Funter Bay History: Pulling the Trap

June 28, 2018

Fish Traps were a major part of Southeast Alaska industry in the first half of the 20th century. I’ve mentioned the traps around Funter Bay in many previous entries, including some photos of trap operations here and some of the designs and technology here.

As noted on many of the Thlinket Packing Co’s labels, they claimed to be “The only cannery in Alaska fishing with traps exclusively”. This was said to make for “fresh, wholesome, and delicious” canned salmon. Collector George Freddora was kind enough to share a label for “Tepee Brand” Coho salmon that I had not seen before:

Tepee Brand Salmon Label, courtesy of George Freddora.


Below are a few photos of trap operations, including “pulling” or “brailing” the fish out of the trap. This was a popular scene to photograph, as the wriggling, splashing fish made for an exciting display. As such, there are a lot of duplicates and variants of these photos for Funter Bay! My apologies if I have posted some of these particular images before.

“Brailing Salmon into Scow”, Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Case & Draper Photograph Collection, PCA 39


Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Case & Draper Photograph Collection, PCA 39


Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Case & Draper Photograph Collection, PCA 39


“T.P. Co Salmon Trap”, Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Case & Draper Photograph Collection, PCA 39

The next image and variants of it became a popular Alaska postcard, both in original and colorized versions:

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Case & Draper Photograph Collection, PCA 39

Photographer William Case took a number of back-to-back exposures  of the brailing process seen above. So far I’ve found 5 of these, and stacked them together into a quick animation:

(Various sources including Alaska State Library and University of Washington Digital Archives).

And finally, a look back at the trap (center-right) and the Kitten Islands, on the way back to the cannery.

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, Case & Draper Photograph Collection, PCA 39


Funter Bay History: Captain George Whitney Photos

August 24, 2017

Captain George H. Whitney was an agent of the government’s Steamboat Inspection Service between 1898 and 1928. His career saw him traveling to many Alaskan ports for safety inspections on steam powered merchant vessels. The agency was later merged with the Bureau of Navigation and then superseded by the US Coast Guard.

A photo album in the Alaska State Library & Archives has a few of Captain Whitney’s photos from Funter Bay in 1907. He seems to have been traveling on the steam liner Georgia, possibly to inspect vessels of the Thlinket Packing Co.

View from a steamship (possibly the Georgia) approaching the Funter Bay wharf. Courtesy of Alaska State Library, Captain George H Whitney Photo Collection, PCA 300-82

In the photo above we see the Thlinket Packing Co’s steamer Anna Barron at the wharf. The smokestack from a steam engine is also seen sitting on the wharf, possibly a steam donkey or pile driver engine.

Three friends on the steamship Georgia near Funter Bay. Courtesy of Alaska State Library, Captain George H Whitney Photo Collection, PCA 300-83


Funter Bay cannery residence. Courtesy of Alaska State Library, Captain George H Whitney Photo Collection, PCA 300-92

The above photo is likely the cannery superintendent’s house, which had a large covered porch.


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!

Funter Bay History: Cannery Shipping and Maintenance

June 30, 2016

I recently received a few Funter Bay images from Michael and Carolyn Nore, collectors of historic Alaska postcards and photos. These show some of the Thlinket Packing Co’s operations between about 1914 and 1920. Most are prior to 1918 (based on the cards used), but some are from the same summer as the photos seen previously in this post.

The first photo is a great shot of the Cannery wharf and main buildings, marked “Front View of Cannery”. The large “Thlinket Packing Co” sign is visible above the warehouse. The mess hall and store is barely visible in the rear right, and the Superintendent’s house with its large porch is seen on the left.

funter bay2 5-18-16 copy

Moving inland, a set of two images show the rear of the cannery buildings. The large chimneys were from the main boiler house.

funter bay6 5-18-16 copy funter bay4 back view of cannery 5-18-16 copy

The previous photo shows a number of handprints marking the foreground building. I am not sure what this building is, as it does not appear on either the 1964 or 1942 property maps.

