AHS Blog  |  49 History

Denali Park Road History

Date Posted: October 19, 2020       Categories: 49 History News

The Year Everything Changed: The 1972 Shuttle Bus Decision in Mount McKinley National Park.

Tourism numbers at Denali National Park dropped this last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The park projected between 50-60 thousand visitors. The last time Denali had so few tourists the park had a different name, private automobiles could still drive the length of the road, and Richard Nixon was President—it was the early 1970s. It was an era of big change in Denali.

Read more about the history of Denali National Park’s shuttle bus system in an article by Erik Johnson, Historian at Denali National Park.


Sea Otters of Amchitka

Date Posted: October 19, 2020       Categories: 49 History

The Sea Otters Of Amchitka (1959)
Richard Ravalli, Associate Professor, History Department, William Jessup University, Rocklin, California

During the coronavirus lockdown, I had the opportunity to work via e-mail with Angela Schmidt of the Alaska Film Archives at University of Alaska, Fairbanks. I was interested in the archive’s copy of the 1959 nature film The Sea Otters of Amchitka, produced by Thorne Films of Boulder, Colorado and shot by naturalist H. Robert Krear. It is the first completed documentary about the animals, and, having just finished a book on sea otter history but not having known about the film, I was very eager to get a glimpse of it. Luckily, despite the somewhat degraded state of the AFA’s print, Angela was able to digitize The Sea Otters of Amchitka and upload it for me to view.

H. Robert Krear at Amchitka, ca. 1959. Courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service.

At the same time, I was also in contact with Dr. Oakleigh Thorne of Thorne Films, who shared information about his work with Krear on the project. With gracious permission from “Oak,” now in his 90s and still going strong, Angela made the video clip public. But Dr. Thorne didn’t stop there. Searching his decades of records from hundreds of nature films produced by him beginning in the 1950s, he was able to locate a higher quality copy of the The Sea Otters of Amchitka and donated it to the AFA for digitization. This copy can now be seen on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bcS2HgetEE&feature=youtu.be

At the middle of the twentieth century, Amchitka was home to the largest concentration of the animals in the North Pacific. The opportunities that the otter population at the island provided for research were complicated by Cold War plans to test nuclear weapons there, a project that, following complaints from conservation officials, was halted until the 1960s. In the meantime, Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Karl Kenyon was working to transport sea otters from Amchitka to other locations in the Pacific to try to reverse some of the disastrous effects of the maritime fur trade. Animals were also flown from the island to Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo beginning in 1954, where the first otters held in captivity in an American facility were displayed.

While at Amchitka in 1957 assisting Kenyon’s conservation efforts as a University of Colorado doctoral student, Krear was tasked with shooting footage for the documentary, with film provided by Thorne. He also narrated the The Sea Otters of Amchitka during final production in Colorado. Unfortunately, Krear, passed away in 2018, so I wasn’t able to talk with him about his work, but he did publish a memoir in 2006 titled Four Seasons North: Exploration and Research in the Artic and Subarctic, edited by Terri Garrett, with a section on his time at Amchitka. It offers a somewhat dry but intriguing account of his daily activities on the island, working with Kenyon and several others, including an Aleut Native assistant named Innokinty Golodoff. Their main task was to build a holding pen and capture sea otters for transport to Seattle and the Pribilof Islands. Sadly, all of the otters that left Amchitka by air perished before they could reach their destination. Nevertheless, the lessons learned allowed scientists to perfect translocation methods from the island, which proved largely successful for recovery of the animals throughout the Pacific Northwest in the decades to come.

Krear and Thorne were well aware of the sea otter’s value as a nature film celebrity. While The Sea Otters of Amchitka may have only been seen by conservation advocates and in educational settings prior to the closure of Thorne Films in the early 1970s, the production began the process of popularizing the endearing animals. Near the 34 minute mark, Krear predicts, “In the future it is hoped that the value of this animal to the world will be chiefly aesthetic, but biologists and conservationists anticipate difficulty in promoting this viewpoint.” Such concerns proved fleeting. As Krear noted simply yet poignantly about the film in his memoir years later, “Jacques Cousteau made one later.”

