AHS Blog  |  49 History

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!

The Life of Cornelia Templeton Jewett Hatcher

Date Posted: March 13, 2019       Categories: 49 History

By: Alyssa Lapka, history student at University of Alaska Anchorage

Cornelia Templeton Jewett Hatcher, 1909. “The best picture of the Evanston years.” B2008. Cornelia Templeton Jewett Hatcher Papers; Anchorage Museum, Gift of Robin Rustad.

In honor of women’s history month and in commemoration of the centennial of the 19th Amendment, there’s no better time to recall the notable and accomplished life of Cornelia Templeton Jewett Hatcher.

Here in Alaska, many have grown up in the Matanuska Valley with Hatcher Pass as a playground. One could easily locate an abundance of information about the mining history of the area, tales of Robert Lee Hatcher for whom the pass is named after, but few have written about his wife, Cornelia Templeton Jewett Hatcher. Ms. Hatcher was among the most influential women in Alaska’s history.

Born in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin on January 2, 1867, Cornelia expressed an interested in journalism at a young age and realized the potential of the press as a tool for public advocacy. As a young girl, Cornelia submitted written complaints to the local paper after experiencing what she felt to be injustices from the other children. Cornelia also developed a strong aversion to alcohol and drunken behavior after having grown up around a grandfather who was often intoxicated. She recalled how his behavior ruined family holidays: “If she could prevent it ‘no other child should ever weep over the loss of Christmas joy due to a muddled brain and an unsteady step.’”1 Here we see how Hatcher’s childhood formed her belief in temperance and shaped her role as an activist.

At the age of 12, Cornelia took a job as a typesetter for a small paper in Wisconsin. Later she worked for The Expositor and The Independent, two other local papers in Wisconsin. By the time she was twenty, Cornelia worked her way up to become a proofreader. The paper’s editor put her in charge of some investigations as well. On June 27, 1888, Cornelia married John H. Jewett; a year later she gave birth to her daughter, Hazel. Though her marriage with Jewett did not last, she remained close to Hazel throughout her life. She later moved to Chicago to continue work as a journalist. There she joined the staff of The Union Signal, an official organ of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (W.C.T.U.). By 1902 Cornelia worked as the managing editor for the paper.

Seven years later, Cornelia had developed some wanderlust and looked west for adventure. She attended the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle with her associate in the W.C.T.U, Jennie M. Kemp. Following her stay in Seattle, Cornelia set off on a two-month tour of the Northwest, including an ambitious three-week trip to Alaska. Cornelia relayed her impressions of the expansive territory as a representative of the temperance union:

The population of Alaska is like the shifting sand, and two-thirds of the inhabitants are men, either unmarried or whose families have been left behind in ‘the states.’ Removed from the restraining influences of the home, and beset on every hand by the temptations of the saloon, the brothel and the gambling den, man speedily reverts to semi-barbarism and ceases to struggle for the better things of life. It is such men that the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, working with the missionaries of the church, aims to reach. Our representative expresses the greatest gratification over the response of the men to her efforts, and their eager desire to assist in the work when they comprehend its scope.2

The experience proved formative for Cornelia, and she soon decided to relocate to Alaska. As Cornelia stated in the Union Signal stated: she had a “desire for further information concerning the country and its future, as well as a conviction of the great need and opportunity there afforded for temperance work.”3 In addition, Cornelia believed that a more active lifestyle might ameliorate the severe neuritis in her arm and shoulder.4

In 1910, Cornelia took up residence with the family of a Methodist preacher, Louis H. Pedersen, in Seward and served as Alaska’s National W.C.T.U. representative. Cornelia traveled along Alaska’s coasts and lectured on the topic of temperance. One reporter who heard her public performance on the evils of drink claimed, “It was a strong appeal on behalf of the cause of temperance, and so deep an impression did Mrs. Jewett make that at the close she was importuned to return to Cordova, make a similar talk and organize a branch of the National Women’s Christian Temperance Union… She is one of the most active and effective women in the country in her particular work.”5 Soon after, Cornelia organized three W.C.T.U. chapters in Ketchikan, Skagway, and Seward, as well as with the Loyal Temperance Legion, a branch of the W.C.T.U. for children.6

