R.I.P “Dart Raven” (or, why the Migratory Bird Act still matters)

Dart Raven

Raven with blow dart through its head. Image credit: Jaqueline Androsko

Hello readers,

Over the past few months, downtown Juneau has hosted a peculiar specimen of animal cruelty: an adult raven with a blow dart in its head, still alive. Efforts to catch the raven and remove the dart have failed, as it has (understandably) avoided capture.

In the interest of the bird’s health, and to prevent predators from ingesting the dart, Animal Control officials finally caught the bird earlier this week and euthanized the raven. This story has been picked up by the Associated Press and appeared in several newspapers throughout the state, and in the Lower 48.

Having seen this bird firsthand, and having submitted a report to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game a few months ago, I was taken aback by this cruel act. Ravens, in addition to their importance to Alaska Natives, are protected birds under the 101-year-old Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Passed by Congress in 1918, this Treaty provided a progressive conservation measure to protect birds that were in danger of extinction due to the demand for ornate plumage in women’s hats.

Illustration from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper that depicts a hunter shooting at a bird and leaving behind baby birds in a nest, next to a taxidermist in his studio preparing the dead birds, and beneath that an illustration of a fashionable young woman wearing a hat with two dead birds, with a caption that reads: "The cruelties of fashion-- fine feathers make fine birds."

Hyde, John N., Artist. The cruelties of fashion – “fine feathers make fine birds” / Hyde. , 1883. New York: Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper. Photograph. https://www.loc.gov/item/2014645364/.

Although ravens do not migrate, the Treaty was amended in 1972 to extend protections to corvids, which brought the total number of birds protected to 1,026—nearly every native bird species in the United States. This means that those who kill protected birds are subject to hefty fines. In 2016, authorities imposed a fine of $1,125 to one Fairbanks resident who pleaded guilty to killing multiple ravens simply because he saw them as a nuisance.

Migratory bird act

Image credit: The Cordova daily times. (Cordova, Alaska), 20 May 1921. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072239/1921-05-20/ed-1/seq-3/>

Unfortunately, bringing offenders to justice is difficult. One would hope that the widespread attention given to “dart raven” draws awareness to the protections surrounding these iconic birds.

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Mother’s Day

The Alaska Citizen: Fairbanks, Alaska, Monday Morning, May 14, 1917.; Beneath a black and white illustration of a carnation tied with a ribbon text reads: Mother's Day---God Bless Her in Every Nation.

Image credit: The Alaska citizen. (Fairbanks, Alaska), 14 May 1917. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn96060002/1917-05-14/ed-1/seq-1/>

Happy Mother’s Day!

Carnations are said to represent a mother’s love, dating back to 1907 when Anna Jarvis (creator of Mother’s Day) selected white carnations as the symbol of the holiday, based on her own mother’s love of the flower.

Over time, however, floral companies chose pink carnations as the Mother’s Day flower, and reserved white carnations to symbolize mothers who had died or were away from their families (which inflated the prices of carnations and other flowers during the month of May– and continue to do so).

This, to Jarvis, represented one of the many ways in which her holiday became commodified and over-commercialized, and she attempted to “take back” the holiday she created, but by then, it had grown into the national phenomenon it remains to this day.

The following assortment of Mother’s Day news items from Alaska’s historic newspapers date back to a time when the holiday was celebrated with church service and the wearing of carnations. Newspaper advertisements, which generally indicate the popularity of a holiday, make seldom mention of a Mother’s Day at all. Indeed, it’s hard to believe that Mother’s Day was once a more muted, reverential affair– exactly the way Anna Jarvis wanted it.

Mother's Day Will Be Observed Here: Mother's Day is Sunday, May 12. It will be properly observed with special services at the Presbyterian church, Sunday evening at eight o'clock. If your mother is alive, honor her by attending this service, if she is gone honor her memory in the same manner. Special music and an appropriate address will help you keep aright the day.

