Contentious Confirmations

As the nation settles in for hearings on the nomination to the Supreme Court of Amy Coney Barrett, it is worth looking back at previous confirmation hearings from the 20th century. Today’s televised and heavily reported confirmation hearings bear little resemblance to those from a century ago – Prior to 1929 debate on Supreme Court nominations typically happened in closed Senate sessions[1].

The newspapers we have digitized here at the Alaska Digital Newspaper Program are primarily from 1900-1963, and during that time 41 different people were nominated to be justices of the United States Supreme Court. Of those 41 nominees from 1900 to 1963 all but one was confirmed by the Senate. However, it would be a mistake to think that the 40 confirmations were all without controversy. There were several Supreme Court nominations in the early to mid-nineteenth century that provoked considerable opposition and controversy. Among the most contentious nominations were those of Hugo Black and Louis Brandeis, each for vastly different reasons, which this blog will examine in more depth.

In 1916, when presented with the second opening on the Supreme Court during his term of office, Woodrow Wilson opted to nominate a progressive lawyer from Boston, Louis D. Brandeis, known as the “People’s Attorney.”[2] Brandeis had a reputation for championing the rights of working class Americans; as one senator put it: “Brandeis, when you come down to the truth of it all, has performed a great service for what we call the ‘under dog’ in the fight.”[3]

Evening Star, 1916-01-28

Over the course of his career as an attorney, Brandeis had fought against a merger of the New York, New Haven, and Hartford railroad with the Boston and Maine railroad to prevent a monopoly. He successfully fought to limit the working hours of women, in an Oregon case that established a ten-hour workday. It was this case that established the phrase “Brandeis Brief” for his use of data and statistics that went outside of legal arguments and instead addressed sociological, economic, and even medical issues[4].  

For all of the popularity that Brandeis’ cases had won him, they also gained him a share of infamy, and the confirmation hearings for Louis Brandeis would be among the wildest and most contentious in the nation’s history up to 1916. It was also the first confirmation hearing to happen in open sessions of the Senate, something that did not become regular until the 1920s[5]. Opposition to Brandeis came from several groups, including business interests, former President William Howard Taft[6], and even the American Bar Association[7].

Cordova Daily Times, 1916-02-10

Over a hundred witnesses would be called to the stand to testify to Brandeis integrity, ethics, and judicial temperament. One witness testified that it was only “big business interests”[8] that were fighting Brandeis’ confirmation, and some newspapers supported this argument, alleging:

“[h]e is opposed for the reason that he has stood for the masses in the encroachment of privilege…That he has refused to lend his great mind and legal ability to great capitalist interests for a mere monetary legal retainer. For all these faults, if faults they are as alleged by some, he is condemned.” [9]

Valdez Daily Prospector, 1916-04-29

As the first Jewish person ever nominated to the Supreme Court, Brandeis had to contend with “a deep vein of anti-Semitism.”[10] Unlike most Supreme Court nominations of the early 20th-century, which were usually approved within one to two weeks, it was over four months from Brandeis’ nomination to his confirmation in June. Among all nominees to the Supreme Court in history, the 117 days that passed between Louis Brandeis nomination and eventual confirmation is unmatched[11]. Ultimately Brandeis would be confirmed by a vote of 47-22, and would become one of the most famous justices the Supreme Court had seen[12].

Hugo Black was appointed against the background of President Roosevelt’s New Deal program in 1937, after Roosevelt’s plan to increase the size of the Supreme Court had failed[13]. Black, a senator from Alabama who had voted for all of Roosevelt’s New Deal programs so far, was nominated to fill the vacancy of Willis Van Devanter. His status as a standing senator – at the time considered a free pass to the Supreme Court if nominated – did not make his confirmation as easy as expected[14].

Black’s personal racial animus and bigotry became focal points in the battle over his confirmation, and his personal views would be carried by major newspapers across the country. Nominated by Roosevelt on the 12th of August, opposition to Black’s appointment was initially not too serious, but several days later rumors began circulating that Black had been involved with the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and might even still be a member. Black stayed silent in the face of these rumors, and without anything substantial to back them up, Black was confirmed by the Senate on the 17th of August by a margin of 63 to 16[15].

