Funter Bay History: A 1919 Honeymoon Trip

July 20, 2017

One fascinating source of historic Alaska photos are the vacation albums created by past visitors. The Alaska State Library & Archives has several such albums donated by collectors and families of the original photographers. These provide a great cross section of historic Alaskan tourism, as well as a glimpse into the interests of the tourists (some photographed glaciers while others focused on wildlife and still others on industry).

An album from July of 1919 follows the journey of some newlyweds from Seattle to Southeast Alaska. Unfortunately the names of the couple is not known. They sailed on the steamship Admiral Evans, which made stops at the canneries in Funter Bay and nearby Hawk Inlet.

1919 Album 1

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Alaska Travel Photograph Album,1919, PCA 425-09

It’s not clear if the following photo of salmon on a cannery floor was taken at Funter or Hawk Inlet. Both canneries would have looked similar inside.

1919 Album 2

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Alaska Travel Photograph Album,1919, PCA 425-09

 

1919 Album 3

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Alaska Travel Photograph Album,1919, PCA 425-09

The next photo of the USS Marblehead is quite interesting. I mentioned the Marblehead’s anti-piracy visit and showed a postcard photo from a different angle in this post.

1919 Album 4

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Alaska Travel Photograph Album,1919, PCA 425-09

A newspaper article from Juneau mentioned the Marblehead that same month:

Marblehead article

Getting back to the photo album, a wider view shows the cannery with native worker village on the right, and a denuded small island in the foreground (probably Gauge Is.)

1919 Album 5

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Alaska Travel Photograph Album,1919, PCA 425-09

A pair of photos show the young couple taking turns posing in the woods at Funter Bay:

1919 Album 6

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Alaska Travel Photograph Album,1919, PCA 425-09

 

1919 Album 7

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Alaska Travel Photograph Album,1919, PCA 425-09

And finally, a shipboard photo as the steamer left Funter Bay:

1919 Album 8

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Alaska Travel Photograph Album,1919, PCA 425-09

If anyone happens to recognize these people, I would love to hear about it!


Forgotten Railroad Updates

June 27, 2017

I recently traveled to Juneau, AK for some research on obscure Alaskan railroads. The Alaska State Library and Archives were incredibly helpful in pulling materials for me. I found enough material in their catalog that I estimated I’d need a week to go through it all, but they had it so streamlined I was able to get through my list in only 4 days! Of course in the meantime I generated another list just as long of related collections, additional sources, and expanded lines of inquiry! Hopefully I can get back to Juneau again for further research. I’m almost ready to turn this into a book, although I’m still hoping to find a way to visit some of these remote locations in person for photo documentation.

I’m slowly updating my railroad page with details, photos, maps, and other documents from this archival visit as I sort through the material. In the meantime, here are a few interesting tidbits!

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Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, PCA 12

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Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, MS 999

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Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, PCA 119

 

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Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, PCA 119

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Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, MS 39

 

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Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, MS 999


Funter Bay History: Letterhead Evolution

June 26, 2017

In the days before email, every successful business needed a snappy letterhead. Even short-lived businesses which existed only on paper would create fanciful letterhead logos and designs to adorn their correspondence. For the companies that stood the test of time, letterheads would evolve and change as styles moved in and out of fashion. Usually they became fancier and more ornate. The Thlinket Packing Co was no exception, updating and improving their corporate logo several times over the years.

The earliest letterhead for the company was from 1902, when the cannery at Funter Bay was built. This is the first and only reference I’ve seen to “Elizabeth Point”, apparently named after founder James Barron’s wife Elizabeth.

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Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Manuscript Collection MS 43

By 1905 the corporate letterhead featured a photo of the cannery by an unknown photographer (I have not yet located an original).

letterhead 1905

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Manuscript Collection MS 43

In 1906 there seem to have been a few minor changes. A letter sent in January shows a slightly updated version of the 1905 letterhead, adding a new canned salmon product. It also added a house flag (indicating which company owned a vessel), with the “B” perhaps standing for Barron. A message sent later in 1906 from Funter Bay apparently re-used the 1905 letterhead.

