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:

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. <>

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. <>

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. <>

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. <>

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. <>

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. <>

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. <>

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!


Happy New Year!

A Very Happy New Year 1917

Image credit: January 1, 1917 issue of the Alaska Daily Empire.

Happy New Year, dear readers! May 2019 bring you all happiness and prosperity!

What Will He Write?

Image credit: December 31, 1919 issue of the Cordova Daily Times.

Santa Claus In Alaska’s Newspapers

With Us Again

Image credit: from the December 24, 1917 issue of the Seward Gateway

Greetings, all!

‘Tis the season for gift giving and merry making, and no one is more prominently featured in historic Alaska newspapers as the symbol of generosity (and consumerism!) than Santa Claus. It is well documented that the Coca-Cola corporation popularized (but did not invent) the modern image of Santa Claus in a red suit, due to Haddon Sundblom’s artwork (who also created the artwork for the Quaker oats Quaker and Aunt Jemima), but Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas gave us the image of the jolly man with white whiskers:

“…He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opened his pack.
His eyes- how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a round little belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself…”

Without further ado, enjoy a sampling of Santa Claus imagery in Alaska’s historic newspapers:

...Santa Claus...Has Arrived From The North Pole

Image credit: From the December 24, 1909 issue of the Daily Alaskan

Santa Claus in Alaska

Image credit: From the December 23, 1911 issue of the Daily Alaskan

Hello Cordova! Santa Claus is Here

Image credit: from the December 13, 1921 issue of the Cordova Daily Times

To the Boys and Girls of Gastineau Channel: Santa Claus Will be at the Leader Department Store all day Saturday to meet his little friends. He will have a present for every youngster that comes and will help show you a good time. Be sure to come. Santa thinks the Leader is the best place to get acquainted with the Kiddies, because there are so many dandy toys here. Bring your folks along. They will be just as much interested in seeing Santa Claus and his toys as you are. Don’t forget! Santa Claus will be here tomorrow!

Image credit: from the December 20, 1919 issue of the Alaska Daily Empire

“Pleased to Meet You; Toyland"

Image credit: From the December 7, 1920 issue of the Cordova Daily Times

Santa Claus carries a sack full of toys.

Image credit: from the December 23, 1911 issue of the Daily Alaskan


Image credit: from the December 24, 1920 issue of the Cordova Daily Times

Good Things For Everyone

Image credit: from the December 17, 1899 issue of the Daily Morning Alaskan

Are You Really Santa Claus?

Image credit: from the December 14, 1915 issue of the Cordova Daily Times

Merry Christmas Everybody!

Image credit: from the December 23, 1916 issue of the Cordova Daily Times

Black Friday and Holiday Shopping: a Post-Thanksgiving Tradition

Typical Scenes as Shoppers Make Their Final Christmas Purchases. "At least one bundle is mandatory"; "Summoned by S.O.S."; "Now don't forget Santy"; Money is plentiful in the United States this year, and the stores are doing a big Christmas business. The millions in gold that have poured into this country for the purchase of war supplies have given a firm tone to all lines of trade, and all classes are preparing for a merry Christmas. Some idea of the extent of the shopping may be gained from the accompanying pictures, showing the great throng of shoppers in the centres where holiday gifts are on sale. The man or woman who does not lug a bundle or two around these days is the exception.

Image credit: The Alaska daily empire. (Juneau, Alaska), 23 Dec. 1918. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Greetings, all!

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, many folks are hitting the shopping malls across the country to get a head start on their holiday shopping. Leafing through historic Alaska newspapers, one can find plenty of news items involving holiday shopping, too. Although Black Friday as the “busiest shopping day of the year” and unofficial start of the holiday season did not come into being until about the 1980s, shoppers anticipated a month-long window of time to buy gifts.

Read on to see how newspapers in Cordova, Juneau, and Skagway dealt with the topic of holiday shopping- and making sure its readers were able to find everything in time!


Time to do Shopping. But three weeks remain until Christmas, and the offerings of Cordova's enterprising merchants through the columns of the Daily Times should be taken advantage of by doing your shopping early, while you have the choice of articles for gifts. Under the caption of "Why Not Now," the Saturday Evening Post points out the advantage of early shopping in the following excerpt from one of its editorials on that subject: "Christmas shopping several weeks before Christmas is a pleasant adventure; a week before it is a hard trial; a day before it is a calamity. Usually it is mere laziness that puts it off. "In ten years there has been a marked change in Christmas shopping habits in cities, brought about by constant appeals to the public. Yet hundreds of thousands of employees in city shops still look forward to Christmas week pretty much as the boys in the trenches look forward to the order to charge. Among salespeople, deliverymen and bookkeepers the holiday onslaught still leaves a cyclonic trail of wrecked nerves. Like every other bad habit, once it is broken the victim wonders why he suffered from it so long. Do your Christmas shopping now and you will never again wait until near Christmas."