Evening Star, 1937-09-14

Less than a month later his history with the KKK once again took center story though, when a newspaper in Pittsburgh published evidence of Black’s participation in meetings, and even that he had been awarded a “grand passport,” that provided a type of lifetime membership. While rumors of his involvement provoked calls for further investigation, the emerging evidence led to widespread condemnation and outrage. Newspapers and political cartoonists had a field day as the newly confirmed justice of the highest court was confirmed to have been involved with the KKK, leading to intense scrutiny. There was much speculation regarding Roosevelt’s prior knowledge of Black’s background – embarrassing Roosevelt in no small measure[16].

Evening Star, 1937-09-29
Nome Daily Nugget, 1937-09-17
Nome Daily Nugget, 1937-09-29

Black was on vacation in London when the news hit the stands and he was hounded by the press during his stay. Upon his return to the United States, the newly appointed justice of the Supreme Court confronted the allegations in a public radio address, admitting that he had been a member of the KKK 15 years ago. Black said he had dropped any association with the Klan and resigned his membership before becoming a senator, and he further argued that his voting record as a senator refuted any charges of racial bias[17].

Evening Star, 1937-09-22
Nome Daily Nugget, 1937-09-30
Nome Daily Nugget, 1937-10-02

Black’s speech failed to satisfy most of the nation, in part because he did not offer any remorse or apologize for his membership in the KKK. However, motions to unseat Black were unsuccessful as membership in the Klan was itself not illegal and was prior to his appointment[18]. Concerns in 1937 about looming conflict in Europe interrupted the controversy though and diverted the nation’s attention. In spite of his past, Black would go on to surprise many of his detractors over the course of his career, which lasted until 1971. His support for civil rights and protection of civil liberties helped Roosevelt to feel vindicated in his decision, despite the tumult of his confirmation[19].

Written by Christopher Russell


[1] Nominations: A Historical Overview. United States Senate.

[2] The People’s Lawyer. New York World, carried by the Iditarod Pioneer, 04-15-1916. Page two.

[3] Senator James sure Brandeis will win. Valdez Daily Prospector, 02-26-1916. Page one.

[4] The Brandeis Brief—in its entirety. University of Louisville, Louis D. Brandeis School of Law.

[5] Supreme Court Nominations, 1789 to 2018: Actions by the Senate, the Judiciary Committee, and the President. Congressional Research Service, 10-09-2020. Page six.

[6] Wills, Matthew. The Confirmation of Louis D. Brandeis. JSTOR Daily, 06-01-2016.

[7] Supreme Court Nominations, 1789 to 2018: Actions by the Senate, the Judiciary Committee, and the President.

[8] Big Interests after Brandeis. Valdez Daily Prospector, 03-04-1916. Page three.

[9] Why and by Whom is Louis D. Brandeis Opposed?. Idaho County Free Press, 03-16-1916. Page six.

[10] Nominations: A Historical Overview. United States Senate.

[11] Supreme Court Nominations, 1789 to 2018: Actions by the Senate, the Judiciary Committee, and the President. Congressional Research Service, 10-09-2020.

[12] Nominations: A Historical Overview. United States Senate.

[13] Leuchtenburg, William E. A Klansman Joins the Court: The Appointment of Hugo L. Black. The University of Chicago Law Review, Volume 41 Number 1, Fall 1973. Page one.

[14] Ibid. Page five.

[15] Ibid. Pages nine to ten.

[16] Ibid. Pages twelve to sixteen.

[17] Justice Black Belong to Ku Klux Klan 15 Years Ago: Speech Was Surprise. The Nome Daily Nugget, 10-02-1937. Page one.

[18] Leuchtenburg, William E. A Klansman Joins the Court: The Appointment of Hugo L. Black. The University of Chicago Law Review, Volume 41 Number 1, Fall 1973. Page sixteen.

[19] Ibid. Page twenty-six.

Voting Rights in Alaska

Last month, this country marked the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, which granted women across the nation the right to vote. While some states had already passed laws granting partial or total suffrage to women, this amendment applied to every state. Alaska had already passed a women’s suffrage law back in 1913, earning praise from suffragists across the nation[1]. The victory of the 19th Amendment did not mark the end of restrictions on voting rights, however, and while the 19th Amendment helped to grant women the vote, many Americans were still denied a voice in their government on account of their race. Women of color and racial minorities did not benefit from the passage of the 19th Amendment.

Alaska Natives were largely denied the vote on the basis of the Alaska Citizenship Act of 1915, which introduced a number of additional qualifications Native Alaskans had to meet to qualify as citizens. Among the provisions listed, Alaska Natives who wanted to become citizens had to give up all tribal affiliations, undergo an examination, and obtain endorsements from five white people[2]. This act was used to hinder the ability of Alaska Natives to vote or participate in government.