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Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Manuscript Collection MS 43

By 1912 the Thlinket Packing Co’s letterhead was quite ornate, featuring a new font and new photos from the 1907 visit of photographers Case & Draper:

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Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Manuscript Collection MS 43

 

Thanks to Alaska historian and collector Robert DeArmond, we have a very nice cross section of these letterheads to see! Among other documents, DeArmond collected a huge file of corporate letterheads from companies located or operating in Alaska. This material is not yet online, but can be viewed in person at the Alaska State Library & Archives under Manuscript Collection MS 43.


Funter Bay History: Fire on the Morzhovoi

June 22, 2017

Fire is something wooden boat owners respect and fear. Between the fuel and the varnish-soaked hull, an overturned lamp or loose electrical wire can get out of hand rapidly. In June of 1955, things got very out of hand on the cannery tender Morzhovoi.

Photo from Alaska State Archives, MS 10, Postcard Album 7.

Built in Seattle in 1917, the Morzhovoi was first owned by the Sockeye Salmon Co of Morzhovoi Bay, AK. It was later sold to the P.E. Harris Company, which operated the Funter Bay cannery after 1941. The vessel originally had a 110hp gas engine, changed to 165hp diesel by the 1950s. It is described in various documents as between 80 and 86ft in length. The vessel was of a fairly standard design used for freight service in the Pacific Northwest.

From Pacific Motorboat, Vol 12, No 9, June 1920 (date in caption likely a typo)

 

From Pacific Motorboat, Vol 8, No 3, December 1915.

I have yet to find details of what transpired in June of 1955, but there are a number of photos in Captain “Kinky” Bayers’ files in the Alaska State Archives. Official wreck reports state that the ship burned on June 10th, but the photos are dated June 15th.

Photo from Alaska State Archives, MS 10, Postcard Album 7.

 

Photo from Alaska State Archives, MS 10, Postcard Album 7.

 

Photo from Alaska State Archives, PCA 127

In some of these photos you can see small rowboats around the burning hull. These may have been curious sightseers like the person who took the photos, or they could have been cannery personnel guiding the boat away from other vessels and docks.

The Morzhovoi is a good candidate for the identity of a burned-out wreck found on the beach of Funter Bay today. The wreck is about the right size and features about the right type of engine, but is in such poor condition that verifying its identity would be difficult.

More photos are in my previous post about local shipwrecks.


Historic Juneau Photos

June 19, 2017

I recently returned from a trip to Juneau, Alaska, where I spent quite a bit of time in the state archives. Most of my research focused on the history of small railroads in the state, as well as some Funter Bay history. However, I also came across a few photos that were unrelated but just too cool to ignore. I’ve uploaded the high-res scans of some of these here to share with interested people. Click the previews below for the full size pictures, but be aware they are large files and may take a while to download if you have a slow internet connection!

Treadwell Mine:

Douglas, 1915:

Downtown Juneau, 1915(?)

Downtown Juneau from Mt. Juneau, showing Last Chance Basin at left. Date uncertain:

All of these are courtesy of the Alaska State Archives, Henson Family Photograph Collection, PCA 310


Funter Bay History: Annexation and Air Service

April 13, 2017

As with many small rural communities in Alaska, Funter Bay both benefits and suffers from the whims of government agencies. I recently became aware of some potential changes at the federal and local level that could soon affect residents and visitors.

Funter Bay lies in a curious administrative zone, the “Unorganized Borough”. Where most US states are fully divided into Counties, Alaska calls the equivalent division a Borough and is not fully subdivided. There are only 19 Boroughs in Alaska, holding most of the population. The rest is the Unorganized Borough, home to about 13% of the State’s residents. Wikipedia explains more here.

Legally, this means that small communities like Funter Bay do not have any county or city-level services, ordinances, or infrastructure. There is no sheriff, no road crew, no fire department, no ambulance, no schools, no zoning, no tax assessor. The state and Federal governments fill some of these roles on a minor scale. State surveyors can plat land, State Troopers enforce state laws, and the Coast Guard or Forest Service can respond to fires and rescues. It is worth noting that Alaska has no State-level personal income tax, the state’s services being theoretically funded by oil revenue. Alaskans pay Federal taxes and any municipal taxes that happen to be applicable.

