Collectible Alaskan history books from the pages of Alaskan History Magazine. Titles are sorted more or less alphabetically.
A Summer in Alaska (Along Alaska’s Great River), F. Schwatka (1893)
Published by J W Henry, St. Louis, in 1893, ‘A Summer in Alaska, A popular account of an Alaska exploration along the great Yukon River from its source to its mouth,’ by Frederick Schwatka, is the enlarged edition of his ‘Along Alaska’s Great River, published in 1885.
The book details Schwatka’s explorations along the Yukon River, from its source in northwestern Canada to its mouth on the west coast of Alaska, the first full-length navigation of Alaska’s greatest waterway.
Both editions are available to read online or download from multiple sources.
Alaska and Its Resources, by William Henry Dall (1870)
William H. Dall was an American Naturalist and one of the earliest scientific explorers of interior Alaska, as a member of the Scientific Corps of the Alaskan Western Union Telegraph Expedition in 1865. When the U.S. acquired Alaska from Russia in 1867 it was an uncharted country, with a fauna and flora still waiting to be explored and described, and William H. Dall took on the job as a surveyor and scientist.
In Alaska and Its Resources, published in 1870, Dall relates his personal observations in territorial Alaska, describing the history, the geography, the inhabitants, and the resources. During his subsequent long and distinguished career, Dall published several hundred scientific papers, and among his more important works is Alaska and Its Resources.
Alaska Days, by Erastus Howard Scott (1923)
Published in 1923 by Scott, Foresman & Co., this slim 100-page volume is the photo-rich recounting of a journey taken by Erastus Howard Scott and his wife as they travelled from Chicago to Seattle and boarded a ship which took them across the Gulf of Alaska to Katalla, Valdez, and finally Seward.
From Seward they rode the newly-built Alaska Railroad to Fairbanks, photographing and describing everything along the way, including a memorial stop for the recently departed President Harding.
Available to read online at books.google.com
Alaska Days with John Muir, by S. Hall Young (1915)
Samuel Hall Young, a Presbyterian clergyman and missionary to the Tlingit Indians at Fort Wrangell, met John Muir when the great naturalist’s steamship docked there. This book, published in 1915, describes two journeys of discovery taken in company with Muir in 1879 and 1880. Rev. Young accompanied Muir in the exploration of Glacier Bay, and upon Muir’s return to Alaska in 1880, they traveled together and mapped the Inside Passage route to Sitka. During a mountain climb on Mount Glenora near the Stikine River, Young almost fell to his death after dislocating both his arms and was only saved when John Muir pulled him to safety with his teeth.
Alaska Nellie, by Nellie Neal Lawing (1953)
Nellie Neal came to Alaska in 1915, just as the Alaska Railroad construction project was getting under way. Over the next 20 years she managed roadhouses, the first at mile 45 (which she named Grandview) on the Kenai Peninsula, where she gained a reputation as a big game hunter and saved a mail carrier’s life during a blizzard, becoming a true heroine.
Nellie also managed roadhouses at Kern Creek and Dead Horse, north of Talkeetna. A petite but fearless frontierswoman, Nellie built a reputation as big as the state of Alaska, and at her last roadhouse, on Kenai Lake, she built a museum which became a popular tourist stop for the Alaska Railroad.
Alaska: The Great Country, by Ella Higginson (1908)
Ella Rhoads Higginson (1862-1940) was one of America’s most celebrated early 20th century writers, and the first Poet Laureate of Washington State, 1931.
Her book ‘Alaska, the Great Country,’ an annotated history of Alaska and an absorbing travelogue of Higginson’s adventures there, was published in 1908 and went through several editions. Higginson describes her trip with the less than politically correct mores and values of her time, but her keenly written observations of territorial Alaska make this a fascinating account.
Online at gutenberg.org
Alaska Trail Dogs, Elsie Noble Caldwell (1945)
Sandy, Blossom, Arctic, Hurricane, Rowdy, Lasco, and Pickpocket are real dogs from Alaska’s early years, when a good sled dog was a valuable asset and truly man’s best friend.
