AHS Blog  |  49 History

Eyewitness Booklet Series

Date Posted: March 15, 2021       Categories: 49 History News

Chris Allan has compiled five booklets of what he calls the “Eyewitness Series.”  They are being made available on the Alaska Historical Society’s website. Chris’s intent with the first four booklets is to showcase voices of the past: “I wanted to get away from the traditional historian’s narrative form where primary sources play a secondary or tertiary role behind the historian’s voice and analysis. I like the idea of people hearing history from the eyewitnesses. In each case, I was so impressed with what was available in digitized newspapers that I wanted to share it.” His booklet about mining operations at Coal Creek and Woodchopper Creek does the same as the others but allows photographers from the 1930s to tell the story. Each booklet includes advertisements, early maps, paintings, drawings and photographs previously unpublished or never collected in the same place.

Hoping to stimulate others to undertake new investigations, Chris also prepared a guide called “The Newspaper Bonanza: How to Discover Alaska’s Past in Newspaper Databases.”

The booklets are:

Eyewitness Series #1: American Side of the Line: Eagle City’s Origins as an Alaskan Gold Rush Town as Seen in Newspapers and Letters, 1897-1899, a collection from the town’s first year during the Klondike Gold Rush.

Eyewitness Series #2: As the Old Flag Came Down: Eyewitness Accounts of the October 18, 1867 Alaska Transfer Ceremony, a collection of sources describing the ceremony at Sitka after the United States purchased Alaska from Russia.

Eyewitness Series #3: A Rough and Tumble Country: Juneau’s Origins as Alaska’s First Gold Mining Boomtown as Described by Eyewitnesses, 1880-1881, a collaboration with Mark Kirchhoff about the discovery of gold in Gastineau Channel and the evolution of what would become Alaska’s capital city.

Eyewitness Series #4: Of Gold and Gravel: A Pictorial History of Mining Operations at Coal Creek and Woodchopper Creek, 1934-1938, Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, a collection of seventy-five photographs illustrating the construction of two mining camps and two gold dredges in Alaska’s backcountry.

Eyewitness Series #5: A River’s Many Faces: Depictions of Life on the Yukon River by Charles O. Farciot and Willis E. Everette, 1882-1885, a collection of photographs and drawings offering glimpses of an Indigenous world shaped by fur trading companies and, increasingly, by outsiders searching for gold.

2021 Call for Papers

Date Posted: February 27, 2021       Categories: News

“Communities Remembered and Imagined”

Alaska Historical Society Annual Conference

October 6-9 and 13-16, 2021

Call for Papers

Kennecott Mine in 2010. Photo by Neal Herbert, courtesy National Park Service.

Alaska is full of once-thriving communities that now stand empty, or have vanished without a trace.  Some were boom towns that grew up around a gold mine or processor, but shrank when the source of wealth dried up. Others were forcibly abandoned because of natural disaster or war, or lost population to lack of government services and the draw of economic survival. At the same time, other towns have risen from the ashes of former ones, or have been rebuilt in a new location. We have also seen some fictional Alaskan towns as settings for books, movies and television.  Some of them are thinly disguised real places; others are a combination of reality and imagination.

Alaskans have always had to be flexible and creative in building our communities, relying not only on sharing a physical location, but also on more intangible connections to the people in our lives. As the pandemic has reined us in more tightly in our homes and communities, but increased our digital communications, we can appreciate a more accommodating definition of community. This year’s conference theme, Communities Remembered and Imagined, focuses on the life cycles of communities, particularly on those phases that exist only in memory or imagination.

Our 2021 conference will be completely digital and held via Zoom.  Again, we will spread the sessions over two weeks, Oct. 6-9 and Oct. 13-16.  We plan special sessions on the 50th anniversary of ANCSA, on statues and monuments in Alaska, and much more!

Please join us for the 2021 digital conference! Papers are welcome about any aspect of Alaska history. Presentations are limited to 20 minutes, and all presenters must be registered.

To submit a proposal, please send your presentation title, an abstract of no more than 100 words, and two sentences about yourself to Rachel Mason, Program Chair, rachel_mason@nps.gov.  Proposals are due May 15, 2021.

Eyes on the Past: Saving Alaska’s History

Date Posted: January 17, 2021       Categories: News

The Alaska Film Archives has kicked off the new semester by posting a throwback YouTube video in honor of the Alaska and Polar Regions Collections & Archives at Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks. The 15-minute video “Eyes on the Past: Saving Alaska’s History” celebrates UAF’s archival collections by highlighting the Alaska Steamship Company Collection, consisting of the company’s business records, publications, books and photographs.

*Eyes on the Past: Saving Alaska’s History*              Click here to view video

