Groundhog Day

February 2 marks Groundhog Day. While a relatively small population of groundhogs or woodchucks live in the Interior of Alaska, their relative the marmot is a more common resident. Alaska marmots (Marmota broweri), hoary marmots (Marmota caligata), and woodchucks/groundhogs (Marmota monax) all belong to the squirrel family. Alaska sees its fair share of hoary marmots like the one below, and are the largest members of the squirrel family (Sciuridae) in North America.

Photograph of hoary marmot on a rock surrounded by other rocks.

Image taken by author.

Map of Alaska with the population of Hoary Marmots superimposed over the Southeast, Interior, and South Central regions of the state.

Image credit: Alaska Department of Fish and Game: https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=hoarymarmot.rangemap

While its more famous cousins hog the limelight on February 2nd, marmots appear in Alaska’s historical newspapers, more often than not for their fur coats.

There is one, for instance, an outfit made of a white homespun woolen material with the roughest sort of surface. Then the trimming is done with bands of marmot fur, making a delicious contrast and a most effective spotting of decoration. Image: illustration of a woman wearing a hat and a skirt and a coat trimmed with marmot fur with a walking stick. Caption: White Suit of Homespun, Marmot Trimming on Collar and Cuffs.

Image credit: The Cordova daily times. (Cordova, Alaska), 31 Aug. 1922. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072239/1922-08-31/ed-1/seq-3/>

Men's Fur Lined Coats: Lined with dark muskrat, with extra fine quality imported broadcloth shell and large marmot mink collar. Worth nearly double the price. On sale now at...$65.00

Image credit: The Alaska citizen. (Fairbanks, Alaska), 04 Dec. 1911. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn96060002/1911-12-04/ed-1/seq-8/>

It is unfortunate that the marmot receives such scant attention, especially given its prominence in Alaska. But for those interested in the happenings of large ground rodents, Groundhog Day is a bonanza. Whether or not you believe in the superstition, there is no shortage of news items that cover the groundhog’s winter weather prognostications. A small sample is included below:

"Old Man" Groundhog Billed to Peer Around Tomorrow: Tomorrow is the day that Mr. Groundhog is billed to make his annual debut on the hills back of Juneau to cast his weather eye about and decide whether or not there is to be a late or early spring. If he sees his shadow on that day it is said that he crawls back into his hole in the ground and stays there for six weeks. If he sees no shadow he sticks around as an indication that the weather is soon to break and spring will be early. With the brand of weather that is on tap right now and has been on tap for several days it is predicted that there will be no shadows for Mr. Groundhog to shy at tomorrow. Some one was mean enough to remark that it was an awful lucky thing than old man Groundhog did not attempt to amble about any yesterday while the high wind was blowing or he might have been blown back into his hole with a broken leg, head, or back.

Image credit: The Alaska daily empire. (Juneau, Alaska), 01 Feb. 1921. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020657/1921-02-01/ed-1/seq-8/>

Sunshine Much Feared: Douglas, Feb. 1.--There is one day of each year when sunshine is not welcomed in any part of the country and tomorrow is that day. Tomorrow is "Groundhog" day, the day when, regardless of wind or weather, the little animal ventures to emerge from his den in the ground or under rocks to size up conditions. After hibernating several weeks, the groundhog is naturally timid and is easily frightened. There fore, if it sees its own shadow when it comes forth into the light, it becomes frustrated and naturally hikes back under the ground where it remains another six weeks, during which period Old Bory holds high carnival, Taku winds howl and winter lingers. However, in the event there is no sun to create a shadow, the groundhog soon acquires confidence and remains out in the open, in which event winter sneaks away into the offing, spring advances and all nature stands on her head and dangles her heels in the air in glee. All good people--people imbued with the spirit that seeks to advance the public welfare-- will hope, and even pray, that the sun may not shine tomorrow, but that clouds, dark, thick, and dense, may hover over this section of Alaska just like they do on picnic days in summer. The sun is shining brightly here today which fast is causing considerable uneasiness.