Image credit: The Alaska citizen. (Fairbanks, Alaska), 14 May 1917. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn96060002/1917-05-14/ed-1/seq-1/>

Mother's Day. Tomorrow, the second Sunday in May, has been set aside as "Mother's Day." We believe it was Col. Roosevelt who suggested the day and its purpose. Mother's Day, one might imagine, was a peculiarly Alaskan observation, for in no other land over which the Stars and Stripes wave, have there been more men who have severed all ties with those left behind. Not, perhaps, that our men are different that those of other localities, but rather, that conditions in the earlier days were such that correspondence was either very difficult if not impossible. Of mail service, there was often none or else it was bad or indifferent. The hardy prospector went into the unknown depths of a new country, out of the beaten paths. Successes were not as frequently marked as failures, with the inevitable result that home, fireside, mother and family were laid aside as of the past. Years rolled on and then came a fear to write lest we learn that mother had gone missing with the missing son's name on her lips. Yes, Mothers' day should be a grand day for Alaskans. On that day, all of us who are still blessed with mother's presence on earth, should devote a portion of the day to telling mother those things she likes best to hear. We should be able to say to her that though our material successes have been few, yet we stand upright among men. That as we rest under the star light or are delving in the bowels of the earth our thoughts often recur to her and to home and the loved ones. Such a letter, we owe to her to write. To ourselves we owe much more. It is for us to remember her sacrifices in our behalf; the wealth of love she lavished upon us; the ends to which she would have gone for our well being. There is nothing on earth so pure, unselfish and self-sacrificing as mother love; nothing so infinite that one human can give another. Let us, then, on the morrow, make amends for our past silence, and write to mother the outpouring of our hearts and thank God that He, in His infinite mercy, has permitted mother to remain until her long and last wish had been attained-- she had heard from her long lost boy.

Image credit: Valdez daily prospector. (Valdez, Alaska), 11 May 1912. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn98060264/1912-05-11/ed-1/seq-2/>

Mother's Day is Observed: "Mother's Day" was observed by the school children of Chatanika on Friday with appropriate ceremonies, according to word received in Fairbanks from the creek city. There were exercises at the school house participated in by practically all of the children, and attended by a large number of the grown-ups.

Image credit: The Alaska citizen. (Fairbanks, Alaska), 14 May 1917. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn96060002/1917-05-14/ed-1/seq-1/>

Congressional Church to Observe Mothers' Day: Douglas, May 8.--The Congressional church at this place will observe "Mothers' Day" Sunday. An invitation has been extended everybody to attend the services, and each one is requested to wear a white carnation, the emblem of the day, if that is possible. Three girls will give the welcoming address, and present every mother present with a white carnation. There fore, every mother is particularly urged to be present. The flowers are gifts from Sunday School students. Mr. V. A. von Godeen will sing, "My Mother's Prayer." The choir will have special music for the occasion. The subject of the sermon will be "Mother." It has been suggested by those who are interested in "Mothers' Day" that everybody who can do so visit his mother Sunday, and that those who cannot do so write her a letter.

Image credit: The Alaska daily empire. (Juneau, Alaska), 08 May 1914. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020657/1914-05-08/ed-1/seq-4/>

Tomorrow is Mother's Day: Observed All Over Country; Badge is White Carnation and Civic League Makes Arrangements for a Supply of These Flowers-- Will Arrive on Evans. Tomorrow is Mother's Day, which will be celebrated in practically every community throughout the United States, usually by special services in the various churches. The founders of the movement for an annual observance of the day give the following as its object: An all-nations and simultaneous observance for the well-being and honor of the home. The observances of the day through some distinct act of kindness, visit, letter, tribute, showing remembrance of the mother and father to whom grateful affection is due. Its slogan is "In honor of the Best Mother Who Ever Lived." The badge is a white carnation. That all who wish to observe the day in Valdez may wear the distinctive badge, the Civic League has made arrangements for a large shipment of white carnations, which will arrive here this evening on the steamer Evans. Arrangements will be made for their sale soon after they arrive.

Image credit: Valdez daily prospector. (Valdez, Alaska), 06 May 1916. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn98060264/1916-05-06/ed-1/seq-4/>

Be sure to share your love and appreciation for your mother, or mothering figure in your life, this Sunday!

