AHS Blog  |  49 History

Cook Inlet Historical Society announces 2017-2018 Lecture Series

Date Posted: October 2, 2017       Categories: 49 History

By Bruce Parham

150 Years:  Defining Moments in the Great Land
Cook Inlet Historical Society 2017-2018 Lecture Series

(Free and Open to the Public)

Left to right: Robert S. Chase; William H. Seward (Secretary of State); William Hunter; Mr. Bodisco; Baron de (Eduard) Stoecki (Russian diplomat); Charles Sumner; and Frederick W. Seward. ASL-P20-181, http://vilda.alaska.edu. Courtesy of Alaska State Library—Historical Collections. A print from the painting by Emanuel Leutze showing the Alaska Purchase.


Cook Inlet Historical Society 2017-2018 Lecture Series
Anchorage Museum Auditorium, 7:00 p.m.
Third Thursday of the month (September – November and January – May)
Summer Solstice Cemetery Tour (Thursday, June 21, 2018, 7:00 p.m., Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery, 7th and Cordova Streets, enter at Bagoy Gate)

The theme of 2017-2018 Cook Inlet Historical Society lecture series is 150 Years:  Defining Moments in the Great Land. This year marks the sesquicentennial of the Treaty of Cession between Russia and the United States (1867-2017).  Over the past century and a half, Alaska has undergone remarkable change.  Its Native population has persisted and thrived; settlers have arrived from around the world; the culture and economy of the territory and then the state has transformed several times.  Throughout the fall and spring of 2017-2018, the Cook Inlet Historical Society will present lectures on some of the topics that have defined Alaska’s history since the cession.




September 21, 2017, 7:00 p.m.  
Anchorage Museum Auditorium, 625 C St. (enter through 125 W. 7th Ave. entrance)

Speaker:  Mike Dunham, Award Winning Author and Editor and Reporter (retired), Alaska Dispatch News
Topic: The Man Who Bought Alaska:  William H. Seward and The Man Who Sold Alaska:  Tsar Alexander II of Russia

Longtime Alaska reporter Mike Dunham has written a pair of short biographies that tell the stories of the most important diplomats in the 19th century—Tsar Alexander II of Russia and American Secretary of State William Henry Seward.  He will discuss the lives of the men who arranged the United States’ acquisition of Russian America in 1867.

Thursday, October 19, 2017, 7:00 p.m.  
Anchorage Museum Auditorium, 625 C St. (enter through 125 W. 7th Ave. entrance)
Topic: Treaty of Cession:  Causes and Consequences:  A Panel Discussion

UAA Distinguished Professor Emeritus Stephen Haycox will moderate a panel discussion with Russian historians about why Russian America was sold to the United States and three indigenous speakers who will examine the consequences of the 19th century Americanization of Alaska and the later Cold War.  Participants include Sergei Grinev of St. Petersburg, Russia; Ilya Vinkovetsky of Simon Fraser University of British Columbia; Andrei Znamenski of the University of Memphis, Tennessee; archivist/historian Joaqlin Estus (Tlingit); and Andrey Khalkachan, a Native of eastern Siberia.

Thursday, November 16, 2017, 7:00 p.m.  
Anchorage Museum Auditorium, 625 C St. (enter through 125 W. 7th Ave. entrance)

Speaker: Katherine L. Arndt, Alaska and Polar Regions Bibliographer and Curator of Rare Books and Maps, Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Topic: Russia’s American Colonies in 1867:  A Baseline

Though the Russian-American Company (RAC) was ostensibly a trading firm, as an imperially chartered monopoly it had many non-commercial responsibilities in Russia’s North American colonies, including medical care, education, support of the Orthodox Church, and assistance to company pensioners.  With departure of the RAC following the transfer of Alaska to US ownership, any Company-supported institutions were significantly crippled or entirely swept away.  It took time before they were restored or replaced under US rule.

No December Lecture

Thursday, January 18, 2018, 7:00 p.m.  
Anchorage Museum Auditorium, 625 C St. (enter through 125 W. 7th Ave. entrance)

Speaker: Rex Wilheim, President and COO of the North West Company International, Inc., owner of the Alaska Commercial Company
Topic: The Alaska Commercial Company, 150 Years of Operation

The Alaska Commercial Company (ACC) began mercantile services in Alaska within months of the Treaty of Cession.  Early company activities included fur trading, banking, shipping, and building infrastructure as well as operating an exclusive 20-year lease of the lucrative Pribilof Islands fur seal industry.  This presentation details the 150 years of ACC operations in Alaska.

Thursday, February 15, 2018, 7:00 p.m.  
Anchorage Museum Auditorium, 625 C St. (enter through 125 W. 7th Ave. entrance)

Speaker: Bethany Buckingham Follett, Curator, Wasilla Museum and Visitor’s Center
Topic: Wasilla at 100:  Where Mining, Agriculture, and Commerce Converge

Wasilla was founded in 1917 when the Alaska Railroad intersected the Carle Wagon Road that headed into the Willow Creek Mining District.  Miners were supplied by merchants in Wasilla and a thriving community emerged.  Well-known members of the early community, how their history shaped Wasilla, and the activities of the centennial celebration that brought these stories and history to life will be discussed.