Image credit: The Alaska daily empire. (Juneau, Alaska), 01 Feb. 1918. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020657/1918-02-01/ed-1/seq-7/>

Groundhog Backs Up. The official groundhog came forth this morning, took a slant at the sun and slid back into his hole with his nose nipped. He is due to reappear in six weeks, which will be March 15. According to the statute in such case made and provided in the cornfed Middle West winter should end on that date, but the latitude and climate of Alaska are too stiff even for a groundhog, and when he comes out then he is likely to give the weather the once-over and retire for another six weeks. An Alaska groundhog ought to be given two guesses at spring.

Image credit: Valdez daily prospector. (Valdez, Alaska), 02 Feb. 1917. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn98060264/1917-02-02/ed-1/seq-2/>

Bad Day for the Old Ground-Hog: If the alleged faith of the groundhog in the tradition of his kind is based on fact, we are in for some bad weather before the sun gets back on our side of the equator. Today is "Ground-hog Day," and if the ground hog came out he saw his shadow, for the sun was shining brightly hereabouts this morning. The New England tradition is that the ground-hog comes out of his hole on the second day of February and if he sees his shadow he hastens back to cover to remain for six weeks.

Image caption: The Alaska daily empire. (Juneau, Alaska), 02 Feb. 1915. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020657/1915-02-02/ed-1/seq-1/>

Groundhog Day Was Phenomenal: it must have been a reluctant retreat made by the cautious old groundhog yesterday morning, after stepping out of doors and observing his dark shadow cast across show as bright and soft as if warmed by an April instead of an early-February sun. According to tradition, the ground hog went back into his hole to remain six weeks longer, and thereby escape the storms portended by the present fair weather. There are some people hereabout who profess to believe the groundhog has played a joke on himself this time. The winter having been fine beyond all precedent so far, they contend that it is rather more logical to conclude that it will continue so than it will vent its full fury in its closing days. However that may be, the groundhog was greeted by a radiant day.

Image credit: Iditarod pioneer. (Iditarod, Alaska), 03 Feb. 1912. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn95060032/1912-02-03/ed-1/seq-4/>

Whether the proverbial groundhog sees his shadow or not, it’s important to keep warm these next few weeks. And keep an eye out for the humble marmot!

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The Frozen North: Winter Weather in Alaska

The Cold Weather is Coming

Image credit: Advertisement for the Fairbanks Clothing Company from the November 10, 1919 issue of the Weekly Alaska Citizen.

Alaska is known for its cold weather winters- infamous, even! While southeast Alaska endures cold, rainy winters, the Interior generally drops temperatures into the minus Fahrenheit range. Additionally, due to its northern longitude, wintertime in Alaska means very little daylight. Sunlight hours can range anywhere between 7-4 per day in the winter months, and in Utqiavik (formerly Barrow) above the Arctic Circle, daylight is not seen from November 18 to January 22.

Historical newspapers are a valuable source of information regarding winter weather and severity of snow storms. Below are but a small sample that chronicle how Alaska citizens dealt with blizzards and freezing temperatures from all across the state:

Buried By Snow Slide: Ralph Pulver Loses His Life; Yanks Are Guiltless of Crime; Alaska is Discussed; Anchorage Man Victim

Image credit: From the February 1, 1919 issue of the Seward Gateway Daily Edition and the Alaska Weekly Post.

Taku Wind is on a Rampage: Alaska Juneau Fence Blown Down-- Waterfront Closely Watched. Chechakos have had full benefits of initiation in the mysteries of the famous Taku wind, through yesterday and today. Hats appeared to suffer the most of anything, but aside from such annoyance is the serious havoc caused along the waterfront. While no serious damage has been done the small boats, close watch is being kept by the owners. It is said the Alaska-Juneau breakwater is a great aid during the stormy weather. All boats are remaining in port and will wait until the Taku calms before starting out. A part of the fence surrounding the Alaska-Juneau dock was blown down yesterday by the strength of the wind. Old-timers say that when the signs from buildings begin to fly through the air and pedestrians crawl along the streets the Taku wind will be on a real tear. Woof! B-r-r-r-r! Cold Wave Is Predicted for Here: The lowest temperature in the last two years is likely to be experienced in Juneau tomorrow morning, according to the Weather Bureau's forecast of today. Meteorologist Summers predicts that the mercury will drop to about 5 degrees by morning, and advises those who have exposed plumbing to take care of it tonight. At 2 p.m. today the thermometer stood at 15 above zero, which was a drop of 7 degrees since 8 o'clock this morning. Winds of gale force are likely to continue during the next 24 hours, according to the forecast. These are due, Mr. Summers says, to the great difference in pressure over Alaska today. At Tanana, in the Middle Yukon Valley, the barometer at 8 a.m. read 30.92 inches, with a temperature of 44 below zero, while at Prince Rupert, which was apparently the center of the low pressure area, the pressure was 29.00 inches, with a temperature of 36 above.

