We often see picturesque images of Alaska, but we rarely see old photos that show what it was like when it was being settled. We’ve selected some incredible images from the late 1800s onwards. In these photographs of everyday people we see the story of immigrants and workers, but told in a wonderful wild landscape, at times frozen, but always awe-inspiring. Have a look at Alaskan settlers and natives forging a life in the wilderness in these historic photographs.
Note the caption: a sourdough is a settler who has wintered over in Alaska. The nickname comes from the practice of keeping their dough starter from freezing in the extreme cold. Via/ Library of Congress
Shooting off guns to celebrate the end of World War I. Via/ Flickr
From the schoolhouses and churches to the fisheries, we get a sense of what life was like in this unique landscape: much like their continental counterparts, but more remote, in harsher climate, and with less chance to farm. It’s interesting to see how familiar that schoolroom looks in a photo, but just imagine how much more fuel they would have needed in winter to keep the room above freezing.
From the building of houses in the early 1900s to the sprawling landscapes that became popular in more recent years, each photograph tells the story of the beautifully rugged land and the communities that the settlers called home. There was even a resettlement effort launched in the 1930s as one of FDR’s initiatives. While the Gold Rush may have lured many miners and settlers to Alaska, the settlements didn’t stop growing once the gold dried up. Farmers, furriers, and fishermen came for decades to carve out a living in this vast wilderness.
From the rare shot of men firing guns at the victory of WWI and the settlers from the 1930s, unexpected and wonderful photos from Alaska bring another perspective to the story of American settlers. To view historic photos from the Old West click here.
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