The author writes of prospectors, trappers, and dog drivers who were saved by the skill, courage, and uncanny judgement of their heroic sled dogs.
“Around blazing spruce fires of outpost roadhouses dog-drivers of starlit crystal trails still gather, and it is here that stories are told of the valor and sagacity of these four-footed couriers, and of the days when dogsleds were the only means of cross-country transportation.”
The Ascent of Denali (Mount McKinley), by Hudson Stuck (1918)
Hudson Stuck, an Episcopal Archdeacon, organized, financed and co-led the first expedition to successfully climb the South Peak of Mt. McKinley (Denali).
With co-leader Harry Karstens (later the first Superintendent of Mt. McKinley Nat’l Park), and four native youths, Stuck departed Nenana on March 17, 1913 and reached the summit of McKinley on June 7, 1913. Walter Harper, a native Alaskan, reached the summit first. Published in 1918 by Charles Scribner’s Sons, “The Ascent of Denali” is Stuck’s account of that pioneering expedition.
A Woman Who Went to Alaska, by May Kellogg Sullivan (1902)
“Two trips, covering a period of eighteen months and a distance of over twelve thousand miles were made practically alone. Neither home nor children claimed my attention. No good reason, I thought, stood in the way of my going to Alaska…”
With these words the plucky and determined May Kellogg Sullivan opens her book, recounting her extensive travels to Yukon and Alaskan gold camps and beyond, seeking adventure and her fortune, at a time when few women ventured anywhere alone.
Published in 1902 by James H. Earle & Co.
The Alaska Railroad 1914-1964, by Bernardine Prince (1964)
Bernadine LeMay Prince, who joined the U.S. Government-run 470-mile Alaska Railroad company in 1948, worked with seven Alaska Railroad managers. In the early 1960’s she used her almost 20+ years of experience and knowledge of the railroad to compile a remarkable two-volume photographic record of the construction and growth of the Alaska Railroad. Utilizing photos from the Alaska Engineering Commission’s photographers, among others, she traced the railroad’s history from it’s beginnings in 1914 through decades of sometimes difficult change, to the earthquake of March, 1964. Included are over 2,100 b&w photographs and line drawings.
Published by Ken Wray’s Print Shop, Anchorage, 1964.
Compilation of Narratives of Exploration in Alaska (1900)
By the Senate Committee on Military Affairs, United States Congress, 1900. An important gathering of reports by Frederick Schwatka, Ivan Petrof, W.R. Abercrombie, Henry T. Allen, and many others, comprising the records of expansion of non-natives’ knowledge of the territory. Assembled to facilitate a review of territory covered, and the possibilities of opening all American routes to the interior of Alaska.
“Henry Allen in his report of the reconnaissance of Copper River and Tanana River valleys states that the Indians drew a number of maps. The one he reproduces …. shows the route to Cook Inlet via Suchitno river.” Sixteen reports with 27 folding maps and 33 b/w plates. U.S. Gov’t. Printing Office, 1900.
Conquering the Arctic Ice, by Ejnar Mikkelsen (1909)
In October 1907 the Danish polar explorer Ejnar Mikkelsen was the co-leader, with Ernest de Koven Leffingwell, of 1906-1908 Anglo-American Polar Expedition, which established that there was no land north of Alaska.
When it was time to go home Mikkelsen set out on a formidable journey, which would take him westward along the Arctic coast from Flaxman Island to Barrow, south along the coast to Nome, then inland to Fort Gibbon, Manley Hot Springs, Fairbanks, and finally down the Fairbanks-Valdez Trail to Valdez, where he boarded a ship for home. His trip was detailed in his book, published in London in 1909 by William Heinemann.
The Cruise of the Corwin, by John Muir (1917)
Subtitled ‘Journal of the Arctic Expedition of 1881 in search of De Long and the Jeannette.’ G. W. De Long was a U.S. Naval officer who led an expedition to find a way to the North Pole via the Bering Strait.