Image credit: From the February 6, 1922 issue of the Alaska Daily Empire.

january snow storm daily alaskan 3-9-1916

Image credit: The daily Alaskan. (Skagway, Alaska), 09 March 1916. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82014189/1916-03-09/ed-1/seq-3/>

Mr. Connolly gave a graphic description of a blizzard on the Valdez trail in Thompson Pass, in which he and ten companions were nearly frozen to death on January 10 this year. A storm which came up suddenly marooned the party in a narrow gulch, and during the night four of their horses were frozen to death. Pushing ahead in the morning, with the blizzard still raging, it took the party eight hours to travel seven miles. As three of the men with Connolly were trying to get their bearings they fell from a precipice, turned three times in the air and lit uninjured in a deep snow bank. A woman, Mrs. Arthur Williams, was one of the party that faced the blizzard and, according to Mr. Connolly, stood the cold and privation better than anyone else.

Image credit: Valdez daily prospector. (Valdez, Alaska), 22 Feb. 1913. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn98060264/1913-02-22/ed-1/seq-4/>

A regular old-time January blow and snow storm started last night and has been raging in all its fury today. As we have had exceptionally fine weather thus far this winter the change was not unexpected.

Image credit: The Cordova daily times. (Cordova, Alaska), 12 Jan. 1923. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072239/1923-01-12/ed-1/seq-8/>

The Storm at Nome: The city of Nome was threatened with destruction on the night of January 3, when a terrific storm drove the ice of Bering sea and piled it into mountains against the doors of the buildings on the beach side of Front street. In places the ices was piled up for more than fifty feet, and towered above the buildings so that one standing on Front street could look over the tops of the houses at great glacial peaks rising from within a few feet of the boarded thoroughfares. The Sesnon caisson and pier, which have withstood all the storms of years, were crushed like eggshells. For a time the people believed that only a few more houses would be necessary to have the whole business part of the city buried under the ice mountain which rose as the storm drove it in from the ocean. A howling blizzard made matters worse. Above and below the city vast piles of ice were heaped to great elevations on the tundra. Along Front street the sea was shut out from view at Barracks square by the great ice mountain ridge. At the mouth of Snake river and along the spit vast bergs piled on top of each other.

Image credit: Iditarod pioneer. (Iditarod, Alaska), 05 Feb. 1916. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn95060032/1916-02-05/ed-1/seq-3/>

Heavy Blizzard Rages Along Railroad Route: A severe snowstorm and blizzard hit the Interior north of Mile 51 early yesterday afternoon and at noon today is still raging, says the Seward Gateway of January 28. The storm swept along the divide from the Prince William sound region and hit along the railroad at Mile 51, continuing through to Anchorage and directly into the Interior. The snow is wet and heavy. The party of Alaskan engineering commission men headed by F. H. Hansen was ten hours with four dog teams making it from Mile 71 to Mile 68. At the latter place there was a lull in the storm and the party headed for Mile 54, reaching there early this morning. At 10 o'clock this morning the party left Mile 54 for Mile 52, and then started from the latter place to the special train waiting to bring them to Seward. The special train, consisting of a locomotive and the private car, had a hard time with the snow drifts, but made the distance finally and picked up the railroad party this forenoon and started toward Seward, bucking the drifts successfully. The special is expected here this afternoon, landing the Anchorage party in time to catch the Alaska for the south. The storm in the Interior was not felt in Seward.