Before and After the Nineteenth Amendment

Date Posted: September 12, 2020       Categories: 49 History

By Sue Sherif, Fairbanks, Alaska. Sue is a retired librarian and is a member of the League of Women Voters, which is also marking its 100th anniversary this year.

The 19th Amendment. Photo courtesy of Sherna Berger Gluck and the Suffragists Project Jukebox.

August 2020 marks several landmarks in the long struggle for voting rights for women.  August 18, 1920 saw the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution by the state legislature of Tennessee, and on August 26, 1920 the amendment was officially added to our Constitution and meant that women who were U.S. citizens had the right to vote in all states of the Union. Neither of these events were the beginning or the end of America’s struggle to determine who may vote. Instead it has been a long, challenging, and continuing battle to recognize that one of the key privileges of citizenship is the right to vote.

Our Constitution itself has very little to say about who is a qualified voter and what exactly citizenship means. Instead it was left to the states to determine voter qualifications. A few of the original states allowed voting by women and free black men in certain circumstances, but for the most part early American voters were white men who owned property or paid taxes. Even the qualifications for the minority of the population who might qualify to vote varied from state to state. In 1806, when New Jersey abolished its provision for women to vote, no women anywhere in the country could legally vote. In early elections, less than 10% of the population constituted the new country’s male electorate.

In the early 1800’s, as Americans discussed and refined the qualifications for voting and tried to address under what circumstances the new waves of German and then Irish immigrants might or might not qualify to become citizens, women began to look for their rights as citizens as well. Women at that time had very few legal rights in marriage. Not only were they ineligible to vote, they could not own property, enter into contracts independently, work at most jobs, be admitted to higher education, or have custody of their children should they escape a troubled marriage. Nor were they even allowed to speak publicly to what were then called “promiscuous audiences” (audiences that contained both females and males). As doors to education began to open for a few women, they began to look for ways to improve the lot of all women. Many of these women became activists in the movement to abolish slavery, and, as they joined abolition groups, they began to see that they were limited in their advocacy because they had no standing as voters.

Drawing of the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention. Courtesy of Sherna Berger Gluck and the Suffragists Project Jukebox.

In that environment, five abolitionist women in upstate New York in 1848 organized a gathering to discuss women’s rights. The Seneca Falls convention attracted women and men to discuss the rights of women and draw up resolutions for action. Their discussion resulted in 11 resolutions, 10 of which passed with enthusiastic unanimity, but one resolution that Elizabeth Cady Stanton had added despite her fellow organizers’ and her own husband’s objections, called for the right of women to vote. It became the most hotly debated topic of all. It was only when Frederick Douglass, the only African American delegate, spoke up for the need for women’s suffrage, did the resolution pass. After that debate, the idea of women’s suffrage spread quickly although it was to take 70 years before the warriors of the suffrage movement were able to translate their advocacy into the 19th Amendment.

Susan B. Anthony soon joined Stanton in devoting her life to the cause, and we still know their names today. But along with Anthony and Stanton were others who should be remembered. You already know the names of Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, who spoke and acted against slavery, but did you know that both of these towering figures were active and outspoken as women’s suffragists? National and local organizations for women’s suffrage bloomed, merged, and faded during the course of the next 70 years. From these groups came women like Lucy Stone, a stirring orator and devoted abolitionist; and Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, an African American poet, orator, and abolitionist. We should know these names and learn more about them.

After the Civil War, the women’s suffrage movement floundered when the nation debated the 14th and 15th Amendments that established black men as voters. The suffragists, who had worked hand and glove with the abolition movement, thought the end of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery would bring equal rights for all, including the right to vote. Instead, they were told that it was the “Negro’s hour,” and that women of all races would have to wait. In spite of the fact that the leaders Stanton and Anthony, who felt betrayed by compromise, uttered racist comments in their bitterness and actively opposed the 15th Amendment, women of all races continued the struggle despite the resulting division in the suffragist ranks. Many African American suffrage leaders like Ida B. Wells and Mary Church Terrell continued organizing and protesting for the right to vote.