Having a sense of accomplishment and not one to stay in one place for too long, Cornelia left Alaska for Tacoma in 1911, but her experience in the North was far from over. During her brief stay Alaska, Cornelia Jewett met a miner named Robert Lee Hatcher in the Matanuska Valley. The young journalist apparently left quite the impression on Hatcher; he soon followed her to Tacoma with the idea of marrying her. For her part, Cornelia was drawn to Robert and later claimed that he was perhaps the only man in Alaska who did not smoke, drink, chew, swear, or gamble. The two married on March 5, 1911, and Cornelia Templeton Jewett took Hatcher as her surname.7

Cornelia returned to Alaska the winter of 1912 to join her husband. They wintered not far from Knik in the area now known as Hatcher Pass. During these years, Cornelia Hatcher grew still more active in the suffrage and temperance movements. In 1913, she proclaimed her belief that women should be free to vote for representatives in Alaska’s Territorial Legislature. Cornelia authored a petition for the legislature to grant women the vote.

She later recalled an instance when her advocacy for suffrage led her into a conflict with a male inn keeper. Frank Cannon, the man who ran the Knik Road House, confessed to Cornelia, “You see, I have always had an ideal of women… I feel that it would be unwomanly for them to vote.” Cornelia provided a rebuttal: “About the 8,000,000 women who have had to get down off a pedestal and hunt for a job;” they should be able to participate in democracy. Frank Cannon claimed that Cornelia Hatcher was exceptional in her intelligence, but most women could not be trusted with the vote. Cornelia, not content with Frank’s response, reminded the innkeeper, “There are thousands of women like me who are honestly interested in their government and believe that they should have an equal voice in its affairs… You insist that I am intelligent enough to vote so I am asking you to ask the Alaska Legislature to give me that privilege.” Frank Cannon finally conceded and signed the petition.8

Cornelia Hatcher 2,000 feet up on Mt. Seward, Alaska, August 2nd, 1909. B2008. Cornelia Templeton Jewett Hatcher Papers; Anchorage Museum, Gift of Robin Rustad,

According to the Alaska Daily Empire, the Knik petition Hatcher organized was one of the very first to be received by the new territorial legislature. Within months, Alaska’s representatives fashioned a bill based on petitions they received. The petition proposed women would have the right to vote in territorial elections. Cornelia Hatcher took great pride in the fact that women’s suffrage was the first bill passed into law by the first Alaska Legislature, six years before the United States passed the 19th amendment.9

Between 1913 and 1924, Hatcher served as president of the Alaska territorial W.C.T.U.10 Thanks in part to her advocacy, the Alaska legislature passed a law that made women eligible for jury service in the territory by 1923. Cornelia Hatcher celebrated the “recognition of [men and women’s] share in civic government,” but she also recognized that full equality remained elusive. “True comradeship between the men and women of Alaska,” Cornelia wrote, would be more convincing if “women would share adequately in property accumulated after marriage.”11

In addition to her advocacy for women’s rights in Alaska, Cornelia remained active in the prohibition movement. The Oregon Sunday Journal claimed that Cornelia Hatcher was responsible for “the first and only prohibition map that has ever been made of this country.” For over two years, Cornelia cobbled together a listing towns, cities, and counties that banned, to one extent or another, alcohol consumption and production.12

Citizens of Knik standing in front of the Pioneer Roadhouse at Knik, Alaska. B2008.015.1.33. Cornelia Templeton Jewett Hatcher Papers; Anchorage Museum, Gift of Robin Rustad,

Cornelia traveled over five thousand miles throughout Alaska to campaign for prohibition. Alaska’s W.C.T.U. sent Hatcher along the Yukon River up the Tanana River to Fairbanks and to Nome. Her trip carried “her the length of the Yukon river and out through the Bering Sea. She visited all the Unions in the southeast part of the territory enroute and reached Skagway June 8. From there she proceeded to Dawson where she assisted in the fight to put the Yukon Territory dry.” Throughout her travels representatives from the California Liquor Dealers followed her to provide a rebuttal to keep Alaska wet. Still, her efforts paid off as the people of Alaska voted for prohibition by a two-to-one margin in 1918. According to her daughter, Hazel, Cornelia Hatcher was “the little lady who made Alaska dry.”13

Due to Alaska’s territorial status, the bill had to pass through congress before it could become law. Cornelia Hatcher traveled to Washington, D.C. where she addressed the Committee of the Territories in the U.S. Senate. In a letter addressed to her ‘Alaska Comrades,’ she informed them that the “prohibition bill passed the Senate January 29, received the favorable consideration of the House February 2 and was signed by President Woodrow Wilson February 8.”14 A constitutional amendment soon followed and received ratification in December 1917; the implementation and enforcement of Prohibition went into effect on January 17, 1920.