The Alaska Citizenship Act would be successfully challenged in 1922, after Tlingit natives “Tillie” Tamaree and Charlie Jones were both arrested – Charlie for voting and Tillie for encouraging him to vote. With Tillie’s son, William Paul Sr., acting as attorney, the charges were fought and successfully overturned in court[3]. In 1924 the federal government passed the Indian Citizenship Act, granting citizenship to all Native Americans. The state of Alaska soon passed a bill in 1925, however, that made completing an English literacy test a requirement to vote. A 2019 report by the Alaska Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights noted the “English literacy test is significant because Alaska had an official government policy that established a segregated school system and discouraged building high schools in rural villages.”[4] In effect, official state policy disenfranchised thousands of Alaska Natives and prevented them from voting.

Tillie Paul Tamaree

An Alaska Native or other racial minority voting was for many white people in Alaska a specter hanging over their heads. The editor of the Alaska Daily Empire in the 1920s wrote many articles balking at the idea of large groups of Alaska Natives voting. In 1925, the Alaska Daily Empire claimed: “we must have a white man’s party not alone for the protection of the white people of Southeastern Alaska. . . but because the welfare of the Indians demands it.”[5] Racism dressed as paternalism frequently appeared in newspapers, government policy, and public comment in Alaska, and was often filtered through the trope of Native dependency on and inferiority to white people. A resident of Sitka in 1924 fretted that without literacy tests in the upcoming elections the Native Alaskans would be in control of the local government and school board, saying that “When this happens our public school is certain to be overrun by Indian children to the very great detriment of the schools and the pupils now in attendance.”[6]

It was not until 1965, when Lyndon B. Johnson passed the Voting Rights Act, that literacy tests and other methods of voter restriction were declared illegal. A follow-up amendment in 1975 extended additional protections to “minority groups who have experienced historical discrimination and disenfranchisement due to limited English-speaking abilities,”[7] of which one of the groups selected for additional protection was Alaska Natives. Although much time has passed since the VRA was signed into law, restrictions on voting access and failure to accommodate those who speak native languages continue to be issues in Alaska. The right to vote is truly amazing, and it cannot be taken for granted. Many people in this country have worked hard– sometimes risking their lives – to be able to vote.

Reminder: The deadline to register to vote in Alaska is October 4th!

Written by Christopher Russell

[1] The Daily Alaskan, 1913-03-22

[2] Alaska State Legislature, 1915 Chapter 24

[3] Jones, Cherry Lyon. More than petticoats: Remarkable Alaska women, 2006.

[4] Alaska Advisory Committee, Alaska Native Voting Rights. June 2019

[5] Alaska Daily Empire, 1925-04-21

[6] Alaska Daily Empire, 1924-10-03

[7] Alaska Advisory Committee, Alaska Native Voting Rights. June 2019

Arctic Explorers in Alaska

When the expeditions of Frederick Cook in 1908 and Robert Peary in 1909 reached the North Pole, it might have seemed like the era of expedition to the top of the world was at an end, but in fact it was only beginning. While the world was engrossed by Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic in 1927, a series of daring flights had been taking place over the North Pole – first by Richard E. Byrd in 1926 and then later by Roald Amundsen in the Italian dirigible Norge. These efforts would culminate in the flight of Hubert Wilkins over the North Pole in 1928.

Many of these early expeditions to the North Pole faced scrutiny in their claims. GPS did not exist and and it was up to the navigational data explorers collected to verify and prove their claims. Doubts still remain about Peary’s claim to have reached the North Pole, while Cook’s has been widely discredited.

Richard E. Byrd’s claim, while initially accepted by some, had its share of doubters too, in part due to the much faster than anticipated flight time; it received a more severe hit in 1996 when it emerged that Byrd’s journal contained his estimations of the plane’s ground speed but no written calculations to show how Byrd reached those numbers. The limitations of the navigational technology Byrd was using, and the possibility that he was doing speed calculations in his head for over 15 hours that required him to make very precise readings, have convinced many that Byrd likely did not reach the North Pole.

A picture of Richard Byrd from the Alaska Daily Empire, 1926-05-10
Alaska Daily Empire 1926-05-10

The first widely accepted claim to reach the North Pole was made by the Norge, which departed from Spitsbergen, Norway and landed at Teller, Alaska – its original destination was Nome, but bad weather forced it to land early. Once it had landed in Alaska, the Norge was disassembled and ultimately transported back to Europe. The Italian, Norwegian, and American flags were dropped from the Norge as it flew over the North Pole.