Another set shows one of the cannery’s steam-powered pile drivers. I am not sure how many of these units the Thlinket Packing co owned, the remains of a smaller one is on the beach at Funter Bay. A large unit nearly identical to the one in these pictures appears in a 1926 photo at the mine wharf (seen on this page).

funter bay8 5-18-16 copy funter bay1 5-18-16 copy

Some scows, rowboats, and a gas boat are seen at the dock and wharf in the next photo. This is a little later than the others, dated May 21 1920:

funter bay11 6-29-16 copy

The photo below shows a gas boat or launch under the pipeline from the cannery’s oil tank, in June 1920.

funter bay9 6-29-16 copy

The next photo is labeled “One of the company tugs with a diver repairing her rudder”. It shows a sailing vessel alongside the cannery’s steam tug Anna Barron and a variety of smaller boats. Men on the sailboat are operating an air compressor and have lowered a ladder and several pipes and ropes over the side. What appears to be a diving suit is draped over the sailboat’s boom.

funter bay3 tug repair by diver 5-18-16 copy

Moving up in vessel sizes, the next photo shows the Pacific Coast Steamship Co’s City of Seattle at the cannery wharf. The appearance of the ship dates this to 1914 or later, as the City of Seattle was completely rebuilt that year and converted from coal to oil fuel. Prior to 1914 the ship had a different superstructure and the foremast was aft of the wheelhouse, as seen here. The re-built ship can also be seen here and a description of the refit is here. Like other commercial steamers, the ship would call at canneries as needed to transport supplies, products, and workers.

funter bay5 steamer city of seattle 5-18-16 copy

Next is a photo of the “Indian Village” located Northeast of the cannery. While postcards tend to call this a village, most accounts state it was not occupied year round. The area was more of a seasonal camp for native employees of the cannery who lived there in the summer.

funter bay7 indian village near cannery 5-18-16 copy

And the last photo shows an interesting gazebo on the hill behind the cannery, with some Tlingit employees relaxing on benches. What appear to be a number of halibut can be seen hanging from the boardwalk below. The date is not given but is probably between 1914-1918.

funter bay10 6-29-16 copy

Thanks again to the Nores for sharing these great images!

Funter Bay History: Early Tourism

February 6, 2015

The Alaskan tourism industry grew rapidly in the early 20th century. Publicity from high-profile private “expeditions” (such as the Harriman Expedition) sparked an interest in Alaska among America’s middle class. Shipping lines quickly recognized the value of Alaska as a vacation destination, bringing the curious to see strange landscapes, animals, and cultures.

Early tourist cruises to Alaska often shared space on cargo ships or combined cargo/passenger vessels (which I’ve mentioned several times before). Even purpose-built “excursion” vessels usually had a large cargo capacity, and often made stops at industrial ports like Funter Bay during their tour circuits. Shipping lines capitalized on this by calling such stops “Surprise Ports”.

“Decidedly popular… extra calls located off the regular lanes of travel in secluded coves or fjords, and not shown in printed schedules. Here, while the ship loads or unloads, the angler may try his luck in nearby streams or lakes, and the hiker may explore wooded mountain trails, to vistas of incredible beauty.”
(Excerpt from “Looking Ahead to Alaska”, pamphlet of the Alaska Steamship Company, ca 1934).

Of course, the downsides of such “surprise ports” were never mentioned in the advertising… the noise of cargo loaded late at night, the aroma of a fish processing plant, or the unexpected wait if the captain misjudged a tide and went aground at low water.

While canneries like the Thlinket Packing Co could be an unexpected stop, at least one steamer line made a point to incorporate it into their regular routes and advertising. A 1911 brochure from the Pacific Coast Steamship Company lists Funter Bay among its regular stops and attractions.


The Salmon Cannery
Funter Bay Cannery is a revelation to those who have not seen the workings of the packing of food fish for market. Millions of salmon annually are taken from these waters, packed in tins after most approved modern methods and take place in the food supply of the world. Passengers have ample opportunity to inspect the cannery or to photograph the beautifully located nearby Indian village.” (From Pacific Coast Steamship Co “Alaska via Totem Pole Route, Season 1911”).