Patsy Ann: Juneau’s Canine Mascot and Greeter of Boats

Hello all,

It’s that time of year again! This week marks the start of cruise ship season in Alaska. Get used to seeing massive cruise ships in docks and harbors all along the Alaska coastline! Juneau saw its first ship this past Sunday, April 28, and we’re ready to greet more tourists and show the world what’s great about Alaska’s capital city.

PatsyAnn2

One Juneau resident who greeted every ship was a bull terrier named Patsy Ann, deaf since birth, who sensed the oncoming boats and was named the “Official Greeter of Juneau” in 1934. She is even memorialized in a scrapbook here at the Alaska State Library Historical Collections!

Patsy Ann 1 scrapbook

Image credit: From page 38 of Scrapbook 2 of the Maxcine M. Williams Photograph Collection, 1928-1940s, 1983. Identifier: ASL-P121-3-2. Courtesy of the Alaska State Library Historical Collections.

Captain Lloyd “Kinky” Bayers, a chronicler of local Juneau history, compiled news items that involved Patsy Ann into an index, cards of which are held at the Research Room of the Alaska State Library.

 

Kinky Bayers Patsy Ann 1

Image credit: from the Captain Lloyd H. “Kinky” Bayers Collection, 1898-1967, MS 10, courtesy of the Alaska State Library Historical Collections.

 

One news item found by Jacki Swearingen for KTOO Public Media involves a mischievous Patsy Ann laying fresh paw prints on a newly paved sidewalk on South Seward Street. Sadly, it has long since been paved over.

Patsy Ann Leaves Marks for Posterity: Patsy Ann, Juneau's canine boat greeter, many years a "landmark" on the waterfront, left her footprints for posterity today. Workmen had just completed paving the South Seward Street sidewalk and it lay smooth and clean in the light of high noon- until Patsy Ann came along. Without concern, Patsy Ann trotted down the middle of the new cement. Workmen chased her and she increased her speed, but she kept to the middle of the fresh sidewalk and assured coming generations of some memory of Patsy Ann, the dog that all Juneau knows.

Image credit: from the July 20, 1939 issue of the Daily Alaska Empire, courtesy of the Alaska State Library’s Historical Collections.

When she passed, the town rallied together and gave her a proper burial at sea, and Captain Bayers wrote the following eulogy:

Kinky Bayers Patsy Ann 2

Image credit: from the Captain Lloyd H. “Kinky” Bayers Collection, 1898-1967, MS 10, courtesy of the Alaska State Library Historical Collections.

 

Patsy Ann has inspired a picture book for children and a novel for young readers. Today she still greets ships in the harbor- as a bronze statue, which has become its own tourist attraction!

PatsyAnn3

Image courtesy of author.

For more photos of Patsy Ann from Alaska State Library’s Historical Collections, click here.

Special thanks to Jacki Swearingen and the Juneau Douglas City Museum!

 

Earth Day: Remembering the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

Hello readers,

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, an environmental catastrophe that devastated the Prince William Sound. In honor of Earth Day, it’s fitting to look at news coverage of the spill that impacted the lives of countless Alaskans.

Another oil spill prompted the very first Earth Day. In January of 1969, off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, an oil well exploded, which sent hundreds of gallons of oil into the Pacific Ocean. Images of oiled birds and the mounting cleanup efforts prompted the country to reexamine the relationship between humans and the environment.

Twenty years later, history repeated itself  with an oil spill of another kind. On the evening of Thursday March 23, 1989 the Exxon Valdez oil tanker crashed into Bligh Reef in the Prince William Sound near Valdez. Hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil spilled into the waters and left a trail of dead sea life, lost fishing profits, and a threat to the ways of life for thousands of Alaska Natives.

Evos 1

Image credit: From the March 24, 1989 issue of the Valdez Vanguard, courtesy of the Alaska State Library Historical Collections.

EVOS Valdez Vanguard August 23, 1989

Image credit: From the August 23, 1989 issue of the Valdez Vanguard, courtesy of the Alaska State Library Historical Collections.

