Consultants, 2001), has been developed into a popular Anchorage Museum atrium panel exhibit and, now, to the availability of an expanded number of new biographies through this website.  The redesign of the website and the posting of 175 biographies will allow the project to remain timely, with the potential for additional entries to be added or existing ones to be modified in the future.  For further information, please contact the Cook Inlet Historical Society, c/o Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, 125 C Street, Anchorage, AK http://www.cookinlethistory.org/contact-us.html).

Initiated by the Cook Inlet Historical Society (CIHS), the Legends and Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940 website was a designated Anchorage Centennial Celebration, 2014-2015, legacy project of the Municipality of Anchorage.  With the support of the Atwood Foundation, Rasmuson Foundation, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, and the John Bagoy Memorial Cemetery Fund of the Cook Inlet Historical Society, this site was developed to provide access to selected individual and family biographical sketches of early Anchorage individuals and families and to promote Anchorage’s cultural heritage.

First city council, Anchorage, 1920. Left to right: A.C. Craig, Carl Martin (city engineer), Ralph Moyer, Joseph Conroy (city clerk), Leopold David (mayor), Sherman Duggan (attorney), John L. Longacre, Isidore “Ike” Bayles, Frank Ivan Reed, and D.H. Williams. BL85.63.49, Romig Collection, Loan from Anchorage School District. Atwood Resource Center, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Anchorage, AK.


Leopold David and his family are featured on the Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940, website.  Born in Germany in 1881, David immigrated with his parents and four siblings to the United States in 1884, and settled in Brooklyn, New York.  In 1899, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served during the Philippine Insurrection (1899-1902).  In 1902, he re-enlisted and was assigned to Fort Egbert, Alaska, in Eagle, as a pharmacist’s assistant.  After his discharge in 1905, he moved to Seward to became manager of the Seward Drug Company; he married Anna Karasek four years later.  He served as U.S. Commissioner at Susitna Station (1909), Knik (ca. 1910-1915), and Anchorage (1915-1921), while continuing his pharmacy business and studying law.  He worked as a lawyer in Anchorage.  In 1920, David was elected to Anchorage’s first official city council, and served two terms as the first mayor (1920-1923).

Judge Leopold David’s residence on 2nd Avenue, Anchorage, on September 22, 1918. The house still stands and is on the National Register of Historic Places. B1979.002.AEC.H114, H.G. Kaiser, Alaska Railroad Collection, Atwood Resource Center, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Anchorage, AK.

David is little noticed today, except, incidentally, for the Leopold David House that was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. Leopold David’s residence, a one and one-half story house located on the corner of 2nd Avenue and “F” Street in downtown Anchorage, was built for David and his family around 1917.  As noted in the National Register Site Nomination form (1985), his home is “an outstanding example of the bungalow style of architecture in early Anchorage” and it is considered the finest of a handful of those still left in existence.  Historian Stephen Haycox (“ ‘Judge’ Leopold David:  First Mayor of Anchorage,” A Warm Past:  Travels in Alaska History (1988), 109, said: “Too little honored today, for example, is Anchorage’s first mayor, ‘Judge’ Leopold David.  Though two streets in the Bootlegger’s Cove downtown area commemorate his service, they are tiny, and their locations are unknown to all but the most historical-minded, and the contribution of Judge David seems otherwise lost to the community’s public memory.”

The U.S. Entered the “Great War” 100 Years Ago: Denali and Other National Parks Recognize Connections to World War I

Date Posted: April 24, 2017       Categories: 49 History

By Erik Johnson, Denali National Park Historian

Boston National Historical Park Twitter feed from April 11, 2017


This month marks the 100th anniversary of the United States entering World War I, and National Park Service units throughout the country are observing the occasion by remembering their connections to the Great War.

Although it is one of the most remote parks in the country, Denali National Park and Preserve also has connections to the War. Denali, then known as Mount McKinley National Park, was established on February 26, 1917, about five weeks prior to America’s entry into the War. Nearly all the news headlines around that time were related to the War in Europe, which had been raging since 1914 (see Feb. 26, 1917 headlines from the Anchorage Daily Times and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner below).







One area of Denali that was affected by the War was the Kantishna Hills. The region has a rich mining history, and the Kantishna Mining District, which in 1917 was located just outside the northwest boundary of the park, contained substantial antimony deposits. Antimony was used in the manufacture of ammunition and when wars occurred, the price of the mineral increased due to a rise in demand. Kantishna miners knew that high demand for antimony provided them an opportunity to make a profit.

Two Kantishna miners, Billy Taylor (far right) and Tom Lloyd (bottom center), opened antimony mines during the War. Several years earlier, in 1910, they gained fame for being a part of the first climbing party to summit the north peak of Denali, the “Sourdough Expedition.” (Photo credit: Denali NP&P Museum Collection: DENA 1963)


It was not just the presence of antimony that tied the Denali region to the War. Kantishna miners were also willing to help their country. The September 28, 1917 edition of the Fairbanks Daily News acknowledged the Kantishna men who registered for the War effort.

Denali National Park is one of many national park units with World War I connections. Although the War was largely focused around Europe, it is important to remember that areas across the world, including remote areas of Interior Alaska, felt the War’s impact.

For more information about how national parks were connected to the Great War, visit:  https://www.nps.gov/subjects/worldWari/index.htm

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!