A 1909 advertisement also mentions Funter Bay as a stop for the Pacific Coast’s steamer Spokane.


I’ve previously posted this photo, which was labeled as the SS Spokane at Funter Bay in 1905. I am unsure of the source.

Dr. Eugene Talbot was a passenger on the Spokane in July of 1905 and described the steamer’s stop at Funter:

Advertisement Talbot

The steamship brochures also took every opportunity to push native art and trinkets, asking readers “Have You Collected Indian Carvings?” and “Is Alaska Represented in Your Den?”. Every port seems to have had a dockside market of souvenir merchants, including Funter Bay. An undated photo from the Clarence Leroy Andrews collection is described as “Natives with baskets for sale to tourists. Wharf at Funter’s Bay”.

By 1914, the Pacific Coast Steamship Co seems to have dropped Funter from their tour route and replaced it with a stop at Killisnoo’s herring reduction plant. The SS Spokane continued to visit Funter on cannery business, including a 1920 trip where cannery workers and officials made up the entire passenger complement. Another trip in 1925 saw the former Spokane, now renamed the Admiral Rogers, delivering a load of mining equipment to Funter Bay.

Funter Bay History – Even More Ships; Passengers, Mail, & Freight

April 30, 2013

Travel and shipping to Funter Bay in the late 19th and early 20th century required owning a boat, hitching a ride on a boat, or paying for passage on one of the occasional commercial vessels to stop at the bay.

Below is a ticket stub from 1928. Funter Bay is listed as one of many possible destinations, including various small towns, lighthouses, canneries, fox farms, mines, etc. Fare in 1928 from Juneau to Funter was $5.50.


Freight service was irregular, arriving whenever there was a large load of something (lumber, machinery, workers, etc) to deliver. This is the case today as well, freight is often brought in companies such as John Gitkov’s Southeast Alaska Lighterage, using rebuilt military landing craft. Households at Funter Bay would often go together on a load once or twice a year, including fuel, building materials, ATVs, etc.

Freight delivery at Funter Bay in the 1990s:

Landing Craft

During the industrial years of canning and mining, Funter Bay had semi-regular mail service (at least during the summer). Cannery owner J.T. Barron occasionally served as Fourth Class Postmaster, although when the cannery started in 1902, James Largan is listed as Postmaster. In 1921, William N Williams is listed as Postmaster. Commonly the storekeeper in a small town would hold this position on the side, although it also included several hundred dollars a year in government salary and sometimes kept very small stores in the black. Although the Rural Free Delivery service eliminated many 4th-class postmaster positions, they persisted in Alaska for some time (Harold Hargrave was Postmaster at Funter Bay in 1954).

Here’s a photo of the Funter Bay post office (date unknown).

From the early 1920s to late 1940s, mail was delivered by chartered vessels such as the Estebeth (sometimes spelled Estabeth), a 55ft wood diesel boat which made semi-regular mail and passenger runs all over Southeast Alaska. The boat was owned by the Davis Transportation Co under captain James V Davis (who later organized Marine Airways and served as a state legislator).

The Estebeth at Sitka, courtesy of Jim Dangel, used with permission:


Above ad from the 1920 Issue of Pacific Motorboat. In 1920 the Estebeth had a crew of 3.

A few more photos of the Estebeth.

The Estebeth (Reg # 216559) is indeed listed in 1920 as having an 80hp gas engine, but despite the “Reliability of Frisco Standard Gas engines” described above, the boat is listed in 1925 as having switched to a 90hp diesel engine. By 1945 the boat had upgraded to a 100hp diesel, added a radio (call sign WNOL) , and had a crew of 5.