A headline from the Alaska Daily Empire, 1926-05-15, about the Norge reaching Alaska
Headline of the Alaska Daily Empire, 1926-05-15
An image from the Alaska Daily Empire, 1926-05-25, showing the route the Norge took in getting to Teller, Alaska
Alaska Daily Empire, 1926-05-25

From 1926-1928 a series of expeditions were carried out by Hubert Wilkins, an Australian, who was intrigued by the possibility of undiscovered lands near the North Pole. Wilkins and his team made several trips through Juneau by ship, and then travelled from Seward to Fairbanks and ultimately to Point Barrow in the far north. Point Barrow was used by Wilkins and his pilot, Carl Ben Eielson, as the take off point for their expeditions over the North Pole. Wilkin’s endeavors didn’t immediately bear fruit, and just over a month after passing through Juneau his plane crashed in the snow while trying to take off from Fairbanks.

An image from the Daily Alaska Empire, 1928-02-14, showing a picture of Hubert Wilkins, his plane, and the route of previous flights across the North Pole
Daily Alaska Empire 1928-02-14

Through 1926 and 1927 Wilkins undertook a number of different flights, with his efforts and progress constantly reported by the press in Juneau. It was in April of 1928 that he made a complete flight over the North Pole, starting in Port Barrow, Alaska and ending in Spitsbergen, Norway just over 20 hours later. The news of his successful arrival was delayed by several days due to a lack of wireless radio access at Spitsbergen, but when word of his achievement reached the outside world it was trumpeted in the headlines. The first of several awards for Wilkins came just several days later from the National Geographic Society and the accolades culminated in a knighthood for him.  

A headline from the Daily Alaska Empire, 1928-04-21, saying that Wilkins and his pilot, Ben Eielson had completed their flight to Spitzbergen
Daily Alaska Empire 1928-04-21
An image from the Daily Alaska Empire, 1928-04-21, showing the routes of the various flights over the North Pole.
Daily Alaska Empire 1928-04-21

Not content to rest on their achievements, Byrd and Wilkins both began to make plans for aerial flights over the South Pole and Antarctic region, as their focus shifted away from the North Pole. For a brief period of time, however, Alaska was the hub of many an explorer, all seeking to make their mark on history.

By Christopher Russell

Sources Used:

Issues of the Alaska Daily Empire and Daily Alaska Empire Newspapers

Captain George Hubert Wilkins. Australian War Memorial.

Sir George Hubert Wilkins. Encyclopædia Britannica.

Tierney, John. Who Was First at the North Pole? New York Times, September 7th, 2009.

Ohio State University. “Byrd came oh-so-close, but probably didn’t reach North Pole.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 April 2013.

PTSD in World War One

World War One was the first war that fully made use of the developments and creations of the Industrial Age. Trench warfare, mass artillery barrages, and hopeless charges against fortified positions all contributed to a catastrophic death toll. When many soldiers in the war began demonstrating symptoms of panic, problems sleeping, and trouble talking or even walking, people were quick to put the blame on these newly developed and terrifying instruments of war. Charles Myers, an English physician who coined the term ‘shell shock’, hypothesized that these problems were due to the physical trauma of exploding shells and their blast waves.

An article from the Alaska Daily Empire, 1922-06-01, covers the results of the English War Office Committee’s findings on shell shock.

As more people began showing symptoms, including those who had never been close to a shell or even heard one, theories began to shift and both a physical and psychological form of shell shock were adopted by physicians. In the days before PTSD was a diagnosis, or much was known about the psychological effects of combat, cases of shell shock were viewed with scorn by many. In 1922 the English War Office Committee released the findings of its inquiry into shell shock, noting that “fear is the chief factor in both cowardice and emotional ‘shell shock’.” Treatments for shell shock at the time varied and ranged from the bizarre to the downright brutal. Treatments like introducing parrots into hospital wards, painting the rooms bright colors, and organizing singing lessons were mixed in with severe electroshock therapy.   

An article from the Alaska Daily Empire, 1922-09-09, talks about the high suicide rate among veterans and the struggles many have in adapting back to civilian life.

June is PTSD Awareness month, and although psychological trauma would not receive that diagnosis for many decades, and not a few wars to come, it is important to recognize that World War One and shell shock helped bring this issue to people’s attention. The biggest improvement has been recognizing that this trauma is not the result of cowardice or character flaws from those suffering from it. High suicide rates of World War One veterans in the United States attest to the damage that this belief caused. The shell shock of the first World War would morph into War Neurosis, then Battle Fatigue, Combat Stress Reaction, and eventually Post-Vietnam Syndrome. Finally, in 1980 the American Psychological Association added PTSD to its manual of “Mental Disorders.”