The Jeannette was never found, but Muir’s account of his voyage through northern waters on the revenue cutter Corwin conveys the excitement of exploring little-known horizons. The great naturalist was on board as a correspondent for the San Francisco Daily Bulletin, and his account is filled with colorful details of the arctic environment and its inhabitants.
Available to read online at Bartleby: https://tinyurl.com/r3shmg5
Dog Team Doctor, The Story of Dr. Romig, by Eva G. Anderson (1940)
In 1896 Dr. Joseph H. Romig traveled to Bethel, Alaska, and opened the first doctor’s office and hospital west of Sitka, at a time when there were very few non-native people living in remote southwest Alaska.
For a time, Dr. Romig was one of the only physicians in Alaska, and he became known as the “dog team doctor” for traveling by dog sled throughout the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in the course of his work.
Four decades later a book would be written about the good doctor’s adventurous and life-saving exploits across the vast northern territory.
A Dog Puncher on the Yukon, by Arthur Treadwell Walden (1923)
Arthur Treadwell Walden was a dog driver during the Klondike and Alaskan gold rushes. He would become a respected trainer and freighter on Admiral Byrd’s 1928-29 expedition to Antarctica, but thirty years before, in northern Canada, he gained fame as a sled dog driver and freighter over the northern gold rush trails near Dawson City, Circle City, and Nome.
After returning to New England Walden began a breeding program which produced the Chinook breed, based on a dog by that name which he knew as a sled dog driver in the North.
From Paris to New York by Land, by Harry de Windt (1904)
Captain Harry Willes Darrell de Windt (1856-1933) traveled the world as a correspondent for assorted newspapers, but his most ambitious journey was an overland route from New York to Paris, via Siberia, ostensibly to survey the route for a potential railroad route from Paris to New York.
Leaving Paris in 1901 with two friends, de Windt shares details of their trip via rail, sleigh, dogsled, across the Bering Strait by revenue cutter, by steamboat up the Yukon River to Dawson City, and over the White Pass Railway, commenting at length on the people, towns, and villages along the way.
The Glaciers of Alaska, by George Davidson (1904)
The full title of this book is ‘The Glaciers of Alaska that are Shown on Russian Charts or Mentioned in Older Narratives.’ Includes glaciers in many areas of Alaska. Describes the glaciers shown by Capt. Tebemkov of the Russian Imperial Navy in his Atlas of the Northwest Shores of Alaska (1852). Davidson was a surveyor for the US Coast Survey.
In 1867 he was sent to Alaska to ascertain the advisability of adding it to the Union, and his explorations resulted in his recommendation that the U.S. purchase the territory. He would become a widely known geodesist, astronomer, geographer, surveyor and engineer.
Golden Alaska, An Up-to-Date Guide, by Ernest Ingersoll (1897)
Subtitled “a complete account to date of the Yukon Valley; its history, geography, mineral and other resources, opportunities and means of access.”
The Dial, a literary journal of the time, noted in their July 1, 1897 issue that Ingersoll’s book was “a timely publication just issued,” citing the author as “a well-known writer of books of travel,” and noting the book was “well printed and contains numerous half-tone reproductions from photographs of Alaskan scenery.”
Published in 1897 by Rand, McNalley & Co.
Old Yukon Tales-Trails-Trials, James Wickersham (1938)
Territorial judge James Wickersham describes his career as a pioneer attorney, judge, and later as a congressional representative, assigned to a district extending over 300,000 square miles. He made the first recorded attempt of Mt. Denali in 1903; the summit he attempted is now known as Wickersham’s Wall.
Once seated as a congressional delegate for the District of Alaska, beginning his term in 1909, Wickersham orchestrated changes to Alaska’s relationship with the federal government, in passage of the Second Organic Act in 1912, establishing Alaska officially as a United States territory with a legislature. Wickersham would go on to serve several more terms as Alaska’s delegate to Congress, his last term running from 1931-1933. Published by Washington Law Book Co., 1938.