Image credit: The Cordova daily times. (Cordova, Alaska), 04 Feb. 1918. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072239/1918-02-04/ed-1/seq-1/>

Be sure to bundle up and stay warm over these next few months!

Black, White, and Read All Over: News Wire Access in Alaska

wamcats

WAMCATS telegraph tower at Fort Gibbon, Alaska.

One quirk of the Alaska Digital Newspaper Project is the prevalence of news coverage from all over the world. One would think that the remoteness of Alaska would make it difficult to receive news coverage from all over the state, much less the rest of the Lower 48. Instead, world news dominates the headlines of Alaska papers such as The Nome Nugget and The Cordova Daily Times with very little local news coverage; the Alaska Daily Empire is a member of the AP wire service.

This begs the question: How did Alaskans get wire news service?

The sheer remoteness of Alaska, especially during its days as a US territory, fueled demand for national news and world events. People from connected villages depended on dogsleds to deliver news and letters. The Klondike Gold Rush expedited this need for news with miners anxious to read about events in the Lower 48. In 1900, $450,000 Congress approved funding for the U.S. Army Signal Corps to construct cable and telegraph connections between outposts in Washington state and Alaska, called the Washington Alaska Military Cable and Telegraph System: “WAMCATS” for short.

 

 

These signal outposts were vital in transmitting radio and wire service- not only from the Lower 48, but throughout the state as well. In 1902, The Alaskan from Skagway and The Record-Miner from Juneau became the first Alaska newspapers to use WAMCATS to receive news bulletins that were then printed in papers. Newsrooms first used a “telegraph typewriter” or “teletypewriter” in 1914 by Melville E. Stone, general manager of Associated Press. The introduction of a teleprinter, which transmitted directly to printers over telegraph wires (60 words per minute), further hastened the spread of information.

wamcats 2

Image credit: The Cordova daily times. (Cordova, Alaska), 26 Jan. 1922. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072239/1922-01-26/ed-1/seq-4/>

On May 15, 1936 WAMCATS was renamed the U.S. Army Alaska Communications System, which remained under the control of the Army Signal Corps until 1962, when it was taken over by the U.S. Air Force.

The WAMCATS Army-built telegraph was the first major contribution to Alaskan infrastructure funded by the U.S. federal government. We owe the wide-ranging news items featured in Alaska’s historical newspapers to this massive effort- completed in a mere 5 years, no less. Today it’s easy to take worldwide connectivity through the Internet for granted. But this development through radio and newspapers meant giving Alaskans the ability to read about events outside the territory- and to feel more connected to the rest of the world.

wamcats 1

Image credit: The Alaska daily empire. (Juneau, Alaska), 19 Nov. 1917. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020657/1917-11-19/ed-1/seq-4/>

wamcats float

Parade float commemorating 50 years of WAMCATS. Image credit: From the John Sigler Photograph Collection as part of Alaska and Polar Regions Collections, Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Lights, Camera, Action! Moviemaking in Alaska Historical Newspapers

New Features In Motion Pictures Presented Yesterday

Image credit: The Alaska daily empire. (Juneau, Alaska), 02 July 1917. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020657/1917-07-02/ed-1/seq-3/>

Greetings, all!

With the plummeting temperatures and snow showers here in southeast Alaska, it’s that time of year to stay indoors, get warm, and watch movies.

Millions of people around the world have only seen Alaska through movies. In its earliest days, silent films such as the groundbreaking 1922 documentary Nanook of the North and Charlie Chaplin’s landmark 1925 comedy The Gold Rush (of which the Alaska State Library Historical Collections has a 16 millimeter copy) were the only glimpses of Alaska. Fewer people know that filmmakers have worked on location in Alaska for nearly a century. This week we’ll be looking at the Alaska film industry from its earliest days.