According to various wreck reports, the Estebeth either went aground near Swanson Harbor, or burned near Point Couverden on March 31, 1948. A local resident recalls that the Estabeth burned in Crab Cove at Funter Bay. I’m trying to verify which was which. Either way, this was not the first accident the boat had suffered, BOEM Shipwreck lists mention that she hit a shoal near Kosciusko island in 1927, stranded twice in 1929 at Zimovia Strait and Port Alexander, and scraped a rock in Tabenkof Bay in 1929 (I wonder if they fired the 1929 crew!). The boat is also mentioned in various history texts as being present to rescue various stranded mariners and assist disabled vessels all over Southeast.

Another vessel used for mail and freight service in Southeast Alaska was the Margnita, operated by the Coastwise Transportation Co of Alaska (there was also a Coastwise Transportation Co of Maine). The Margnita was an 83ft boat built in 1926, with a 200hp gas engine and a crew of 8. The boat was sold in 1931 and renamed the Polar Bear, and the Coastwise Transportation Co of Alaska seems to have vanished, one record mentions that captain H.M. Peterson was arrested for fraud relating to some mining claims in the Nome area, and an article mentions that the vessel sat idle for several years before being purchased by the Kodiak Guides Association.

“WOLD COMMANDS “POLAR BEAR” Capt. Peter Wold… in August assumed command of the yacht “Polar Bear“. This vessel, as the “Margnita”, was long well known as a passenger and freight boat in Alaska waters.” (From Pacific Fisherman Journal, 1931)

The Polar Bear sank near Kodiak in 1935, and was raised for salvage by divers in 1937.

Polar Bear
(From New York Post, July 20 1935)

Another mail boat serving the area after the 1940s was the Forester, (Reg 209556). Owned by Lloyd “Kinky” Bayers and later by James Colo, the Forester was a 63′ boat built in 1912 in Seattle. In 1945 it had a 60hp diesel engine and a crew of 2. By 1965 it was listed as having a 200hp diesel and owned by John Gallagher. The vessel was still active as of 1989, owned by Bluewater Farms, a fish farm in Port Townsend. It is no longer listed as an active vessel with the USCG.

By the 1930s, reliable aircraft service began supplementing mail boats (although there was still mail boat service through the ’70s for larger items). In the 1980s – early 2000s, Funter Bay had weekly year-round mail delivery by seaplane, paid for by a federal mail contract. Ward Air of Juneau, known for their safety and punctuality, had a long-running contract for mail delivery. Ward Air was much more dependable than the Postal Service itself, the feds were constantly trying to cut service to small towns, and at various times Funter Bay’s “delivery location” included a box under someone’s desk at the Juneau post office, which would get dumped at Ward Air if and when the post office happened to remember. We also frequently got mail for other small Southeast towns, as they got our mail. It was usually a good bet that anything mailed or mail-ordered would be a few weeks or a month to show up (next-day and two-day letter delivery in the Lower 48 still weirds me out).

Much of rural Alaska shared the 5-digit 99850, Funter Bay’s full zip code was 99850-0140.

The mail box at Funter Bay. Mail came once a week via seaplane when I was growing up.

The mail box at Funter Bay. Mail came once a week via seaplane when I was growing up.

As mentioned in a previous post, the number and variety of commercial vessels calling at Funter Bay would make for a very extensive list. Further confusing the issue is that many of the shipping companies mentioned here were merged, consolidated, or otherwise interwoven to some extent during the mid 20th century. I’ll try to document a few that I’ve been able to find references to.

In 1904, Funter Bay was designated by the US Treasury Dept. as a “Special Landing Place” for vessels to be under the supervision of a customs inspector. This was “for landing coal, salt, railroad iron, and other like articles in bulk”.

