Frank George Carpenter (1855-1924) was a traveler, photographer, journalist, and lecturer whose writings helped popularize world geography and cultural anthropology. First working as a journalist for the Cleveland Leader, he became a correspondent for the American Press Association in 1884. By 1878 his writings were being widely syndicated in newspapers and magazines, and in 1888 he and his wife embarked on a trip around the world, describing life in the countries they journeyed through.
The Carpenters traveled 25,000 miles in South America in 1898, and from the mid-1890s until he died, Frank Carpenter traveled around the world almost continuously, authoring nearly 40 books and hundreds of magazine articles about his extensive travels. Carpenter wrote standard geography textbooks and lectured on geography, and he wrote a series of books called Carpenter’s World Travelswhich were very popular between 1915 and 1930. Carpenter’s real estate holdings in Washington made him a millionaire, and he was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, the National Press Club, and numerous scientific societies.In 1893 The San Francisco Morning Call wrote “He stands at the head of the syndicate correspondents of the United States. What he writes is read every Sunday in twenty of the biggest cities of the Union, and his newspaper constituency must at the lowest amount to a million readers every week.”
With his daughter Frances (1890-1972), Frank Carpenter photographed Alaska and collected the images of other Alaskan photographers between 1910 and 1924, and Carpenter’s works helped popularize cultural anthropology and geography in the early years of the twentieth century. A collection of over 5,000 images were donated to the Library of Congress by Frances at her death in 1972. The Frank G. Carpenter Collection at the Library of Congress totals approximately 16,800 photographs and about 7,000 negatives.
The Library includes this notation about the prints: “Within the albums, English captions accompany most images, but dates are not consistently indicated. The Carpenters may have taken many of the images, especially those made 1910-1924, but the albums also include images that they collected, and the origin of such images is not always noted.”
An excerpt from Carpenter’s 1923 book, Alaska, Our Northern Wonderland:
“The biggest thing in Alaska is the government railroad. By that I do not mean so much its five hundred miles of tracks, its cars and equipment, or the number of tons and passengers it will haul, but what it stands for in the future of the territory. It means the building of feeder wagon and motor roads and the construction of other railroads. It means cheaper coal, lower freight rates, lower living and mining costs. It means more lands and resources flung open to the settler and the prospector. It means a new era of development and prosperity for Alaskans. “
Carpenter died of sickness in 1924 while in Nanking, China, on his third trip around the world, at age 69. The Boston Globe obituary observed he “always wrote fascinatingly, always in a language the common man and woman could understand, always of subjects even children are interested in.”
This article is excerpted and edited from:
Alaska & the Klondike, Early Writings and Historic Photographs, by Helen Hegener, published May, 2018, by Northern Light Media. An engaging journey through the literary history of Alaska and the Klondike, and an introduction to some of the most compelling books ever written about the North. $24.95 (plus shipping), 320 pages, over 100 b/w photos, ISBN-13: 978-1717401991. Click here to order.