Hatcher received national attention as a passionate advocate for prohibition. The Seattle Post Intelligencer relayed that Cornelia deserved “credit for being the best and most successful promoter of legislation who has come to this capitol [DC] in years.”15 Another newspaper of reported that she made “the most powerful argument in favor of the passage of the measure ever heard on the subject of temperance in the national capital.”16 As further evidence of her success, Cornelia received the pen President Wilson used to sign the prohibition bill into law.17

Hatcher’s Home at Gold Mint Mining Company, 1921-22. B2008. Cornelia Templeton Jewett Hatcher Papers; Anchorage Museum, Gift of Robin Rustad.

While advocating for prohibition, Cornelia Hatcher also pointed out the flaws in Alaska’s nascent educational system. Though she staunchly believed in nationwide prohibition, she also recognized that Alaska stood to lose much of its education funding as a result of the 20th Amendment. The Alaska Fund, as it was known in congress, collected revenue from liquor licenses and disbursed some of these funds for education in the territory. The schools in Alaska already lacked adequate funding and any additional decrease would be detrimental. To ensure Alaska schools received funding, Cornelia Hatcher lobbied for an appropriation of “$100,000, to be expended solely for the establishment and maintenance of public schools in Alaska, to be expended under the direction of the authority now having the disposition of the ‘Alaska fund.’”18 Though the bill failed, congress passed a smaller appropriation for education in Alaska.

In 1922 Cornelia left Alaska once again. After several months in San Diego, she moved to Long Beach where she opened a beauty shop. She joined several local clubs and organizations and accomplished much in the short time she spent in southern California. From 1927 to 1929 she served as president of the Business and Professional Women’s Club of Long Beach. Membership in the Long Beach Women’s Clun tripled during Cornelia Hatcher’s time in office. She also served as the president of the Woman’s City Club in Long Beach from 1929-1930.20 In 1930 she moved to Washington, D.C. upon receiving an offer from an old friend, Lenna Lowe Yost, the Director of the Women’s Division of the Republican Party. She joined Yost’s staff as a research secretary.21

Cornelia Hatcher while living in Long Beach, California and running the Colonial Beauty Shop. B2008. Templeton Jewett Hatcher Papers; Anchorage Museum, Gift of Robin Rustad,

In 1935, even though she had not lived in Alaska for over ten years, Cornelia remained an associate member of the Alaska Woman’s Club based out of Juneau. The Alaskan women asked Cornelia to represent the club at the convention of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs in Detroit, Michigan. At the convention she lobbied have the Alaska club classified as a state federation instead of a foreign federation. After Cornelia’s moving speech, the federation voted to make the Alaska club an affiliate of the state federation.22 This was the last service Cornelia did for Alaska. She and her daughter, Hazel, then moved back to Chicago where she renewed her affiliation with the Illinois Women’s Press Association. In 1942, on her seventy-fifth birthday, the association named her an Honorary Life Member. Cornelia relocated a final time with her daughter and granddaughter, this time to Arkansas. On May 5, 1953 Cornelia Hatcher passed away in the small town of Altus.23

Cornelia Hatcher accomplished much during her lifetime. From her leadership positions in organizations and clubs devoted to women’s rights to her advocacy for prohibition to her career as a writer and journalist, Cornelia’s drive for social change boosted the profile of women across Alaska and elsewhere. There’s no better time to reflect on her achievements than now as we commemorate the centenary of the 18th and 19th Amendments to the United States constitution and their impact upon Alaska.


 Alyssa Lapka from Palmer, Alaska, is attending the University of Alaska Anchorage, and plans to  graduate with a bachelor’s degree in history and minor in literature in spring, 2019. Lapka spent the fall 2018 semester interning for the Atwood Resource Center in the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center.

Thank you to Sara Piasecki, Archivist, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, for assistance with the photographic research, and Ian Hartman, Professor of History, University of Alaska Anchorage.