EVOS March 26 1989

Image credit: From the March 26, 1989 issue of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, courtesy of the Alaska State Library Historical Collections.

EVOS ADN June 14 1994

Image credit: From the June 14, 1994 issue of the Anchorage Daily News, courtesy of the Alaska State Library Historical Collections.

EVOS Valdez Vanguard April 5, 1989

Image credit: From the April 5, 1989 issue of the Valdez Vanguard, courtesy of the Alaska State Library Historical Collections.

When we think back on Earth Day, it’s hard not to consider the lasting impacts of pollution. Yet actions in our daily lives affect changes to the planet. Our dependence on fossil fuels has helped accelerate climate change through carbon emissions, which has affected global temperature changes. Fortunately, there are small changes we can make to use less, recycle more, and to increase sustainability.

NOAA

Image credit: Infographic courtesy of NOAA.

To ensure the lasting health of the planet, every day is Earth Day.

Be sure to check out the online exhibit on display right now at the Alaska State Library, Archives, and Museum. For more information on the research and records collected by the Alaska State Archives and Historical Collections, take a look at this interview with archivist Chris Hieb.

Measles Outbreaks in Alaska’s Historic Newspapers

Black and white photograph of a Tlingit woman holding a candle and sitting against a wall next to a young Tlingit Indian with severe sores showing infection.

Caption from photograph: Tlingit woman holding a candle and sitting against a wall next to a young Tlingit Indian with severe sores showing infection. From the Winter and Pond Photograph Collection, Alaska State Library Historical Collections.

Dear readers,

It’s hard to avoid the alarming reports of measles outbreaks in the United States and worldwide. Vaccines have been proven to prevent the spread of measles; the MMR (measles- mumps-rubella) vaccine, which needs to be administered twice to children, has an effectiveness rate of 97%. Thanks to an effective vaccination program, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared measles eliminated in the United States in 2000.

Nineteen years later, however, measles cases are back are on the rise. The staggering amount of false information about vaccine safety has led to outbreaks of this preventable disease, particularly among vulnerable populations. Measles kills roughly 2 in 1,000 cases and leads to pneumonia in about 6% of cases. At present, there are 555 confirmed cases of measles this year alone in 20 states, as well as a 300% increase in measles worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

The following news items are just a handful of the hundred of measles-related stories reported in Alaska’s historic newspapers. A commonality among these stories are reports of children and indigenous populations disproportionately affected by the virus. In 1900, the measles virus devastated Yup’ik, Iñupiat, and Iñupiaq Alaska Native populations.

The Measles: The measles have afflicted several Alaskan towns quite severely during the past two or three months. Sitka has suffered along with the rest. Many pupils of the white and native public schools and the Russian Orphanage had them and there are at present several cases among our cottages. As a result of the measles there have been several deaths in the native village and one-- that of Matilda McKay in the cottages. Matilda was one of our day pupils, the daughter of our band leader, George McKay. She was a bright little girl and will be sadly missed in her home and among her playmates. Until Feb 21 we had no measles among our 105 boarding pupils. Then two boys, Andrew Hanson and Newton Kasko fell ill. They were taken to the hospital where they later developed full fledged measles. They are both rapidly recovering now. We have had no other cases as yet. We are very thankful and hope all other pupils may escape being caught.

Image credit: The Thlinget. [volume] (Sitka, Alaska), 01 Feb. 1909. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn94050023/1909-02-01/ed-1/seq-3/>

Measles Causes Deaths in Peninsula Villages: An epidemic of measles is raging on Kodiak and Afognak Islands and a number of deaths are reported. This morning the Governor's office received the following telegram from W. J. Erskine, a merchant of Kodiak: "Measles epidemic spreading outside the village of Afognak. 110 cases and three deaths at Karluk. There have been 10 deaths and 20 cases at Kagnik 10 days ago and several cases at Ouzinkie. Many are destitute." The telegram was immediately transmitted to the Secretary of the Interior and a recommendation was made that a revenue cutter be dispatched with the necessary supplies, or that the United States Marshal at Valdez be authorized to furnish provisions, fuel and medical aid.