Larger towns and cities occasionally expand their associated Boroughs in an effort to acquire more tax base, buildable land, hydropower sites, industries, and other resources. In some cases there have been competing claims and lawsuits by different cities over who gets choice parts of the unorganized borough.

Funter Bay has long been in the sights of planners at the City and Borough of Juneau, the closest major city. City planners proposed annexation of Funter Bay every few years with various seriousness, including 1994, 2006, and again in 2017. In the past, residents have successfully fought off these attempts, arguing that the city would collect taxes on their rural properties without providing any services in return.

 

The first Annexation attempt I remember was around 1994. Juneau was hungry for the nearby Greens Creek mine and its potential property tax. Haines and Skagway were also making noises about acquiring Greens Creek, and Funter Bay was close enough to be a natural inclusion in the boundary extension. The mine’s administration decided annexation was inevitable and not worth fighting, so they petitioned Juneau as preferable to Haines & Skagway. Funter Bay fought the process, and the mine was amazed and slightly chagrined that this turned out to be successful.

1994 CBJ Boundary certificate, after Greens Creek mine annexed

I can recall my parents discussing details with city administrators, one of whom mentioned that a “benefit” would be inclusion in the Juneau School district. My folks said something to the effect of “great, when will the school bus be here in the morning?” (Funter Bay has no roads and is at least an hour from Juneau by boat). Similar questions were raised about how we could call the fire department (cell phones were not yet available), and what utilities the city could provide to a remote island.

The 1994 Greens Creek annexation also upset the town of Angoon, farther South on Admiralty Island. Residents there felt that Juneau got the benefits of taxes and jobs, while Angoon got the chemical runoff from the mine into their traditional fishing grounds. (Article here).

Another major annexation study came in 2006. Several residents, including my sister Megan Emerson, wrote to the newspaper to express their opinions on the subject: http://juneauempire.com/stories/011006/let_20060110008.shtml

A number of other residents’ comments to the Study Commission can be found here. The full study file is below:

2007 CBJ Annexation Study Commission Final Report

One of the arguments repeated by Juneau planners was that outlying communities such as Funter Bay are “socially and economically dependent” on Juneau and should thus be part of the City and Borough of Juneau. My dad pointed out that Juneau is “socially and economically dependent” on Seattle, and by such logic Juneau should be part of King County Washington.

Whether, or when, Funter Bay becomes attached to a major municipality remains to be seen.

The second major issue that has recently popped up is the proposed defunding of Essential Air Service. This program was established in the 1970s to subsidize air travel to rural parts of the United States which would otherwise not be profitable. Currently 61 communities in Alaska use the program, with the state getting about $21 million out of $175 million nationally. Wikipedia has more details here and the US DOT has details here. Historical reports are here. An article about the possible end of federal funding is here.

Bush plane flights to Funter Bay are currently subsidized at $13,312/year under the EAS (contracted by Ward Air) per the DOT’s 2017 report. This not only helps travelers get cheaper “seat fare” on regularly scheduled planes, but ensures weekly delivery of mail to the community. Other benefits include mail-order groceries, medicine, hardware, parts, fuel, and anything else needed for off-grid life. Regular weekly air service was a hugely important part of life at Funter Bay, allowing residents such as my family to get fresh food all winter and keep in touch with the outside world. The weekly plane was a vital way to get back and forth to town when the weather prevented boat trips. Seat Fare on an mail flight might be under $100, while loss of the federal subsidy would require travelers to charter a plane at full price ($500 and up depending on plane size).

As a Federally-supported program, for which rural Alaskans do pay taxes towards, EAS is something that Funter Bay residents have fought to retain and improve in the past. There have been years where less reliable air carriers were contracted, or when funding and scheduling has fluctuated, but the program has remained a mainstay of rural life for this and many other Alaskan communities.


Further Monorail Remodeling

February 3, 2017

Here are a few more updates and photos of the monorail!

The station platform and new steps:

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And some winter views:

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And a few more concept renderings:

deck table1

On a sadder note, I recently learned that Kim Pedersen has passed away. Kim founded the Monorail Society and authored a great book on the history and technology of monorail trains. He will be truly missed.

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