Written by Christopher Russell

Sources Used:

Report of the War Office Committee of Enquiry into “Shell-Shock.” Army Medical Services Museum, Keogh Barracks. License: CC-BY-NC accessed through Wellcome Library

Bluhm, Robyn and Brandt, Marisa, and McDonald, MaryCatherine. From shell-shock to PTSD, a century of invisible war trauma. PBS NewsHour, Nov 11, 2018.

Friedman, Matthew J. MD PhD. History of PTSD in Veterans: Civil War to DSM-5. U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

Alexander, Caroline. The Shock of War. Smithsonian Magazine, September 2010.

Newspaper articles from the Cordova Daily Times, and the Alaska Daily Empire.

Different Outbreaks but Familiar Threats for Alaskan Natives

Article from The Cordova Daily Times, 01/18/1918

IN 1912 the Assistant Surgeon General of Alaska, R.A. Kearney, wrote that “Unless some ways are used to check tuberculosis among the native Indians of Alaska the race will become extinct there in sixty or seventy years.” In 1918 the threat from Tuberculosis was still critical, indicated by a front page article in The Cordova Daily Times warning of the potential extinction of Alaskan natives from the disease. Tuberculosis did not cause the end of Alaskan Natives, but it did take a heavy toll on their communities, and it is not the only outbreak that has done so over the years. Just one year later, in 1919, a recent arrival to Anchorage told of his experiences as part of a prospecting trip, where he witnessed Alaskan Native camps devastated by influenza. He described finding unburied bodies at some camps, and other camps where the dead outnumbered the living and survivors who were barely alive themselves.

Article from The Alaska Daily Empire, 07/14/1919

Medical missions to Southwestern Alaska and the Aleutian Islands in the summer of 1919 were able to help some communities, but often found themselves arriving too late, when burying the dead, rather than administering medical aid became their objective. Of the 1,113 official deaths from the Spanish Flu recorded by the state of Alaska, 81.7% were Alaska natives, although they accounted for only 48% of the population. Many people suspect  the actual number of deaths is far higher, with some estimates from historians as high as 3,000.

Article from The Alaska Daily Empire, 03/18/1920

Today native communities in Alaska face a new disease but a familiar threat, this time from Coronavirus. Smaller rural and native communities in Alaska endure a lack of running water or sanitation services, making compliance with CDC recommendations virtually impossible. Alaska has so far avoided the high Coronavirus case counts that have plagued other states, but data from the lower 48 states indicates that Native American communities are once again bearing the brunt of an outbreak. New York, the U.S. state with the highest infection rate per capita, still has a lower rate than five different tribal nations (although it must be noted the populations suffering the highest rates are also minorities as well).  In Arizona, native Americans make up 18% of the deaths from Coronavirus, despite comprising just over 5% of the state’s population. The struggles that rural communities and tribal nations have had in gaining access to healthcare, running water, or sanitation supplies underlie the risks facing Native Americans and Alaska Natives from the novel Coronavirus.

Written by Christopher Russell, with edits from Anastasia Tarmann


“1918 Pandemic Influenza Mortality in Alaska,” State of Alaska Division of Public Health,

“QuickFacts: Arizona,” United States Census Bureau,

Arizona Department of Health Services,

Smith, Timothy M., “Why COVID-19 is decimating some Native American Communities,” American Medical Association.

“Coronavirus in Indian Country: Latest Case Counts,” UCLA American Indians Study Center,

Phillips, JoJo, “Profile: ‘Unserviced’ Communities Part 1 – Why Five Bering Strait Villages Don’t Have Basic Sanitation,” KNOM Radio Mission, April 29th, 2020. 

Working Class Advocacy of the 1910s: The Socialist Press Newspaper

The Socialist Press is a weekly newspaper that was published out of Fairbanks in the 1910s. Its earliest issue is dated June 20th, 19142, and the paper’s editor was George Hinton Henry, formerly of the Yukon Press (Tanana). Mr. Henry was bold in his editorial assertions, which evidently caused quite the stir among the Fairbanks community–including among those of Socialist affiliation–for his unabashed critique of individuals, regardless of standing in society; however, Henry was not without support, from the judges who dismissed some of the libel cases brought up against him, to fellow newspaper editors like Frederick Heilig of the Fairbanks Times who occasionally published editorials in his defense1.