Image credit: The Alaska daily empire. (Juneau, Alaska), 07 Nov. 1913. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84020657/1913-11-07/ed-1/seq-1/>

Valdez Should Quarantine. During the past year an epidemic of measles has visited almost every coast town in Alaska except Valdez. At the present time Cordova, Douglas and Ketchikan are suffering from this unwelcome visitor, and in the latter place the disease has assumed a most virulent type. That Valdez has not been visited by a scourge of measles ere this is due to no precautions taken to prevent its being brought here for apparently no steps have been taken to quarantine against the town in which the disease prevails. Residents of the towns where the disease is prevalent come and go from Valdez with freedom, and there is offered every opportunity to bring the disease here. Some steps should be taken by the authorities in connection with the boat officials to prevent the disease getting a foothold here. At this season of the year an epidemic of measles would undoubtedly cause many deaths. A few years ago Valdez had an experience with an epidemic of whooping cough, the result of which was sufficiently sad to warrant every precaution against any other epidemic which may endanger the lives of our little ones.

Image credit: Valdez daily prospector. (Valdez, Alaska), 19 Jan. 1917. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn98060264/1917-01-19/ed-1/seq-2/>

All the Eskimos at the mouth of the MacKenzie river have died of measles. The deaths numbered two hundred. Bishop Breynat, of the Catholic church, who recently reached Dawson, brings the news. Two small steamers are crushed in the ice on the upper MacKenzie.

Image credit: Douglas Island news. (Douglas City, Alaska), 13 April 1904. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84021930/1904-04-13/ed-1/seq-1/>

 

For everyone’s sake, make sure your children are up-to-date on vaccinations.

Let’s leave measles in the past.

Seward’s Day

Black and white illustration of William H. Seward in profile facing left with his signature underneath the engraving.

Image credit: engraved profile of William H. Seward courtesy of the Alaska State Library Historical Collections.

Yesterday marked a statewide holiday throughout Alaska, one that is observed on the fourth Monday of each March.

Each year, the state of Alaska observes Seward’s Day on behalf of William H. Seward, Abraham Lincoln’s secretary of state and individual who orchestrated the purchase of the Alaska territory from Russia. At the time, the move was ridiculed as “Seward’s Folly” and the Alaska territory as “Seward’s Icebox”. But for approximately $7.2 million dollars, the United States now had millions of dollars worth of gold, fur, and (in 1968) the discovery of offshore oil in Prudhoe Bay.

Alaska Purchased by Seward Fifty Years Ago Tonight at a Card Table; The real story of the purchase of Alaska, or rather, the final move after a long series of conferences, is contained in a fragment of Frederick W. Seward's story of his father's purchase of Alaska from Russia for the United States in 1867 as told in "Reminiscences of a Wartime Statesman and Diplomat." On the evening of Friday, March 29, Seward was playing whist in his parlor with some of his family, when the Russian minister was announced. "I have a dispatch, Mr. Seward, from my government by cable. The emperor gives his consent to the cession. Tomorrow, if you like, I will come to the department and we can enter upon the treaty." Seward with a smile of satisfaction, pushed away the whist table, saying: "Why wait until tomorrow, Mr. Stoeckl? Let us make the treaty tonight." "But your department is closed. You have no clerks, and my secretaries are scattered about the town." "Never mind that," responded Seward. "If you can muster your legation together before midnight you will find me awaiting you at the department, which will be open and ready for business." In less than two hours afterward light was streaming out of the windows of the state department, and apparently business was going on as at midday. By 4 o'clock Saturday morning the treaty was signed, sealed and ready for transmission by the president to the senate. There was need of this haste in order to have it acted upon before the end of the session, then near at hand. The Seward Gateway and The Alaska Evening Post: Volume XI. Number III; Seward, Alaska, Thursday, March 29, 1917; Ten Cents the Copy; Land of the Last Frontier; Gold, Coal Copper and Fish.