  1. Emma Kidd Hulburt “Presenting the Union Signal and Some Workers Past and Present,” The Union Signal, February 14, 1948 and Cornelia Templeton Jewett Hatcher Papers; Anchorage Museum, Gift of Robin Rustad, B2008.015.2.34.
  2. Cornelia Templeton Jewett Hatcher Papers; Anchorage Museum, Gift of Robin Rustad, B2008.015.1.10-11.
  3. The Union Signal, March 31, 1910. https://archive.org/details/unionsignaljourn36woma/page/n237
  4. Cornelia Templeton Jewett Hatcher Papers; Anchorage Museum, Gift of Robin Rustad, B2008.015.1.16
  5. Cornelia Templeton Jewett Hatcher Papers; Anchorage Museum, Gift of Robin Rustad, B2008.015.1.18.
  6. Cornelia Templeton Jewett, “W.C.T.U. Work in Alaska,” The Union Signal, January 5, 1911. https://archive.org/details/unionsignaljourn37woma/page/n9
  7. Cornelia Templeton Jewett Hatcher Papers; Anchorage Museum, Gift of Robin Rustad, B2008.015.2.25.
  8. Cornelia Templeton Jewett Hatcher Papers; Anchorage Museum, Gift of Robin Rustad, B2008.015.1.33 and “Shoup’s Suffrage Bill Passes,” The Alaska Daily Empire, March 14, 1913, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020657/1913-03-14/ed-1/seq-1/.
  9. Cornelia Templeton Jewett Hatcher Papers; Anchorage Museum, Gift of Robin Rustad, B2008.015.1.33 and “Shoup’s Suffrage Bill Passes,” The Alaska Daily Empire, March 14, 1913, https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020657/1913-03-14/ed-1/seq-1/.
  10. Emma Kidd Hulburt “Presenting the Union Signal and Some Workers Past and Present,” The Union Signal, February 14, 1948.
  11. Cornelia Templeton Jewett Hatcher Papers; Anchorage Museum, Gift of Robin Rustad, B2008.015.1.40.
  12. Cornelia Templeton Jewett Hatcher Papers; Anchorage Museum, Gift of Robin Rustad, B2008.015.1.14.
  13. Cornelia Templeton Jewett Hatcher Papers; Anchorage Museum, Gift of Robin Rustad, B2008.015.1.24.
  14. Cornelia Templeton Jewett Hatcher Papers; Anchorage Museum, Gift of Robin Rustad, B2008.015.1.26.
  15. Ashmun Brown, “Seattle Woman puts Through Bone Dry Measure for Alaska,” The Post-Intelligencer, Seattle, WA, Saturday, February 3, 1917.
  16. Cornelia Templeton Jewett Hatcher Papers; Anchorage Museum, Gift of Robin Rustad, B2008.015.1.25.
  17. Cornelia Templeton Jewett Hatcher Papers; Anchorage Museum, Gift of Robin Rustad, B2008.015.1.26.
  18. “Prohibition in Alaska Hearing Before the Committee on Territories United States Senate” S.7963, 64th Cong., 2nd sess. January 26, 1917. Washington Government Printing Office 1917.
  19. Cornelia Templeton Hatcher, “Alaska Legislature Makes Fine Record on Enactment of Progressive Measures,” The Union Signal, June 7, 1917, https://archive.org/details/unionsignaljourn43woma/page/n361.
  20. Cornelia Templeton Jewett Hatcher Papers; Anchorage Museum, Gift of Robin Rustad, B2008.015.2.1.
  21. Cornelia Templeton Jewett Hatcher Papers; Anchorage Museum, Gift of Robin Rustad, B2008.015.1.34.
  22. Cornelia Templeton Jewett Hatcher Papers; Anchorage Museum, Gift of Robin Rustad, B2008.015.1.34.
  23. Cornelia Templeton Jewett Hatcher Papers; Anchorage Museum, Gift of Robin Rustad, B2008.015.2.31.


Importance of Archives

Date Posted: February 15, 2019       Categories: 49 History News

In 2018, the Alaska Historical Society (AHS) made protecting our state’s archives its advocacy priority. As part of this effort, AHS launched the Archives Video Project to highlight how archive collections are the irreplaceable basic sources of historical research. By emphasizing how collections are used in research, these videos hope to bring attention to the rich resources in the state’s archives. Public support for archives is a continuing priority of the Alaska Historical Society.