Image credit: The Cordova daily times. (Cordova, Alaska), 09 Dec. 1916. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Wednesday, December 15, 1920: Christmas Shopping: Cordova stores are well stocked with pretty things for the Christmas trade and from now on the salespeople will have their energies taxed to serve the public. Don't wait until the day before the holiday to do your Christmas shopping and force the stores to remain open nights. Remember that after clerks have stood upon their feet throughout the day they are entitled to rest, and there is no greater health destroyer than overtaxing strength. Try this Christmas to co-operate in making it as light upon those who serve us as possible. It is a better Christmas spirit than to organize a rush at the eleventh hour and its consequent baleful effects.

Image credit: Image credit: The Cordova daily times. (Cordova, Alaska), 15 Dec. 1920. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Only 28 More Shopping Days to Christmas: Juneau Residents Should Be Getting Lists Ready, Start Shopping Early. Have you begun your Christmas shopping yet? No, well there are only 28 more shopping days, do you realize that? Have you even made up your shopping list yet, put down the items you are going to get for Billie, Maggie, or Tom, Dick and Harry, mother, father, sister, or brother? The time is rolling quickly towards the big day, rolling quicker than most people imagine and when one realizes that there are only 28 more shopping days it almost takes ones breath away. The local merchants are already receiving their last Christmas shipments and soon shelves and cases will be filled with articles for gifts. Show windows will soon be decorated and the Christmas trade will be on with a rush. Local merchants, as soon as they get all of their goods unpacked, expect a good holiday trade and hope shoppers will "shop early" to relieve the inevitable grand rush of the few days before Christmas.

Image credit: The Alaska daily empire. (Juneau, Alaska), 20 Nov. 1920. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Christmas Shopping: The thought of Christmas shopping is the thing that is under everybody's bonnet just now- or it ought to be. The stores are looking their best just now, the stocks of Christmas goods are yet comparatively complete and it is a delight to just look in upon the glint and shimmer of the show cases and the laden shelves and counters. All merchants alike declare the trade is well under way and bids fair to equal that of any holiday season in the history of Skagway.

Image credit: The daily Alaskan. (Skagway, Alaska), 17 Dec. 1908. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Juneau Trade at Christmas Time is Good: Merchants Report Shopping Has Started Indicating People Are Prosperous. Christmas trading is starting in Juneau and all merchants report that the indications are that the holiday business will equal that of previous years and possibly exceed the business of the past two years. Merchants who do not engage at special holiday business also report excellent financial conditions in Juneau and that trading in general is splendid. W.S. Pullen, manager of the Alaska Electric Light & Power Co., stated today that the business of that house has been good during the fall and was fine at the present time with indications that the Christmas trade will be excellent. There are many new novelties in household goods of an electrical nature being displayed this year. A. J. Ficken, manager of the Frye-Bruhn Market, who recently returned from a business trip to Seattle, stated today that he was surprised at the business being done in Juneau on Thanksgiving day. "Our business has been good this year," said Mr. Ficken today, "and a trip around the Capital City will show the why for. Few men are on the streets in the day time showing that all who care to work are employed. The women folks have been busy with their Christmas sewing at home and have used the telephone for their orders. Now that the greater part of the home work is over, the women folks will start on their store shopping and the holiday season will be a busy one, I am sure. I was glad to get back to Juneau, after visiting several cities in the Pacific Northwest, for conditions here are so much better than outside, that the comparison is all in favor of Gastineau Channel." Simpson & Wright, of the Nugget Shop, report that the holiday business has started off briskly in the jewelry line. M. Michael and George E. Coury, of the Boston Store, are both well satisfied with the first spurt in the holiday trading. Christmas goods in the drug stores are moving rapidly and with shipments expected on the next steamers from the South, these will be unpacked and the goods will be displayed.

Image credit: The Alaska daily empire. (Juneau, Alaska), 04 Dec. 1920. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Those who have not already begun to do their Christmas shopping should not put off the task another day. Merchants are displaying their Christmas goods, and those who shop now will be able to get first chance at them, at a time when they will have the time to think clearly and without the confusion and compulsion for hasty decisions that always result when you have to catch a boat with your mail. Salesmen have time now to help make your decisions. They will not have that time if you wait for the rush. Commence your shopping now.

