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THE ALASKAN. VOLUME I, NUMBER 18.
Sitka, Ak. The Alaskan Publishing Company, March 6, 1886. pp. Folio newspaper. Tanned, some chipping and small closed tears to margins. Split entirely along a horizontal fold, repaired with tape. Good. Item #WRCAM57501
A rare issue of this very early Alaskan newspaper, with considerable content related to Alaskan district government and political figures, early rumblings of gold findings, relations with the indigenous Tlingit people, and more. Beginning in 1884, the year before the first issue of THE ALASKAN was published, the region was administered as a District, meaning that the governor and most officials were appointed by the President, and that citizens had little to no capacity for "home rule," let alone representation in Congress. This injustice was acutely felt by Alaskans, and several articles in this issue of THE ALASKAN revolve around that discontent. The first article in the paper contains a printing of the Treaty of Cession of Alaska to the United States by Russia, then adds to it that "At this date the 'inhabitants of the ceded territory' have no voice in any legislative body by which the defects in their anomalous 'civil government' can be remedied, and no means of acquiring title to a HOME in Alaska." It would not be until the Klondike Gold Rush dramatically increased the population and attention paid to Alaska over a decade later that such provisions would start to be made, and not until 1912 that the District became organized as a Territory. Another article describes a mass meeting in Sitka (the District capital) which called on the President to bring the issue before Congress. Yet another editorial acidly compares Alaska's Organic Act to the Declaration of Independence for it's "purely Jeffersonian" provisions, which deny representation and land ownership to its citizens.
A humorous but revealing article is also dedicated to Ward McAllister, Jr., the first District judge of Alaska. McAllister and his allies were dismissed by President Grover Cleveland on the urging of Agent of Education Sheldon Jackson, based on rumors of gross incompetence which may or may not have been exaggerated. The editors of THE ALASKAN certainly seem to believe them, however - responding to McAllister's father's attempts to have his son reinstated, they write:
"It is altogether probable that McAllister, pere, is right in the part of his assertion which claims that idleness was never urged against McAllister, fils. Such a charge as that would, indeed, have been hard to substantiate, in view of all the facts. The zeal and energy displayed by McAllister, fils, in frequent explorations of the steamship route between his legitimate post of duty and a dude club room in San Francisco...or junketing his particular friends at government expense, ought to have precluded, as it seems to have done, the promulgation of any charges affecting his habits to industry....In the expressive vernacular of the native Alaskan, he is simply and utterly, in all respects save the uses (if there be any) for which a dandy dude can be utilized, cultus - a disgrace, by reason of his lamentable ignorance of the law....It is just possible that further persistence on the part of the McAllisters, pere and fils, may compel the compilation of a brief chapter in the personal biography of the latter which he had much rather not see in print."
Other articles describe conditions in the Sitka jail, bills currently in Congress, the new law for presidential succession, a lengthy piece on the history of Montenegro, various bits of local news, the abolishment of corporal punishment at the Indian Industrial School (managed by Jackson, who by all accounts treated the students as indentured servants), and a number of pieces about Princess Tom, a quite wealthy and locally powerful Tlingit woman. There is also an advertisement titled "How to Reach Alaska" by the Pacific Coast Steamship Company, which notes that it sales from Portland once a month and offers cabins from San Francisco to Juneau for $70, and several very early mentions of "the Yukon gold fever" which has already "broken out very strong," more than a decade before the start of the Alaska gold rushes en force. Additional advertisements are present for all sorts of goods, including one for the Sitka and Juneau Breweries, which advertise "PURE BEER," which is of course "EXPRESSLY and EXCLUSIVELY for MEDICINAL, MECHANICAL, AND SCIENTIFIC PURPOSES" in the legally dry district.
A rare piece of early Alaska printing, with much interesting content on the social, political, and cultural goings-on of that District pre-Gold Rush. Not in Ricks or Tourville.