Thursday, March 15, 2018, 7:00 p.m.  
Anchorage Museum Auditorium, 625 C St. (enter through 125 W. 7th Ave. entrance)

Speaker: JBER Command Staff
Topic: Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Mission and Units:  Why We Are Here

Alaska’s strategic military position is based on geography.  Alaska is an ideal hub for the great “Over-the-Pole” circle routes connecting the Orient with Europe and North America.  JBER’s location is much closer to the Orient and Europe than many parts of the contiguous United States, and provides an ideal staging for a rapid military response capability today, just as it did during World War II and the Cold War.  In this lecture, JBER Command Staff will discuss the strategic geopolitical importance of Alaska today and in the past.

Thursday, April 19, 2018, 7:00 p.m.  
Anchorage Museum Auditorium, 625 C St. (enter through 125 W. 7th Ave. entrance)

Speaker:  Tim Bradner, economics and natural resources writer for Alaska professional and general-interest publications, with a specialty in energy and oil and gas
Topic: $141 billion since 1977!  Where’d all the money go?  A historical perspective of Alaska’s petroleum industry and state government

Mr. Bradner will review the history and development of Alaska’s petroleum industry from its early days until the present.  He will discuss the interconnections between the industry and the development of Alaska’s state government and economy.  He will speak to current problems and challenges facing both the state and industry as the worldwide energy industry appears to enter a period of surplus and lower prices.

Thursday, May 17, 2018, 7:00 p.m.  
Anchorage Museum Auditorium, 625 C St. (enter through 125 W. 7th Ave. entrance)

Speaker: Panelists:  TBA
Topic: ANILCA:  A discussion about how the “Alaska Lands Act” of 1980 came to be, what it contains, and how it has shaped Alaska

This concluding lecture will discuss the federal government’s role in managing public land in Alaska.  The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) signed into law in 1980, was an achievement in the environmental movement and an important domestic achievement in the environmental movement and an important domestic achievement for the Carter administration, according to some.  Others view it as federal overreach and a law that has continued to hinder Alaska’s economic development.  Whatever your perspective, few would disagree that ANILCA profoundly transformed the management of Alaska’s public lands.  The panel discussion features a diversity of analysis as we come to grips with, and better understand, this landmark legislation.

Thursday, June 21, 2018 (Summer Solstice, 7:00 p.m.)
Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery, 7th & Cordova Streets (Bagoy Gate)
24th Annual John Bagoy Memorial Cemetery Tour                                  

Hosts: Audrey and Bruce Kelly

Following annual tradition, Audrey and Bruce Kelly will select a number of gravesites prominent residents buried at the Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery for a fascinating historical review of our community in a different era.  Please enter the Cemetery at Bagoy Gate—7th and Cordova Streets.  There will be a printed souvenir brochure.

Alaska Out of the Vault: Examining the Treaty of Cession through Unexpected Objects

Date Posted: July 18, 2017       Categories: 49 History

By Anjuli Grantham

A puffin skin parka. An Alutiiq whaling lance. A can of salmon from Klawock. A mountain howitzer and artillery shell. These are not the kind of artifacts that immediately bring to mind the Treaty of Cession, like William Seward’s cape or Emanuel Leutze’s iconic painting, Purchase of Alaska, might, for example. Nonetheless, as I started researching and producing Alaska Out of the Vault, a podcast that examines Alaska in the decades around the Treaty of Cession, I was more interested in discussing what was occurring in Alaska— not in Washington, DC— and what themes and transitions were afoot rather than the big, iconic moments on which we tend to focus our attention (ahem, Alaska Day).

Photo courtesy Anjuli Grantham

While there are countless compelling objects and stories that relate truths about Alaska in the 1800s, I selected these objects based on the broad, and hopefully unexpected, stories that they communicate.

The mountain howitzer became a medium for the story of the US Army in Alaska in 1868-1870 and the transitions  that occurred both at Fort Kenay (sic), the Dena’ina village of Shk’ituk’t, and within the lives of Vladimir and Evgenia Stafeef (alternate spellings abound), an Estonian employed by the Russian-American Company and his Dena’ina wife.

When the US purchased Alaska, the nation was amidst Reconstruction. It was determined that Alaska would be managed as a military district until Congress created legislation for local civil government (which took another seventeen years, by the way). Alaska became part of the Military Division of the Pacific, and Army units were sent to Kenai, Kodiak, the Pribilofs, Wrangell, Sitka and Tongass to open posts. But Battery F didn’t make it to the old Russian trading post called Nicholas Redoubt when or how they intended. While sailing near Port Graham the Torrent hit a reef, sending the ship down and the crew, soldiers, and their families to the beach. They salvaged three of the four mountain howitzers with which they traveled before being rescued and spending the winter in Kodiak.