Ploughman of the Moon, by Robert W. Service (1945)
Ploughman of the Moon: An Adventure into Memory is the autobioigraphy of Robert Service, famed Bard of the Yukon whose popular poetry includes The Spell of the Yukon, The Cremation of Sam McGee, The Shooting of Dan McGrew, and countless others. This warmly personal account traces the first half of his life, from his boyhood in Scotland to his emigration to Canada at the age of 21 with his Buffalo Bill outfit and dreams of becoming a cowboy, drifting around western North America from California to British Columbia, being sent to Whitehorse and later Dawson City by the Canadian Bank of Commerce, and gaining fame for his captivating way with words. The book is available to read online; search for the title at gutenberg.ca
Seward’s Icebox, by Archie W. Shiels (1933)
Archibald Williamson Shiels, born in Scotland, emigrated to the US in 1893. He became chief of staff to railroad contractor Michael Heney, supervising the construction of the White Pass & Yukon Railway, and was later involved in the construction of the Copper River and North Western Railroad. Shiels joined the Pacific American Fisheries in 1916, the largest salmon cannery in the world, and served as President of the company from 1930-1946.
Shiels collected a vast amount of informational material, from which he researched and wrote many historical manuscripts, books, and speeches. His well-researched Seward’s Icebox begins in 1867 with the transfer of Russia to the United States and continues to the date of publication.
The Story of Alaska, by Clarence Leroy Andrews (1931)
A complete history of Alaska, beginning with the Russian Voyages of Discovery in 1728, Russian fur trade, the rebellion of the Aleuts, the Russian American Co., Russian colonies, the Battle at Sitka, the Ross Colony in Northern California, the transfer of Alaska to the United States, whalers, fur trading, the coming of missions and schools, the fight for government in Alaska, the Klondike and Nome gold rushes, the founding of Fairbanks, railways, and the future of Alaska from a 1931 perspective.
Clarence Leroy Andrews was an employee of the Interior Department Bureau of Education and Reindeer Service in Alaska in the 1920s. He focused on Eskimos and their use of reindeer herds, writing several books about Eskimo life in Alaska. He was especially concerned with corporations which exploited reindeer herds, and led a campaign in the 1930s to remove Carl Momen of Seattle from control of the reindeer industry.
Published in 1931 by Lowman & Hanford Co., Caldwell, Idaho.
Through the Yukon and Alaska, Thomas Arthur Rickard (1909)
In the summer of 1908 the author, a professional geologist with impressive credentials, journeyed through the Yukon Territory and Alaska and made an excellent in-depth survey of the gold-mining activity from Juneau to Whitehorse and Dawson, down the Yukon River to Fairbanks, and then continuing down the Yukon to Ophir and Nome.
Rickard’s detailed and informative descriptions, not only of the mining activity but of the land, the people, and related developments, are enhanced by dozens of clear photographs and several maps. A rare book, but it can be read online at the Internet Archive: https://tinyurl.com/uylvpjn
Through the Yukon Gold Diggings, by Josiah Edward Spurr (1900)
In 1896 Josiah Edward Spurr led the first expedition to map and chart the interior of Alaska for the United States Geological Survey, also exploring the Yukon Territory. It was the first of two expeditions of historic importance, the second being his 1898 exploration down the length of the Kuskokwim River.
Spurr made the first scientific observations of the Mount Katmai volcano and was generally regarded as one of the world’s foremost geologists. During the gold rush era his books were considered the definitive work on Alaskan minerals. Mt. Spurr is named for him.
Tillicums of the Trail, by George C. F. Pringle (1922)
Subtitled ‘Being Klondike Yarns Told to Canadian Soldiers Overseas by a Sourdough Padre,’ this is a collection of true stories from the Klondike and nearby regions, as told to troops by the Chaplain to the 43rd Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Forces, at Avion, France, during the First World War. Pringle was a pioneer bush pilot and United Church minister and this book contains some classic northern tales, “….because in every man there is something that stirs responsive to tales of the mystic Northland, vast, white, and silent.”
Pringle’s true stories to his men included his first trip by dogteam, the legend of the Lost Patrol, the story of Skagway’s notorious “Soapy” Smith, a trip down the Yukon River by scow from Whitehorse to Dawson City, Christmas and wedding celebrations in the Klondike and more. Available to read online.