Given the remote nature of Alaska, and the influx of miners arriving during the birth of motion pictures, historic newspapers contain a valuable chronicle of the extent to which the motion picture industry ventured up north to film on location, and to distribute their films. Two films in particular receive special attention: The Girl Alaska and The Cheechakos.

seward gateway 11-22-17

Image credit: November 22, 1917 issue of the Seward Gateway

Billed at the time as “The First and Only Photoplay Ever Made on Alaskan Soil”, The Girl Alaska filmed on location for the first time to add a degree of authenticity to the picture- including an Alaskan cast (minus principal actors). The film premiered in Juneau at the Palace Theatre and screened for two days before the cast and crew returned to the Lower 48. Based on the following news items, The Girl Alaska resonated with audiences eager to see familiar locations on screen:

girlalaskamovie

Image credit: The Alaska daily empire. (Juneau, Alaska), 07 Nov. 1919. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020657/1919-11-07/ed-1/seq-3/

Palace Theatre; John T. Spickett, Manager; Juneau, Alaska; OPEN LETTER TO THE PEOPLE OF GASTINEAU CHANNEL: Mr. and Mrs. John T. Spickett request your presence at the opening performance of their "GIRL ALASKA" Sunday evening. This feature is distinctly Alaskan, having been filmed on Alaskan soil, and through our efforts and acquaintance with those who make the films, was secured for the first release in Alaska, to be shown at the Palace Theatre. Hoping to see you present, we remain, Yours very truly, Mr. and Mrs. John T. Spickett

Image credit: The Alaska daily empire. (Juneau, Alaska), 08 Nov. 1919. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020657/1919-11-08/ed-1/seq-3/>

"The Girl Alaska is Sunday Night Feature at the Palace. Among the August releases by World-Pictures is "The Girl Alaska", the first and only photoplay every made on Alaskan soil. Nothing quite the same as this, from several standpoints, has ever before been seen on the moving picture screen. This will be seen Sunday and Monday nights at the Palace. The girl's father has gone to the Yukon in the big gold rush and had never returned. The people with whom he had left his daughter have brought her up to be their servant. Early one morning, after having slept in a barrel all night, she picks up a dirty newspaper and in it reads of the wonderful opportunities awaiting ambitious young men in the Alaskan gold country. She appropriates a suit of boy's clothing and, shoving all her gorgeous blonde curls up under her cap, she saunters down to the dock where a passenger vessel is about to leave for the north country. When discovered she, always in her boy's clothes, is set to work cleaning up the decks. To her rescue comes a young chap who is also on his way to Alaska to seek his fortune among the snowy fastness of the land. In the north country, they buy their camping paraphernalia and engage a native guide to take them out to the gold region. One day, as they are passing down stream, along the foot of a monstrous glacier part of the face of the mountain of snow and ice crumbles, with a frightful roar, down upon them. The girl, her pal, and guide are overwhelmed by the sliding mass, and their boat is crushed as though is were made of paper. The guide is killed. After they have buried him, the two pals again travel toward the gold country, this time on foot, for they no longer have a boat. Day after day they climb mountains, descend into valleys, skirt around rivers, until at length the young chap is taken ill with fever and is unable to move forward. The girl is wild with anxiety and at a loss as to what to do. At last she falls on her knees and prays, and then as though in response to her prayer she sees a thin, just visible stream of white smoke coming up from amidst the tall trees in the valley at her feet. It is the cabin of an old miner and adventurer who has spent many years in this wild, alluring north country. He shelters the two pals and finally, after a terrific struggle of weeks and weeks, the old man and the girl manage to restore the young fellow to health. It is then arranged for the two of them to remain with the old man and work his claim. The last act of the old man's life is to leave his entire claim to the girl and her pal. The young man is dumbfounded to learn his pal is a girl, but she is such a charming and beautiful child that he cannot resist falling in love with her and then marrying her. The old man's claim is soon found to contain an immensely valuable gold mine, and soon everything ends happily for the young fellow and "The Girl Alaska."

Image credit: The Alaska daily empire. (Juneau, Alaska), 08 Nov. 1919. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020657/1919-11-08/ed-1/seq-3/>

Palace: Last time tonight: "The Girl Alaska" The unique picture of the gold country: Ask those of the packed house who attended last night. We told you we had 640 seats, which were nearly filled two times. Don't miss this opportunity to see an All-Alaskan picture.