The next year, 1869, they made it to the trading post, which was about a mile from the Dena’ina village of Shk’ituk’t, according to anthropologist Dr. Alan Boraas. For this episode, I spoke with Dr. Boraas about Dena’ina interactions with Russian fur traders and the US Army troops. Moreover, several primary sources from Fort Kenay are shared, including one that details when the American yard was adopted as the standard unit for trade, and an evocative letter from Vladimir Stafeef, in which he recounts his indecision about paths forward in the new American Alaska. Finally, retired state archaeologist Dave McMahan recounts the 2008 recovery of materials from the Torrent shipwreck, including the mountain howitzer on exhibit at the Alaska State Museum.

The Alutiiq whaling lance with Cyrillic letters is a lens to consider a relatively unknown Alaska Native whaling tradition and to explore how Alutiiq, Yankee, and Russian whalers interacted with one another and the so-called Kodiak Grounds, which corresponds to the Gulf of Alaska, in the 19th century.

In an interview with archaeologist Patrick Saltonstall, we discuss the archaeology and history of the Alutiiq whaling tradition. In the late prehistoric period through the late 19th century, Alutiiq whalers were shamans. They used talisman, magical practices, and mummy fat mixed with monkshood and then smeared on slate lances to execute the hunt. Examples of these lances are exhibited at the Alaska State Museum, Baranov Museum, and Alutiiq Museum. With historian Ryan Jones, we learn how whales were central to the economy of Russian America and Russian-American Company control of Alutiiq labor. Whalers had to give ½ of every whale to the company, which then distributed the materials and meat to outposts and hunting camps. Jones describes how the incursion of Yankee whalers impacted Native whaling and belatedly inspired the Russian Empire to finance its own commercial whaling venture. The Russian-Finnish Whaling Company was mostly a failure, and the tense relations among American whalers, Russian officials, and Native villages did not presage the diplomacy of the Treaty of Cession. Regardless, Americans came to use Alaska’s natural resources on a large scale for perhaps the first time, as whale oil lit cities and lubricated gears in New England.

Unangan puffin skin parka, circa 1880s. Photo courtesy of Alaska State Museum.

A puffin skin parka with elaborately embroidered hems and cuffs elucidates the work of Alutiiq and Unangan women in Russian America. This parka, also exhibited at the Alaska State Museum, was collected by the surgeon of the USS Resaca, a Navy ship sent to Alaskan waters while the crew convalesced from an outbreak of yellow fever. Coincidentally, the vessel arrived in Sitka in time for the transfer ceremony, where it stayed until January of 1868. In this episode, I not only examine possible ways that an Alutiiq or Unangan garment made its way to Sitka, but what the puffin parka says about the internal economy of Russian America.

Russians were dependent on the labor and goods of the Alutiiq and Unangan to produce sea otter pelts for international markets and to feed, clothe, and pay those incorporated within the Russian American colonies. The work of women was central to this. Elderly, infirm, and adolescent men were sent to puffin rookeries to snare a company-established quota of birds. Women then prepared and sewed the skins into parkas, which were used as a form of currency by the Russian-American Company.

For this episode, I spoke with Alaska State Museum conservator Ellen Carrlee about the difficulties in attributing the origin of this parka, historian Katherine Arndt about the use of Alutiiq and Unangan labor in Russian America, and Alutiiq skin sewer Susie Malutin about the Alutiiq skin sewing tradition. The show ends in Sitka, with a triumphant news report about the US purchase, although it is quite clear that these American newcomers had little idea about the complex and tragic economic system that they were eager to supplant.

Finally, through a can of Klawack (sic) Brand salmon, we learn of the dramatic transitions within Southeast Alaska spurred by the industrialization of Alaska’s salmon industry, and how Senator Charles Sumner’s vision for Alaska’s maritime resources came true. In 1878, the North Pacific Trading and Packing Co processed the first can of salmon in Alaska in Klawock, on Prince of Wales Island. Previously, the site of the cannery was known as Hamilton’s Fishery, named after Scottish proprietor George Hamilton, who had come to Southeast Alaska in the years immediately following the US purchase and married a Haida woman.

Photo courtesy Kathy Peavey

In this episode, we hear from Fred Hamilton, the 96 year old grandson of the founder of Alaska’s first cannery. We learn about the sophisticated methods that Tlingit people employed to harvest salmon and manage salmon rivers from anthropologists Dr. Steve Langdon. Dr. Langdon’s research shows that Tlingit management of the Klawock fishery persisted for a time following its commercialization. From Dr. Dennis Demmert, we learn how life changed for the Tlingit of Prince of Wales Island when the cash economy began to pervade the area. We also hear the words of Senator Charles Sumner, who advocated for the Alaska Purchase and pointed to Alaska’s marine resources as a great boon for the nation.

Over these four episodes, then, we learn of how Alaska Natives were impacted by the Russian-American Company, how the transition to American military rule played out on the ground, and how American businesses and capitalism transformed lives and cultures. Please listen, and if you like what you hear, please share with your friends and colleagues. You can listen to the podcast at my website, www.anjuligrantham.com/alaskaoutofthevault, or find Alaska Out of the Vault wherever you listen to podcasts.

I would like to thank the Alaska Historical Commission, Alaska Office of History and Archaeology, Kodiak Public Broadcasting and the Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums for their support of this podcast, in addition to the many whom I interviewed and helped with my research.

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.”