In the West, some of the newer territories and states began to pass women suffrage acts either as acts of their legislatures or popular referenda. Even so, the opposition to female voters continued to argue that women were not biologically suited to voting and that a wife’s vote would only: 1) duplicate her husband’s vote; or 2) cancel it out. When the considerable force of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union with chapters all over America embraced the cause of votes for women, the liquor industry actively campaigned against women’s suffrage.

Sentinels at the White House. Photo courtesy of Sherna Berger Gluck and the Suffragists Project Jukebox.

As the early leaders like Stanton and Anthony passed on, confident that their lives’ work would eventually see results, new leaders like Carrie Chapman Catt, Alice Paul, and Lucy Burns took their places. When Woodrow Wilson was president, Paul and Burns organized massive marches and moved their advocacy to another level when they staged the first acts of organized civil disobedience in front of the White House in U.S. history as they encircled the grounds as “Silent Sentinels” six days a week for months, resulting in jailing and forced feedings. Their actions, considered outrageous by some at the time, actually brought public sympathy and pushed the needle closer to Congress and the president’s eventual acceptance of the need for a constitutional amendment.

We all need to know the names of  suffragists of that time like Ida B. Wells, Mary Church Terrell, Dr. Mabel Ping-hua Lee, Nina Otero, and Zitkala-Sa and learn more about them.

Outstanding achievement though the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment was, the struggle was not over. For example, the Alaska Territorial Legislature had actually passed a woman’s suffrage act as its first piece of legislation when it organized in 1913. But after the passage of the 19th Amendment, Alaska Natives, male or female, for the most part, were still not able to vote because their U.S. citizenship was not established until 1924.

Matilda “Tillie” Khaalyát’ Kinnon Paul Tamaree (1864-1955) was a Tlingit woman of the Teeyhittaan Raven clan of Wrangell, Alaska. She founded the New Covenant Legion, a Christian temperance organization that turned into the Alaska Native Brotherhood. Courtesy of the Alaska State Library Photo Collection and the Alaska’s Suffrage Stars Exhibit.

Then in 1925, the territorial legislature disenfranchised many when it enacted legislation that made passing an English-language literacy test a qualification for voting that was not stricken from our laws until 1970. African American men who had gained the right to vote through the 14th amendment in 1868, and African American women, particularly if they lived in the South, were barred from voting by Jim Crow measures and physical violence that would not end until the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s led to the enactment of the Voters Rights Act of 1965.

Even today, we read of attempts at voter suppression, so the struggle of previous generations for the right to vote continues to this day. On this anniversary of the 19th Amendment, consider your right to vote and learn more about it. For example, to learn about early Alaska suffragists, go the Alaska State Museum website to view their online exhibit Alaska’s Suffrage Stars at https://lam.alaska.gov/suffrage-star. To learn more about the suffragist warriors nationwide, visit the National Park Service site at: https://www.nps.gov/subjects/womenshistory/19th-amendment.htm. To listen to women talk about their own experiences in the suffrage movement, go to the Suffragists Project Jukebox created by the Oral History Program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in collaboration with California State University Long Beach oral historian, Sherna Berger Gluck.

Whether or not you remember the names of any of the countless women and men who fought for the vote, let’s take the time in their honor during this election season to exercise that hard-won right.

A slightly different version of this article appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner newspaper on August 30, 2020.

Covid-19 – Two year Unfinished Project #1 Completed: F/V Age of Reason

Date Posted: April 10, 2020       Categories: 49 History

By Kathy Peavey, Craig Alaska

Mary Ida Henrikson of Ketchikan gifted an original painting by former Craig resident and author, Ballard Hadman, to the Craig Public Library. The painting by Ballard was gifted to former Thorne Bay and Ketchikan author and her friend, Margaret Bell (niece of City of Craig founder, Craig Miller). It was Margaret who gave the painting to Mary. When Mary was in Craig in 2018 promoting her new book The Mystery of the Fire Trees of Southeast Alaska, she brought the painting with her from Ketchikan and gave it to the Craig Public Library. Mary mentioned that there is the Ketchikan Pond Reef Road legend surrounding the name on the boat. Some speculate that perhaps Ballard didn’t finish the painting. Henrikson mentions that Margaret Bell told her when Ballard was with Margaret one evening the two were having a glass of wine or a martini and it is said that the name was painted on when they were visiting and possibly under the influence of their drink. Regardless of when the name was put on, it’s exciting that the boat influenced Ballard as much as it did. Ballard writes in her book, As the Sailor Loves the Sea:

My first sight of Fishermen’s Cove gave me a painting, which is peculiarly difficult to put into words but ready-made for canvas. At the head of the cove, heeled over with her forefoot to the beach, abandoned to the endless tide, derelict and rotten, lay what had once been a brave hull. Along her bows in fanciful lettering was her provocative name, the Age of Reason. To be sure, it gave me deep pleasure to find the Age of Reason rotting on the beach.

Someday when you are out of isolation, the painting can be seen  at the Craig Public Library. It hangs to the left of the librarian desk.

Ballard Hadman a resident of Craig and Ketchikan was born Virginia Diana Ballard in 1908 in Laramie, Wyoming. She attended Corcoran Institute of Art in Washington D.C. and the Winold Reiss School of Art in New York City. Ballard arrived in Craig, Alaska in 1937, following her mother, Mimi, to come work with her brothers, John and Charles, on their fishing boat the F/V Diana. It wasn’t long until Ballard put out her memoirs in the Craig town favorite, As The Sailor Loves the Sea. When Ballard arrived in Craig she wrote:

I should always like to land in a strange port on a strange island in the dark; the impact of the morning is so fresh, so wholly new. From the top of the highest hill on the island, where a long bed of iris stood tall and proud, I first saw the polished blue sweep of Big Harbor, the warm deep green of Saint John’s Island with its own infant island, Little Saint John, tucked close to its shoulder.

After arriving in Craig on the steam ship Cordova, Hadman made her way to the fish packer the F/V Lawrence P and caught a ride out to “Hole in the Wall.” Once there, Hadman met up with her brothers who unloaded her onto the beach and set her up in a rustic cabin until they went out fishing. (Remnants of the cabin can be seen on the northern end of San Lorenzo island.)

Hadman’s book has many unique hand-drawn and painted scenes of the outer coast, fishing boats and locals such as “Shorty,” Many local historians consider her book a “must have” whether on their boat, in their remote cabin, or on their shelves in Craig. Her book can be found at the Craig Public Library, as well.

Ballard became infatuated with the beauty of the fishing landscape and enjoyed painting scenes that can be found in her book. Her most noted love is the painting of Cape Addington. Hadman writes: “It was that first season that I began to know Cape Addington, my first and best love among all the seaward capes. …To my mind, and to John’s as well, the most beautiful cape in Alaska.

Like most women who came to Alaska to seek an adventure, Hadman not only became a proficient fisherwoman, author and artist, but became involved in the community of Craig as a member of the Craig Women’s Club. In 1946, she was honored as a “Woman of Achievement” in Seattle by the honorary journalistic sorority, Theta Sigma Phi.

End note:

When I first saw the painting in the Library, I decided to find out about the history of it. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed researching and learning about the painting. When researching the boat, I found out before she came to rest at Fishermans cove (South Cove) in Craig she was once considered to be one of the larger boats in Klawock and owned by two fishermen from Klawock: J. Cook and S. Davis. Thanks to Mary Henrikson for her help and for donating the painting back to Craig. I started this research in 2018. This is the first Covid-19 isolation project that I have finished. Kathy Peavey, March 28, 2020.

Resources cited:

Tewkesbury’s Who’s Who in Alaska

O.M. Salisbury, As the Sailor Loves the Sea

Zee Hawks

Conference Schedule and Registration

Date Posted: July 22, 2019       Categories: 49 History

Awauq or Refuge Rock, off the southern shore of Kodiak Island. Photo courtesy of Sven Haakanson, Jr.

Registration is now open for the 2019 Alaska Historical Society Annual Conference being held in Kodiak from September 25-28, 2019.

Visit the Museums Alaska/Alaska Historical Society joint conference website to register.

Click here to view the full program for the Alaska Historical Society sessions.

We look forward to seeing you in Kodiak!