Years after publication ceased, Henry’s printing press was shipped to the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, from where it was eventually put on loan to the Circle District Museum, given its historical significance as the first printing press in Interior Alaska—said to date from 1893 by import of the Episcopal Church1.

Annotation 2020-02-10 085711

The first printing press of Interior Alaska1

Although the Socialist Press is selected for digitization by the Alaska National Digital Newspaper Project, all known surviving microfilms of the newspaper are currently of 3rd generation quality, and paper copies are lacking as well. This considered, any private collectors who may have preserved paper copies at home or elsewhere, please contact the Alaska State Library Historical Collections, (907) 465-2925, where we will very graciously accept donations of material, to be digitized and returned promptly to the donor. History will be indebted to your generosity!



Atwood, Evangeline, and Lew M. Williams. Bent Pins to Chains: Alaska and Its Newspapers. (Philadelphia: Xlibris, 2006), 36, 140.

Nicolson, Mary C., and Mary Anne Slemmons. Alaska Newspapers on Microfilm, 1866-1998. (Fairbanks: University of Alaska, 1998), 81.

23 Years of Kodiak News History going Digital this Year

The two-year grant provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2018 is still paving the way for more digitization of Alaskan newspapers. Patrons may now expect to see, among the newspaper titles going live on the Library of Congress website later this year, a span of 23 years of the Kodiak Mirror—from 1940 to 1963.

The name Kodiak comes from the Innuit word kikhtak, meaning island. Home of the Kodiak bear, where that species has thrived for 12,000 years, it is Alaska’s earliest Russian-American settlement, where in 1784 Grigory Shelikhov arrived with his fleet to establish a trading post.

At the time of the Mirror‘s first publication on June 15, 1940, its originator Gene Dawson was rallying for the incorporation of Kodiak as a first-class city. In a matter of weeks Dawson’s call would be answeredthe courts approved incorporation on July 1, 1940. The following year, Dawson sold his printing rights to Bill and Lillian Lamme; and the paper would change hands more than a half-dozen times in the subsequent decades of its publication, before assuming its current title of the Kodiak Daily Mirror on January 27, 1976.

Follow our Instagram account to read sample articles as they are being made available in digital format for the first time.

A front-page article from the January 30, 1953 printing of the Kodiak Mirror


Atwood, Evangeline, and Lew M. Williams. Bent Pins to Chains: Alaska and Its Newspapers. (Philadelphia: Xlibris, 2006), 483.

Nicolson, Mary C., and Mary Anne Slemmons. Alaska Newspapers on Microfilm, 1866-1998. (Fairbanks: University of Alaska, 1998), 128.

Derek Stonorov, “Living in Harmony with Bears,” National Audubon Society,

Historic Anchorage Newspapers to be Digitized

The following is a brief overview of early Anchorage-based newspaper titles, to be digitized in the current season of the Alaska National Digital Newspaper Project. A more complete summary of this history will be transmitted for inclusion in the Chronicling America newspaper directory in 2020.

According to early reports, a New Zealand native by the name of Bernie Stone, who had previously edited the Nome Nugget and was at the time responsible for the publication of the Seward Gateway, hired reporter L. F. Shaw along with journalist Ted Needham to found Anchorage’s first paper, the Cook Inlet Pioneer and Knik News, which would eventually become the Anchorage Daily Times and Cook Inlet Pioneer.

Needham and Shaw spearheaded a federal petition to request support for Anchorage’s founding, at a site named Ship Creek, where two thousand settlers had been pitching their tents and constructing temporary housing units along the banks of the creek since May of 1915. President Woodrow Wilson responded to Needham’s and Shaw’s request, assigning Tacoma newspaperman Franklin K. Lane to the role of Secretary of the Interior and directing Lane to build the railroad that would eventually grow the creek-side site into the boomtown of Anchorage, in coordination with engineering manpower from Col. Frederick Mears – at the time a young lieutenant – along with the Alaska Engineering Commission (AEC).

Early Anchorage papers such as the Cook Inlet Pioneer and Knik News (1915-1916) sold for ten cents a copy.

Pictured here is an article from one of Anchorage’s first weekly papers, the Anchorage Weekly Times, dated September 12, 1917.



Atwood, Evangeline, and Lew M. Williams. Bent Pins to Chains: Alaska and Its Newspapers. (Philadelphia: Xlibris, 2006), 68, 247, 313.