Image credit: March 29, 1917 issue of the Seward Gateway and the Alaska Evening Post, courtesy of the Alaska State Library Historical Collections.

The holiday in honor of a man responsible for the further loss of Indigenous land is a difficult issue, and contributes to the legacy of historical trauma. According to William L. Iggiagruk Hensley, the purchase of Alaska was steeped in the concept of “Manifest Destiny” an expansion of the American empire. Additionally, Seward viewed the vast natural resources in Alaska as a valuable asset to the United States. Many historical accounts credit Seward for ending Russian occupation and enslavement of Natives during the fur trade. Yet Seward’s expansionism was made plain in 1848, in that “our
population is destined to roll its resistless waves to the icy barriers of the north, and to encounter oriental civilization on the shores of the Pacific.”

Black and white print from the painting: the Signing of Treaty of Cessation, March 30, 1867. Shown left to right; Robert S. Chew; William. H. Seward (Secretary of State), William Hunter; Mr. Bodisco; Baron de (Eduard) Stoeckl (Russian Diplomat); Charles Sumner and Frederick W. Seward.

Image credit: A print from the painting by Emanuel Leutze, Signing of Treaty of Cessation, March 30, 1867, showing the Alaska Purchase. Shown left to right; Robert S. Chew; William. H. Seward (Secretary of State), William Hunter; Mr. Bodisco; Baron de (Eduard) Stoeckl (Russian Diplomat); Charles Sumner and Frederick W. Seward. Courtesy of the Alaska State Library Historical Collections.

Yet as one of two Alaska-centric holidays throughout the year (Alaska Day being the other one), Seward’s Day is a time to reflect on the state’s history- and, for many government employees, to take a paid holiday.

Kids Rejoice! Tomorrow Big Holiday Date: Acting Governor Thiele Sends Glad Tidings of the Great Joy: There will be no school tomorrow, in observance of Seward Day,--in honor of the memory of William H. Seward, the great Secretary of State under President Abraham Lincoln, who brought about the purchase of Alaska from Russian and withstood the gibes and criticism of short-sighted men who though Alaska was an iceberg. March 30 is now a legal holiday in the Territory of Alaska. All offices and schools will be closed. The "glad tidings of great joy", as the children regard, came today from Acting Governor Carl Thiele at Juneau. The anniversary was not observed last year, due to lack of arrangements, but it is now a redletter date and established custom.

Image credit: The Cordova daily times. (Cordova, Alaska), 29 March 1922. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn86072239/1922-03-29/ed-1/seq-8/>

Mush! A Look at Sled Dog Racing in Alaska’s Historical Newspapers

Black and white photograph of a sled dog team of 7 dogs pulling a sled with one man seated and one man standing with text in the lower left hand corner that reads: "A crack dog team of Iditarod, Alaska"

Image credit: Courtesy of the Alaska State Library Historical Collections.

Greetings, all!

Yesterday, musher Pete Kaiser of Bethel, Alaska won the 2019 Iditarod, with his dog team reaching Nome in 9 days, 12 hours, 39 minutes and 6 seconds. This was his 10th attempt, and is the 5th Alaska Native and very first Yupik musher to win the Iditarod, with last year’s winner, Norwegian musher Joar Ulsom, taking home second place.

Held annually starting the first Saturday in March, the Iditarod race consists of teams of mushers and their dogs from Anchorage to Nome- 1000 miles in total!

Its origins lie in the town of Iditarod itself, home to the last major Alaskan gold rush in 1909. To accommodate the population boom, the Federal government constructed a winter trail for year-round mail and shipping service to the miners from Seward to Nome in 1910 for use by dog sled teams. Thus a tradition was born, with races held each winter well into the 1920s.

Alaskan Surgeon Makes Long Trip: Doctor in U.S. Hospital Must Journey 838 Miles to His Patient. Anchorage, Alaska, Jan. 26.--Dr. J. B. Beeson, surgeon in the government hospital at Anchorage, was hurrying today to the end of the government railroad on the first leg of an 88-mile journey to Iditarod, where he was called by the serious illness of Claude E. Baker, a banker. At the end of Steel, Dr. Beeson will be met by Bill Cory and Harry Wanstad, famous "mushers," who will pilot him by dog sled to Iditarod. Relays of fast dog teams have been arranged for along the route and crews of men have started to break trail from the other end. Dr. Beeson estimated that the trip would require 14 days.