The following video testimonials from researchers around the state emphasize the key role archives have played in their work:

Dr. William Schneider on the Importance of Archives
University of Alaska Fairbanks Professor Emeritus Dr. William Schneider talks about researching and examining historical photographs in archives. Schneider’s book “The Tanana Chiefs: Native Rights and Western Law,” was published in 2018. This video (copyright Alaska Historical Society, 2018) was made possible through contributions of private individuals. For more information, please contact William Schneider: wsschneider@alaska.edu
with captions: https://youtu.be/Lx4CkvDyRbQ
without captions: https://youtu.be/CXeHcnqSJdI

Dr. Mary Ehrlander on the Importance of Archives
Dr. Mary F. Ehrlander, professor of History and co-director of Arctic and Northern Studies at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, talks about her experience using archives to write her 2017 book “Walter Harper, Alaska Native Son.” The biography covers the life and story of Walter Harper, the son of a Koyukon-Athabascan mother and an Irish immigrant father, who in 1913 became the first person to reach the summit of Denali, North America’s highest mountain. This video (copyright Alaska Historical Society, 2018) was made possible through contributions of private individuals. For more information, please contact William Schneider: wsschneider@alaska.edu
with captions: https://youtu.be/D5g6JeK-uzE
without captions: https://youtu.be/fXXkyceNI4E

Professor Rob Prince on the Importance of Archives
Associate Professor Rob Prince of the Communication and Journalism Department at the University of Alaska Fairbanks talks about how his students have been using archives to delve into an ongoing mystery on campus. Archaeologist Otto Geist may have buried several mammoth tusks on the UAF campus during the 1930s. Where are those tusks today? Professor Prince and his students searched the archives for clues. This video (copyright Alaska Historical Society, 2018) was made possible through contributions of private individuals. For more information, please contact William Schneider: wsschneider@alaska.edu
with captions: https://youtu.be/cTos16–TkM
without captions: https://youtu.be/qHljBSLx6YQ

Dr. Jennifer Stone on the Importance of Archives
Dr. Jennifer Stone, Professor of English at the University of Alaska Anchorage, works with students at the UAA/APU Consortium Library’s Archives and Special Collections. Dr. Stone has integrated the archives into her curriculum in creative and innovative ways. Watch how her students have responded to this approach, and learn more about how the archives enrich the classroom experience of Alaska’s students. This video (copyright Alaska Historical Society, 2019) was made possible through contributions of private individuals and with the assistance of Ian Hartman, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Alaska Anchorage. For more information, please contact William Schneider: wsschneider@alaska.edu.
without captions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvYbAxf5VQA
(for auto-generated captions, click on the cc button in the lower-right corner of the YouTube screen)

Tenakee’s Superior Packing Company

Date Posted: December 4, 2017       Categories: 49 History

By: Vicki Wisenbaugh

Bob Pegues

Note: Tenakee Historical Collection received a grant from the Alaska Historical Society’s Alaska Historic Canneries Initiative to catalog a collection of materials from Tenakee Springs’ Superior Packing Co. All of the photos in this post come from Tenakee Historical Collection. 

Bob Pegues was a pillar of the  Chichagof Island  community of Tenakee Springs for over 40 years. He was part owner and year round caretaker of the ruins of the Superior Packing Company cannery property. In his retirement years, Bob undertook research for a book about the cannery, its history and the complex financial dealings of the owners.   Bob’s efforts were cut short by cancer and his files were bequeathed in a scrambled heap to the Tenakee Historical Collection.

Cannery employees at work.

Thanks to a grant from the Alaska Historical Society, the Tenakee Historical Collection was able to sort out that pile of paper, photos and publications to make the information more accessible for future research.

Sorting and filing Bob’s research offered tantalizing glimpses of the past century, when fish traps and rapacious plunder of salmon streams were the norm, and the territorial authorities were  occupied with  violations of the Alaska Bone Dry Act and acts of “unlawful co-habitation” as well as assault and suspected murder.   Bob’s collection of original documents, photos, articles, letters and interview transcripts are now safely stored in the archives of the Tenakee Historical Collection museum, and ready for further exploration by anyone with a keen interest in the cannery era.

Superior Packing ca 1918.

Superior Packing, ca 1921-1928.

The cannery had segregated housing, like most canneries of the era.

The children of the cannery’s owner, John Tenneson, were the models for the company’s labels.

The Whitney-Fidalgo Cannery on Ship Creek, Anchorage

Date Posted: December 4, 2017       Categories: 49 History Alaska's Historic Canneries

By: Mark LaRiviere

Note: The following was written in the Fall of 1976. No salmon canneries remain on Ship Creek today.