Image credit: The Cordova daily times. (Cordova, Alaska), 13 Dec. 1919. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>


However you choose to spend your Black Friday, please do so safely!

Tricks and Treats, Pranks and Parties: Alaska Historical Newspapers Celebrate Halloween

Happy Halloween, everyone!

On this Halloween, like many other holidays, it’s fun to ask: what did people do to celebrate one hundred (or so) years ago? I’d like to share a few findings from Alaska Historic Newspapers that demonstrate differences and similarities.

Notable in news coverage is the association between specific vandalism involving the theft of wheels and taking the hinges off gates:

This Eve is One of Mirth: This eve is Hallowe'en. Upon this night mirth and revelry among the younger people is supposed to prevail. In the past it has been the custom of those more mischievously inclined to remove gates, wagons or anything movable, to distant parts from their original location, leaving the owner the pleasant task of finding and restoring them to their proper places.

Image credit: The daily Alaska citizen. (Fairbanks, Alaska), 31 Oct. 1918. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

To Celebrate Halloween: As usual the people of Skagway will tonight "haud their Halloween." The imps will be out, of course, playing their pranks and causing those who have front gates, or back ones, signs, etc., to have feelings of apprehension. There will be fairies, also, probably, to reveal the future and indulge in match making and other pleasing things, but they will certainly not be so ubiquitous as their uncanny and unholy cousins of the unknown.

Image credit: The daily Alaskan. (Skagway, Alaska), 31 Oct. 1906. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

As Smithsonian Magazine points out, children pulled Halloween pranks due to the mischievous nature of the night, the one day out of the year when ghosts and goblins haunted the streets freely:

“Witches, Goblins, Fairies and Imps Tonight: Tonight will be Halloween, the one night of the year when the supernatural beings that occupy the invisible world about us are permitted to materialize themselves and to play their pranks upon the credulity of mortals, with impunity.”

Image credit: The daily morning Alaskan. (Skagway, Alaska), 31 Oct. 1902. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

These pranks, which still manifest in the form of plastering houses with eggs and throwing toilet paper rolls up on tree branches, co-mingled with tamer activities.

Many papers report masquerade balls and parties held, not unlike the current custom of dressing in costume and attending themed festivities:

Great Crowd Enjoys Halloween Dance: There was a very large attendance at the Halloween dance given by the Ladies of the Maccabees last night, which was one of the choicest affairs of the year. The hall was elaborately and appropriately decorated. Chinese lanterns, the colors of the order, and black cats, bars and other symbols of the mysterious darkness of the night were everywhere present. The first dance was in sheets and pillow cases, and a fortune teller gave her patrons glimpses into the future. At midnight the guests were presented with the pictures of their future husbands and wives. Delicious refreshments were served at midnight.

Image credit: The daily Alaskan. (Skagway, Alaska), 01 Nov. 1906. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

The managers of the Hallow-een Masquerade Ball have decided not to furnish any lunch at their ball as they will be crowded for room, and have reduced the prices of admission to $1.00 for gents and 50 cents for ladies. Supper will be prepared by the various cafes.

Image credit: The Alaska prospector. (Valdez, Alaska), 30 Oct. 1902. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

Honoring Mrs. W. G. Powell who left last night on her way to Vancouver, B. C., Mrs. W. L. Landsborough entertained at bridge on Friday afternoon last. This was a Halloween party and a very beautiful little function. All the decorations were in Halloween colors and the favors, cards and tally sheets were in the color plan. The dining table where a delicious repast was served was appropriately decked and the afternoon was one of pleasant memories for honor guest, hostess and those other guests who were fortunate enough to be invited. The hostess was assisted by her sister, Miss Evangeline Cook. Mrs. W.G. Gable took first honors and was suitably rewarded. Mrs. Powell was given a "guest" prize as a souvenir of this delightful occasion. The guests were Mrs. Hugh G. Weir, Mrs. Hermann Miller, Mrs. E. J. Shaw, Mrs. W. G. Gable, Mrs. N. E. Black, Mrs. P. H. Ganty, Mrs. W. C. Blanchard, Mrs. Hazel C. Kirmse, Mrs. A. C. Blanchard, Mrs. L. H. Johnston, Mrs. F. J. Van de Wall, Mrs. P. H. McClelland and the compliment guest, Mrs. W. G. Powell. Mrs. S. Hill Barrington of Dawson was the out of town guest.

Image credit: The daily Alaskan. (Skagway, Alaska), 03 Nov. 1917. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>

However you choose to celebrate Halloween night, whether with a costume, a party, trick or treats- or all of these, please do so safely.

Happy haunting!