Nicolson, Mary C., and Mary Anne Slemmons. Alaska Newspapers on Microfilm, 1866-1998. (Fairbanks: University of Alaska, 1998), 23.

Bruce Parham, “Mears, Frederick,” Cook Inlet Historical Society, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940,

Aviatrices in Alaska!

Marvel Crosson, although perhaps Alaska’s most famous, was not the only female pilot to get her license or fly in Alaska in the early years of aviation history. In fact, women pilots in Alaska were more plentiful than history books let on. Those exposed to aviation were longing to fly, and women especially were inspired by Amelia Earhart’s 1932 solo transatlantic flight from Newfoundland to Ireland, and her speeches and articles, such as, “Should You Let Your Daughter Fly?” (2005. Fratzke, Jenifer. Alaska’s Women Pilots). Mary Worthylake, an Anchorage pilot, and Irene Irvine-Ryan were such pilots in Alaska in 1932 (1991. Bruder, Gerry. Heroes of the Horizon).

MarvelCrossonWithBrotherJoeIn1927Marvel Crosson with her brother Joe in 1927. She died in Arizona in 1929 in a race.


Identities of other women pilots are a mystery.


WomanPilotsBeforeAirRaceWoman pilots before air race.


For example, who was Mrs. E. Silkwood, purported to be the first woman pilot licensed in Alaska?


ChiefKetchGarkhEscortsAPartyOutToTakuGlacierThe Alaska Daily Empire, June 10, 1918.


Alaskan Historic News Titles Arriving Soon

This month the Alaska National Digital Newspaper Project will be digitizing microfilm newsreels from multiple early 20th century Ketchikan news sources. In addition, the early and middle years of the 20th century Nome Daily Nugget will be brought to text-searchable format for the first time, as well.

Among the recurring themes represented in the first two decades of the 20th century of the Nome and Ketchikan titles being digitized this month are local news stories, including ones reporting on social developments in and around Alaskan towns; the Alaskan trade, mining, and fishing industries; ongoing chronicles of developing geopolitical relations between European, Russian, Middle Eastern, and East Asian nations; the events set in motion by, and pertaining to, U.S. presidents; and more.

The pages go live on the Chronicling America website early next year, but in the meantime come visit our reading room at the Alaska State Library, Archives, and Museum, and browse the microfilm and print collections. Continue to look for updates to our blog and Instagram pages, as well, featuring digital snippets from each month’s additions, like the one pictured below.


An April 28, 1937 front page article from the Nome Daily Nugget (Nome, Alaska)


Tales of Search and Rescue from Ketchikan

The Ketchikan Daily News (1947–Present), not to be confused with the Ketchikan Daily News (1922–1923), is a Ketchikan-based publication and continuation of the earlier Ketchikan-based Alaska Fishing News (1934–1945) and the Ketchikan Daily Alaska Fishing News (1945–1947). Note that the Alaska Fishing News (1934–1945) of Ketchikan is distinct from the similarly-titled Alaska Fisherman (1923-1932), the latter title being launched from Juneau in February of its first year of publication before relocating to Ketchikan in May of the same year.

With that explanation, this week’s AKDNP blog entry takes a closer look at one microfilm reel of the Ketchikan Daily News (1947–Present), selected from the year 1962. It is important to keep in mind that while newspapers published by 1923 are part of the public domain, as a general rule, those titles published between 1924 and 1963, and from 1964 to 1977, fall under a special category that merits further research to determine the copyright status.

According to the Library of Congress, more recent registrations or renewals of a pre-1924 copyright term create a special protection for a newspaper. When in doubt, consult the U.S. Copyright Office website records; however, be aware that the information posted on this blog is not comprehensive, nor does it constitute official legal advice—for professional counsel, confer with an attorney at law. With that said, the following table provides some basic guidelines from which to pursue an investigation into the public domain status of a newspaper:


A general understanding of copyright law is now achieved. However, before we proceed to the specific reel under examination today from the Ketchikan Daily News, it is worth noting that several Ketchikan papers are coming to online format later this season as part of the Alaska Digital Newspaper Project, including the Alaska Fisherman (1923-1932) and the Ketchikan Miner (1907-1915); however, this is a rare early opportunity to read excerpts from the Ketchikan Daily News in online format, as the newspaper has not been officially selected for digitization yet. The following is a sampling of articles from the first two months of the September–December 1962 Ketchikan Daily News reel.