Below the hustle-bustle of downtown Anchorage, at the mouth of Ship Creek, is the only remaining salmon cannery in upper Cook Inlet. At one time there were two canneries in Anchorage and three in the upper Inlet area, but the days of small, owner operated canneries in Alaska are over and only the Whitney-Fidalgo Seafoods, Inc. Anchorage cannery remains in upper Cook Inlet.

This cannery is a direct link to a large part of Alaska’s past – the salmon canning days. Starting in Southeast Alaska in 1878 and growing to a peak in 1936 with a pack of 8.4 million cases, the salmon canning industry has had a powerful impact on the economic and sociological development of Alaska as a territory and as a state. Today the industry still plays an important role in the Alaskan economy, providing summertime employment for people from remote area and market for fisherman to earn the money they need to sustain them throughout the remainder of the year. Many of these peoples live in the bush year-round or are Natives in remote villages and settlements who fish for subsistence.

It was a mix of people such as these that I met and worked with during three summers of employment at the Anchorage cannery; 1974, 1975, and 1976. Mostly set-net fisherman, they fished the upper Cook Inlet shorelines, intertidal areas and Susitna River delta. Fishing in 25 to 30 foot tidal fluctuations and murky brown water they tended their nets with outboard powered skiffs, delivering their catch to the cannery or to the shallow draft scows and tenders that operate in the inshore areas of upper Cook Inlet.

The catch from these fisherman is canned at the Anchorage cannery. First built in 1931, and operated by H.J. Emard as Emard Packing Company, Inc., it survived a period of which I know little of its history. Johnny Bumanglag, the fish house foreman, and Joe, the present-day retort operator, are still working from the 1930’s when Emard first starting canning salmon there. In those days the F/V Henry J. served as a tender to upper Cook Inlet fishermen, taking out the scows in the spring, picking up in the summer and returning them to the cannery in the fall.

Ship Creek, the waterfrontage of the cannery, is not too aptly named since few ships (or boats) can operate in a channel that fluctuates from 1 to 31 feet in 12 hours or less. Only flat bottom vessels or vessels with hulls strong enough to withstand several beachings during the course of a visit can “tie up” to the cannery dock. Large flat-bottomed vessels are often brought into the mouth of the creek and unloaded next to a concrete ship that is permanently dug into the Terminal Yards fill at the mouth of Ship Creek.

Processing herring at the Ship Creek facility in 1972. Photo courtesy Dexter Lorance.

Fish arrives via rail to the Whitney-Fidalgo cannery in Anchorage in 1972. Photo courtesy Dexter Lorance.

The cannery is a collection of rather jostled and dilapidated old buildings and trailers that show their age and the fact they suffered through the Alaska earthquake of 1964. Inside the canning line warehouse, the can shop normally on the second floor of canneries, rests at the same level as the canning line, a result of the floor collapsing beneath it during the earthquake and cannery economics dictating it to be left there as long as it worked. No wonder one can walk along a wall in the warehouse and come upon a window in the wall whose top edge is below the waistline.

A small group of people live on the premises, similar to remote area canneries that are complete settlements in themselves, but the majority of workers commute from within the city. The machinist crew, Filipinos and office workers are brought in from the lower 48, and rest of the crew is hired from the local work force. Some of them have been working canneries for many years, such as Minnie who lives in Wasilla and commutes to work, often staying and sleeping in her car when working into the wee hours of the night.

Squeezed between Elmendorf AFB, Terminal Yards and downtown Anchorage you can almost hear the cannery breathe a sigh of relief to be connected on a waterway to the open ocean waters. The city is moving in all around. Much of the property the cannery is located upon is on old fill from early day excavation projects in surrounding areas. Jutting into this fill and coming right up to the cannery road, is little estuarine bay of vital importance to the cannery. Along the edges of this small embayment are skids upon which the fish scows are placed in the wintertime to protect them from the freeze up of upper Cook Inlet waters. The scows are placed out in the spring at strategic locations on the east side of Cook Inlet from Boulder Point to Fire Island and on the west side from Tyrone to West Foreland. The fisherman, notified of openings by radio and written notice, net and recover the salmon and deliver their catch to the scows. There they are covered with wetted burlap to keep them cool and protected from the wind, sun and seagulls. The fisherman return to their camps and a tender from the Anchorage cannery comes on a regular schedule to pick up the fish. All five species of Pacific salmon ae caught in upper Cook Inlet with reds and pinks making up the majority of the catch.