Image credit: Omaha daily bee. (Omaha [Neb.]), 27 Jan. 1921. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn99021999/1921-01-27/ed-1/seq-4/>

Teams of dog sleds helped save hundreds of lives in the wake of the deadly 1925 diphtheria epidemic, with heroic dogs, such as the world-famous Balto and lead dog Togo, led by world-renown musher Leonard Seppala, transport of life-saving serum to snow-bound Nome.

Color photograph with the text "1925 Serum Run To Nome" with a black and white photograph of dog musher Leonard Seppala and his team of dogs, with his lead dog Togo stuffed and mounted in front of the photograph and text.

Exhibit on the 1925 serum run with lead dog Togo stuffed and on display at the Carrie M. McClain Memorial Museum in Nome, Alaska. Photo courtesy of the author.

The advent of air travel signaled an end of the integral aspect of the dog sled team, but the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race tradition lives on each year, thanks to Joe Redington Sr., who sought to preserve the sled dog culture and the historical Iditarod Trail.

Today, an average of 65 teams participate, and it typically takes between 9-12 days for the winning dog sled team to reach the finish line.

Although the official Iditarod started a number of years after the span of Alaska newspapers available on Chronicling America, there are several accounts of other dog sled races in Alaska.

Many Dog Races Be Held Nome This Winter: With a lot of money already donated, Nome will have more dog races this winter than during any other season in the history of the Bering Sea, says the Seattle Times. The All-Alaska sweepstakes race, the great sporting classic of the north, will not receive individual attention for premiership honors this year, for a new contest, the dog race marathon, has been inaugurated, according to Charles Sanford, former editor of the Nome Nugget, who is in Seattle to spend the winter. John Borden, Chicago millionaire, who started north on a sporting expedition last summer that ended when the power schooner Great Bear piled up on St. Matthew island in Bearing sea, was the creator of the Marathon for dogs. Borden reached Nome after a wet and chilly experience in the surf of St. Matthew island and became interested in dog racing. He sent to Chicago for the handsomest silver cup that the silversmiths of that city could furnish, and donated it for a race over a Marathon course. The trophy weighs more than sixty pounds without the pedestal. Course 26 Miles 300 Yards. The Nome Kennel Club, with Borden's assistance, laid out the rules under which the trophy must be competed for. The course will be twenty six miles and three hundred yards. The event is to be run under the most favorable climactic conditions, it being the desire of both the club and the donor of the trophy to learn exactly how fast a team of dogs can cover this distance. The big cup must be won three times by the same team owner, but each winter will be given a smaller silver cup. It is likely that the Marathon race will be held a few days before Christmas, but the date is dependent on the weather. Eight teams were in training for the event when Sanford left the north. Perry Riley, Russ Downing, Grant Jackson, Fay Delzene, Charley Ross, John Erikson and Billy Webb were getting their animals in shape for the test. Only five teams will compete in the All-Alaska Sweepstakes race, from Nome to Candle Creek, and return a distance of 412 miles, and the contest is likely to simmer down to a battle between malamutes of the lop-eared variety. Leonard Seppala has acquired all the pointed ear Siberian dogs in the country and Fay Delzene has a monopoly on the best lop-eared dogs. Seppala and Delzene each has won a victory in this great event. Crossed Breed Animals to Run. Perry Riley is training a team of Missouri bird hounds, crossed with malamute, which may upset the genasid to be very fast , but there is a question as to their having the staying qualities as needed in a gruelling race of 412 miles. The Ladies' Amateur Race this year promises to bring out considerable rivalry. George Bokum, a Chicago sportsman and who accompanied Borden to Nome, donated a beautiful bronze and silver vase for the event, and already the women dog fanciers of Nome are arranging to borrow a few dogs from the crack racing teams. There will be about eight other races during the winter. Sanford says there will be more prospecting in Nome this winter than ever before, but he has never seen the time when miners wouldn't take a few days off to watch a dog race, no matter how much gold they were gathering from deep in the earth at the time. When a dog race starts all other activities are suspended.

