On New Year’s Day, January 1, 1911, 62 years before the inaugural run of today’s race, the First Annual Iditarod Sweepstakes Race was held over a 20-mile course which started in front of the Miners and Merchants Bank in the town of Iditarod. The route passed the Summit Roadhouse, through Flat City, back to the Summit Roadhouse and ended at the starting point in Iditarod. The temperature was reportedly near zero, but high winds created blizzard-like conditions along parts of the trail.
Five teams entered; Claude Shea won with his five-dog team in a time of 2 hours, 28 minutes, and 54 seconds, for a first prize of $350. Dan Campbell drove a team for the Northern Commercial Company and placed second with a time of 2 hours, 58 minutes and 29 seconds, winning $100. Third place went to Slim McRae, driving a team for the Northern Saloon and showing a time of 3 hours, 12 minutes, and 19 seconds. Fourth and fifth place teams, out of the money, were Sam Adams and Tom McMahon.
Sled dog races were popular winter entertainment all across the territory at the time, and many such events were held in towns along the Iditarod Trail. In January, 1916, the first sled dog race was held in Anchorage, under the auspices of the Anchorage Kennel Club. The 54-mile route started in front of the Crest Hotel on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage, and the teams ran to Old Knik, which was near present-day Eklutna at the head of Knik Arm, and back to Anchorage. The winning team of five dogs, driven by Frank Dixon, made the trip in 7 hours and 52 minutes. The second place team, seven dogs driven by Walter Howard of Knik, was seven minutes behind him.
The First Iditarod, The 1973 Race from Anchorage to Nome, by Helen Hegener, a revised edition of the 2015 book, published by Northern Light Media. 199 pages. Format 6″ x 9,″ b/w illustrations, bibliography, resources, indexed. $24.00 plus $5.00 shipping and handling. Foreign orders please use Amazon. Click here to order from the author via PayPal.
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