An initial browse of the first few title headings reveals a significant pattern—of numerous search and rescue stories—which became the central theme for today’s reel-wide browse. In the first half of the reel, 48 articles with a search and rescue theme were uncovered. Of these 48 articles, 8 stories were deemed especially relevant; among these eight, a few were chosen as the finalists.

Note that what began as the search and rescue, or first response, focus, evolved over the course of the research, as the vast gray area of the classification became more apparent. For example, Scouts (of the Boy Scouts of America) are not infrequently portrayed in the news in a search and rescue capacity, thus an article on Scout training was not excluded from the designated search and rescue theme. Similar logic was applied in selecting the remaining stories you will find here, pulled from a host of first-responder tales of all kind. With that stated, on to the stories.

While it’s not improbable to find a downed flight rescue story in the Ketchikan Daily News of this early-1960s era, more rare yet is the mention of a downed flight transforming into a significant archaeological discovery. While this event did not occur in Alaska, nor was the story’s author a Ketchikan reporter, the event did occur in the related landscape and climate of the Arctic, to be republished in Ketchikan on September 15, 1962:


The next interesting find from the Ketchikan ’62 newsreel tells the origin story of the University of Alaska’s Southeast branch, published on October 19:


Third in the running of today’s features is one from the Scouts, mentioned earlier, which was originally published in the Ketchikan Daily News on September 10, 1962:


For these hidden treasures and more, look for the upcoming Ketchikan Mining News (1907), Ketchikan Miner (1907-1915), and the Daily Progressive Miner (1915-1919) on the Chronicling America website in text-searchable format, later this season. Also, visit the Alaska State Library today, where you can access dozens of historic newspaper titles on microfilm.

(Note: corrections have been made since an earlier publication of this blog entry, whereby an explanation of copyright law is now provided, with correct date ranges, along with an accurate list of Ketchikan titles to be digitized this season.)

Newspaper Project Director to Visit Kodiak This Week

National Digital Newspaper Project (NDNP) program director Anastasia Tarmann will be visiting Kodiak this week to give a presentation on the upcoming season of the NDNP project. Included among the 30 Alaskan newspaper titles to be digitized this year are two titles from Kodiak, the Kodiak Mirror and the Orphanage News Letter.

The Kodiak Mirror is a newspaper that began its publication in 1940, merging with Seward’s Mailboat Monitor in the mid-1950s before undergoing a name change in 1976, since when it has been published under the title Kodiak Daily Mirror. The Orphanage News Letter, also based in Kodiak, is a monthly newsletter published by the Kodiak Baptist Orphanage from 1899 to 1907. Anastasia will be speaking on the two papers and their significance as part of the Chronicling America project later this week.

In support of Anastasia’s visit, research has been conducted using the microfilm collection available to the public from the Alaska State Library physical collections. The following are highlights from research conducted using the Kodiak Mirror microfilm reel dated April 16, 1949 to June 10, 1950.

News articles from the Kodiak Mirror dated March 1950 through May 1950 offer a timeline of the process by which Alaska achieved statehood nearly a decade later. One March 4, 1950 report describes the successful passage of the statehood bill through the House of Representatives, on its way to the U.S. Senate for further review:HouseStatehoodBill1_March41950.jpgHouseStatehoodBill2_March41950.jpg































The next month, on April 11, 1950, Kodiak Mayor Lee C. Bettinger issued a statement calling for local support of the Senate hearings to pass the statehood bill:


A week later, on April 18, 1950, the Mirror published an announcement from the Associated Press foreshadowing the approaching Senate hearings in Washington:


A few days later, on April 22, 1950, students in Kodiak formed a debate group to discuss the essential issues involving the statehood question:



The final statehood development to be found in the April 16, 1949 to June 10, 1950 reel, in a May 27, 1950 article, goes on to describe the Senate statehood hearings from the perspective of Kodiak visitors in attendance at the Washington sessions:



Viewing the news articles by microfilm illustrates both the value of newspapers as primary source documents as well as the unique importance of text-searchability made possible by digitization. Patrons may appreciate the serendipity inherent in microfilm viewing compared with online text searching, as well; each has its upside.

As the NDNP project is advancing, a significant number of Alaska newspapers remain accessible by microfilm only, continually present in the Alaska State Library collections. These holdings are catalogued on the Alaska State Library website for the perusal of visiting library patrons.

By August 2020, the Alaska State Library will have contributed at least 210,000 pages of Alaskan historical newspapers from across the state, ranging from 1898 to 1963. Visit Chronicling America to access these pages and more from the online repository.