The Alaska daily empire. (Juneau, Alaska), 10 Nov. 1919. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020657/1919-11-10/ed-1/seq-3/>

While The Girl Alaska marketed itself heavily as an Alaska-filmed production, the first movie entirely filmed in Alaska used the working title The Great White Silence, which was later released as The Cheechakos (sometimes spelled The Cheechahcos) in 1923.  The digital archives at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks contain a collection of production stills that document filming locations and cast members. Additionally, Alaska newspapers chronicle the making of the film:

great white silence

Image credit: The Cordova daily times. (Cordova, Alaska), 12 Feb. 1923. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072239/1923-02-12/ed-1/seq-5/>

great white silence a

The Cordova daily times. (Cordova, Alaska), 07 March 1923. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072239/1923-03-07/ed-1/seq-8/>

Word spread quickly about the production cast and crew arriving in Anchorage. The film needed extras, and the Anchorage Daily Times published a call idea of appearing in a major motion picture thrilled a great many Anchorage residents, and a call for extras appeared in the Anchorage Daily Times:

Free Excursion, Thursday, 8:00 AM Stage Set for Typical Alaskan Picture Featuring Golden Days; All Aboard for Mile 52, the scene of the million-dollar picture which is destined to make Alaska famous. Watch The Times for definite date. Weather alone prevented the excursion last Sunday when everybody was primed to go. Weather reports today advise small flurries of snow and a falling barometer. The thirty members of the troupe, together with a small army of attendants are on the ground taking pictures between squalls. Advices from Mile 52 report some splendid pictures have been taken, but the big thing comes of when the 250 Anchorage people arrive on the scene to take part in the mad gold rush of '98. Captain A.E. Lathrop, in charge of local affairs, invites the public to take part in the scene that so aptly shows Alaska during the olden, golden days. This is a free-for-all, and everybody is welcome. Hot coffee will be served on the trail, but guests are asked to take their own lunches. This scene will appear prominently in the production of the "Great White Silence" being filmed by the Alaska Moving Pictures corporation, owned and managed by Alaskans. Captain Lathrop also asks the guests to dress in the manner of the typical stampeder. Wear old clothes, mackinaws, boots or mukluks or rubber pacs, flannel shirts of brilliant colors, fur caps and other clothing featuring the mad rush of the gold stampedes. These articles of clothing are not absolutely essential, but the idea is to wear old clothes and not white collars. It is up to Anchorage to assist in this pictures and at least 250 men and some women are needed to furnish the local color. Take a day off and make the trip and at least see how moving pictures are made. Women, of course, Captain Lathrop says, are more than welcome. But they too are asked to dress accordingly. According to present plans the free excursion train will leave Anchorage depot at 8 o'clock Thursday morning and return the same day. Definite announcements will be reported in Wednesday's Times. In the meantime, make preparations to participate in the moving picture; take a day's vacation and at the same time assist the management in producing a typical Alaska Picture.

Image credit: April 17, 1923 issue of the Anchorage Daily Times. Alaska State Library Historical Collections.

Despite efforts on behalf of director Austin Lathrop, who even built a studio in downtown Anchorage, The Alaska Moving Pictures Corp only ended up producing The Cheechakos. The cost of shooting on location was simply too great, even though the film opened to positive reviews and widespread distribution. Fortunately for future audiences, the National Film Preservation Foundation selected The Cheechakos for preservation in 2000, according to John Combs, Alaska Railroad enthusiast.

alaska motion pictures corp

Cast and crew of The Cheechakos on location outside the entrance to Denali Park c. 1923. Courtesy of the Alaska and Polar Regions Collections, Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Many Hollywood productions used Alaska as a backdrop for stories of adventure, romance, and survival. Movies, then and now, provide visibility for Alaska and give filmgoers an opportunity to see the Great Land.

Special thanks to Damon Stuebner, Chris Beheim, University of Alaska, Anchorage Special Collections and Archives, and University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Archives.