Image credit: The Cordova daily times. (Cordova, Alaska), 02 Dec. 1916. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

The All-Alaska Sweepstakes was among these many races. From 1908 until 1917, the Kennel Club of Nome held the All-Alaska Sweepstakes, a race spanning on the Seward peninsula from Nome to Candle. From the 1931 book Gold, Men and Dogs, well-renown  musher A. A. “Scotty” Allen described the route to Candle:

“It was selected because the trail to it from Nome goes over all kinds of country, from sea ice to high mountains, with rivers, tundra, timber, glaciers, and everything else in the way of mental and physical hardships en route. We knew there wouldn’t be any doubt about the excellence of a dog or driver that covered it.”

Black and white photograph of a crowd of people wearing fur coats and hats on a street in Nome surrounding a dog sled team of 15 dogs with the caption that reads: "Team no 1 starting in the 5th annual All Alaska Sweep Stake Race; G.H. Johnson Owner and Driver."

Image credit: Courtesy of the Alaska State Library Historical Collections.

All-Alaska Sweepstakes Won By Scotty Allan: The fifth annual All Alaska Sweepstakes, run on Seward peninsula last week, was the biggest and last dog event of the season. The race started from Nome Thursday forenoon, April 4, and the course was to Candle and return, a total distance of 372 miles. The trail was heavy and the weather stormy part of the time. The purse was $3,000, divided into three parts as follows: First, $800; second, $750; third, $450. The winners were as follows: Allan and Darling, 14 dogs, Scotty Allan driver...Running Time: 53 h. 43 min.; Resting Time: 33 h, 44 m.; Finishing Time 87 h. 27 m.; John Johnston, 16 dogs, Aleck Holmson driver...63 h. 35 min; 24 h. 23 m.; 87 h. 58 m.; Charles Johnson, 16 dogs, self driver...64 h., 16 min.; 24 h. 39 m.; 88 h.; 55 m.; Oliver Blatchford also started, with twelve dogs, but was reported hopelessly out of the race at the 372d mile. He was lost in Death Valley for three hours. Holmson lost a dog in Death Valley, where it was storming, and was two hours finding him. In 1910 the race was run in 74 hours 14 minutes 22 seconds, which is high-record time.

Image credit: Iditarod pioneer. (Iditarod, Alaska), 13 April 1912. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

Black and white photograph of Esther Birdsall Darling wearing a fur coat and hat holding the leash of three dogs, one of which is seated in the middle.

Esther Birdsall Darling. Image credit: Alaska State Library Historical Collections.

Esther Birdsall Darling, Allen’s partner and co-owner of his dog teams in the All-Alaska Sweepstakes between 1908-1915, stands out as one of the notable women actively involved in sled dog racing in Alaska. In 1916 she wrote a book titled Baldy of Nome that chronicled the rescue story of Baldy, pictured below, who led Allen’s team to victory. The text of this book can be read online in its entirety.

Black and white photograph of a dog lying down looking up at the photographer with the writing: "Baldy of Nome"; "Scotty" Allen's famous leader, Winner of $25,000 in Sweepstake prizes." From the Winter& Pond company, Juneau, Alaska.

Image credit: Courtesy of the Alaska State Library Historical Collections.

Color photograph of All Alaska Sweepstakes Memorabilia at the Carrie M. McClain Memorial Museum in Nome Alaska featuring a fur coat, 4 silver trophies, patches, a hat, a program guide, and a sled banner belonging to Leonard Seppala.

All Alaska Sweepstakes memorabilia on display at the Carrie M. McClain Memorial Museum in Nome, Alaska. Photo courtesy of the author.

Click here for more information on the Iditarod and its history. To learn more about the All-Alaska Sweepstakes, click here.

Congratulations to Pete Kaiser, and to all those who participated in the Iditarod this year!