Counts are kept of the number of each species from each bin and a fish ticket is written up for the fisherman registered to that bin. Back in the cannery office the fisherman will be credited with an amount equal to the number of each species landed, times the average weight of that species that week as determined by a negotiating board or an Alaska Department of Fish and Game sampling crew.

The scows are the only logical low cost way to service the fish camps along each side of upper Cook Inlet. Requiring little maintenance, each scow can accommodate the fish from several individual fish camps along that stretch of the shoreline and minimize the time the tender needs to pick up the fish. These fisherman have banded together into the Upper Cook Inlet Fisherman’s Association and it is this group that Whitney-Fidalgo officials must bargain with each year for the prices and contracts to fish. Other processors compete for the fish in the area, with Kenai being the most popular alternative landing site.

During the peak of the run it is not uncommon for the F/V Totem (the modern day replacement of the Henry J) to return to the cannery loaded to the brim with pink, red and silver salmon. Often times having 20,000 or more fish in its holds, the Totem will bring in two such loads a week. This is when the people in the canneries earn their salt. With no holding facilities for this mass of fresh product, except for a few chilled seawater bins that act as temporary storage silos, these fish must be canned.

The machinery has got to operate correctly and the people must work until the job is done. If the cannery superintendent could find robots to man the machines at time like these he would be satisfied. Instead they often bend to the fact that real human people work at the cannery and they often knock off work just after midnight to allow the cannery crew some sleep (often averaging less than 6 hours) before starting up the cannery again the next morning to can more fish. The times of working past midnight do not usually last more than 8-10 days at a stretch and thank heaven! You can only like salmon, working and making money just so much. Then there is your body to consider.

The cannery becomes a world unto itself. Those of us that lived there would seldom wander even up into downtown Anchorage – less than one mile away. The entire plant and its operations became dependent upon the outside connection of the ALASKA railroad, delivering the tin ends and can bodies and taking away the still cooking pallets of canned salmon. The warehouse of the cannery is so small and lacking in floor space that if the pack was not removed daily by rail cars and new ones spotted at the doors, the pallets would be stacked on the floor and this accumulation could shut down the cannery operations within 24 hours.

The effluent from the cannery operations is discharged into Ship Creek. Thousands of pounds of offal – everything on the fish that is not canned or salted – is ground up and mixed with water to form a slurry. This slurry is piped to below the mean low water mark on Ship Creek to meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s effluent permit and released. There the ever-hungry, opportunistic seagulls find it.

In the summer, on low tides one can always tell at a glance whether or not the cannery is operating by the presence or absence of large numbers of seagulls alighting on Ship Creek just below the cannery, floating downstream bobbing and ducking for the salmon offal and screaming, screeching and fighting amongst themselves. The gulls, mostly California gulls, roost upon the mud flats below downtown Anchorage and feed upon the cannery effluent. Streams of gulls capitalize upon this food, forming a steady circle from the mouth of the creek up to the discharge pipe.

It is quite a spectacular sight – I have seen feeding congregations of 5,000 or more seagulls below the cannery. Some of the gulls are huge and will attack unsuspecting humans! I have two documented cases of seagulls attacking people in the Terminal Yards area. My guess is more people have had the experience, but are afraid to reveal it for the sake of ridicule. Who has ever heard of such a thing – dive bombing seagulls, noiselessly heading for your head? Often times they drop a little package as you dissuade them to leave. Alaska is full of animals that will attack, but seagulls – without provocation?

As sudden as they start, the salmon runs in upper Cook Inlet start to diminish. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game begins to limit fishing time, catch per unit of effort decreases and the fisherman cease fishing. It is more profitable, or less expensive for them to resume other activities. They close up the fish camp, move back to the city or the bush and wait until next season. Life at the cannery continues with the necessary clean up, machinery maintenance, final shipments of canned salmon and recovery and storage of the scows for the winter.

The last week of August is traditionally the time when the scows are towed back to the cannery dock by the tender, moved at high tide by the beach gang in a small runabout to the foot of the skids, and winched up by the old authentic looking steam engine. There they are secured and left for the winter. The tender leaves and goes south for the winter before the freeze up as does the cannery crew. The buildings are boarded up to await the next spring and beginning of another salmon canning season.