This 1990 program celebrates archival collections at University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). Established in 1965, the Alaska and Polar Regions Collections & Archives (APRCA) has more than tripled in size over the 30 years since this video was made. APRCA continues to welcome and serve students and researchers from UAF and from around the world. This video highlights and examines one large collection in particular: the Alaska Steamship Company Collection, consisting of the company’s business records, publications, books and photographs. The Alaska Steamship Company plied Alaskan waters for many decades. Beginning in 1895, its ships hauled gold stampeders, supplies, tourists, copper and other goods. In later years the
company’s focus shifted exclusively to shipping freight. In 1971, after 75 years in business, the company ceased operations; it was the longest-running shipping firm in history up to that point. This video program was researched, written and produced by Dan O’Neill, videotaped and edited by Tom Wolf, and narrated by Ann Secrest, with audio by Jack Johnson and Jody Paulson. Interviewees include archivist Gretchen Lake, collector and donor Jack Dillon, and Alaska historian Terrence Cole. Special thanks are given to Paul McCarthy, David Hales, Terrence Cole, Gretchen Lake, Marge Naylor, Mary Goodwin, William Schneider, Rose Speranza, and Kyle O’Neill. The video was produced by the IMPACT department of the UAF Rasmuson Library. This sequence is an excerpt from AAF-3982 from the UAF Marketing and Communications collection held by the Alaska Film Archives, a unit of the Alaska and Polar Regions Collections & Archives Department in the Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks. For more information please contact the Alaska Film Archives at (907) 474-5357 http://archives.library.uaf.edu/

*Eyes on the Past: Saving Alaska’s History*:   https://youtu.be/0QMgDEylNL0

Lecture: Sinking of the Good Ship DORA

Date Posted: January 17, 2021       Categories: News

The 100th Anniversary Lecture: Sinking of the Good Ship DORA

By J. Pennelope Goforth

Cook Inlet Historical Society, 2020-2021 Speaker Series, “Disasters”

Thursday January 21, 2021    7:00PM

Join us online for a free virtual CIHS lecture.

Advance registration is required to receive the link. Please register directly on the Anchorage Museum website:


The staunch little steamer Dora served in Alaskan waters her entire career: delivering the mail, transporting food and goods from Southeast Alaskan ports all the way to Bristol Bay and rescuing hundreds lost at sea. Sold into the cod fishery she made her last voyage to Alaska with a green crew when tragedy struck in the winter of 1920. This talk will be a celebration of her life and a commemoration of her tragic sinking one hundred years ago.

This is the third talk in the Cook Inlet Historical Society’s 2020-2021 Speaker Series, “Disasters.”

J. Pennelope Goforth has been a member of coastal historical societies for many years researching and writing about Alaska history. She has been a member of the Historic Canneries Preservation Initiative and served as editor of the Alaska Historical Society’s cannery blog, and as guest editor for the Puget Sound Historical Maritime Society’s widely-regarded journal, The Sea Chest. She curated and created an online portal for the Port of Alaska’s historic scrapbooks. She is the author of Sailing the Mail in Alaska and has a maritime research website, www.seacatexplorations.com.

Elizabeth Peratrovich Google Doodle

Date Posted: January 10, 2021       Categories: News

On December 30, 2020, Alaska’s own Elizabeth Peratrovich was the featured image in the Google logo.

According to Google:

The Doodle, illustrated by Sitka, Alaska-based guest artist Michaela Goade, celebrates Alaska Native civil rights champion Elizabeth Peratrovich, who played an instrumental role in the 1945 passage of the first anti-discrimination law in the United States. On this day in 1941, after encountering an inn door sign that read “No Natives Allowed,” Peratrovich and her husband–both of Alaska’s Indigenous Tlingit tribe–helped plant the seed for the anti-discrimination law when they wrote a letter to Alaska’s governor and gained his support.

Elizabeth Peratrovich—whose Tlingit name is Kaaxgal.aat, a member of the Lukaax̱.ádi clan of the Raven moiety—was born on July 4, 1911 in Petersburg, Alaska during a time of extensive segregation in the territory. She was lovingly raised by adoptive parents, living in various small Southeast Alaska communities throughout her childhood. With a passion for teaching, Peratrovich attended college in Bellingham, Washington where she also became reacquainted with her husband, Roy Peratrovich, who was a student at the same school. The couple married and moved to Klawock, Alaska where their role in local politics and Elizabeth’s knack for leadership drove her heavy involvement with the Alaska Native Sisterhood, one of the oldest civil rights groups in the world, leading to her eventual appointment as the organization’s Grand President.

Seeking better access to lawmakers who could help effect change, the Peratrovichs moved in 1941 with their three children to the Alaskan capital of Juneau, where they were met with blatant discrimination. When attempting to buy a home in their new city, they were denied when the sellers saw they were of Alaska Native descent. Instances like these were unfortunately common for Alaska’s Indigenous peoples and further motivated Peratrovich to take action in the name of systemic change.

Elizabeth and Roy worked with others to draft Alaska’s first anti-discrimination bill, which was introduced in 1941 and failed to pass. On February 5, 1945 following years of perseverance, a second anti-discrimination bill was brought before the Alaska Senate, and Peratrovich took to the floor to deliver an impassioned call for equal treatment for Indigenous peoples. She was met with thunderous applause throughout the gallery, and her moving testimony is widely credited as a decisive factor in the passage of the historic Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945.

In 1988 the Alaska State Legislature declared February 16 as “Elizabeth Peratrovich Day,” and in 2020 the United States Mint released a $1 gold coin inscribed with Elizabeth’s likeness in honor of her historic achievements in the fight for equality.

For more about Elizabeth Peratrovich and the illustration, see Google’s page: “Celebrating Elizabeth Peratrovich.”

Fighter in Velvet Gloves: Alaska Civil Rights Hero Elizabeth Peratrovich by Annie Boochever and Roy Peratrovich, Jr. (University of Alaska Press, 2019)

“Elizabeth Peratrovich’s Legacy is Immense. It Doesn’t Need to be Artificially Inflated.”  Editorial by Ross Coen, Anchorage Daily News newspaper, January 1, 2021.