Steamship service was on the flag stop principle. Steamers regularly passed Funter Bay on the way to and from Juneau and Skagway, and companies could request that a ship make a stop at Funter along the way. Irregular stops like Funter were not listed on the larger companies’ official route maps and were not typically factored into the printed timetables, although an 1896 timetable from the Pacific Steamship Co notes that

“These dates so far as they relate to ports in Alaska, are purely approximate. In case of steamers calling at other ports (which they are liable to) or in case of fogs or other unfavorable weather, tides, etc, these dates cannot be relied on. “

Alaska Steamship Co route map, 1936. Funter Bay is visible just to the SW of Juneau:

A reference in Barry Roderick’s Preliminary History of Admiralty Island mentions the Steamer Al-Ki delivering materials and workmen to Funter Bay in 1895. There were several vessels with this name in the Pacific Northwest, but I believe this was the 200ft steamship out of San Francisco which called at many small towns, mines, and canneries in Southeast Alaska. The Al-Ki was wrecked at Point Agusta in 1917. More information on the wreck is available here (scroll down).
Al - Ki, a passenger steamer, wrecked on Point Augusta, Alaska, November 1, 1917

The Admiral Goodrich is listed as delivering sawmill equipment to Funter in 1918. This was a cargo vessel owned by the Pacific Steamship Company. Formerly the SS Aroline, and later the Noyo, this ship was wrecked at Point Arena, CA in 1935.

Admiral Goodrich in 1918:

Admiral Goodrich

The vessel Driva, owned by Juneau Lumber mills (and previously mentioned as assisting the burning Buster at Funter Bay in 1926) occasionally called at Funter to deliver lumber for construction (and possibly to pick up cut logs). Driva was a 56ft gas towboat. It seems to have been wrecked near Douglas Island sometime between 1935 (when it is listed in the Merchant Vessel Registry) and 1937, when the wreck was photographed.

Juneau Lumber Mills also had a vessel called the Virginia IV. Here’s a photo of it at the dock in Juneau, along with the ferry Teddy, probably the same Teddy which was reported abandoned at Funter Bay in 1959. The Virginia IV is seen on the right in the above link, in it was a 97′ boat built in Tacoma in 1904 as the steam vessel Tyrus, registry 200681. By the 1920s it had a diesel engine and had additional superstructure added aft of the wheelhouse.
Virginia IV

The 1905 book “A Trip to Alaska” mentions the Steamship Cottage City (233ft long, built 1890) stopping at Funter Bay on the way north to deliver salt for the cannery (described in the book as the largest in Alaska), and then again on the southbound trip to pick up six thousand cases of canned salmon (each case holding 48 2-pound cans).

Cottage City

More information on the Cottage City. and what became of the ship.

A 1915 issue of The Timberman magazine reports the steamship City of Seattle bound for Funter Bay with a cargo of 3,000 wood shingles.


More on the City of Seattle.

And another 1915 sailing mentioned in the Timberman is the freighter SS Paraiso:


The Paraiso was later used by the US Navy and renamed the USS Malanao.


A 1917 issue of Western Canner and Packer reported that the steamer Admiral Watson arrived in Seattle with 40,000 cases of salmon from various canneries, including Funter Bay.

Admiral Watson

While the Admiral Watson occasionally ran aground,  or even sank, (it was rammed by the Paraiso) it survived into the 1930s when it was sold to Japanese scrappers.

Packing slip

The Admiral Rogers visited Funter several times. In 1925, filling in for the Ruth Alexander, which had originally been scheduled. Both were ships of the Pacific Steamship Co / Admiral Line. The Rogers was formerly known as the SS Spokane.

SS Spokane

I have this photo floating around my hard drive with the note “SS Spokane at Funter Bay, 1905″. I’m not sure where it came from:


More info on the Admiral Rogers (scroll down or search).

Here’s a menu from the Admiral Rodgers from that same year.

The Ruth Alexander:

ruth alexander

The SS Cordova was another Pacific Steamship Co / Alaska Steamship Co vessel to visit Funter Bay. Here is an excellent website about another small town where the Cordova regularly called.

Photo of the SS Cordova by the Helsel Photo Co of Kodiak, courtesy of


The Nelson Steamship Co of San Francisco owned a 298ft freight steamer named the Jacox, based out of Portland OR. This vessel dropped off supplies and materials at Funter Bay.

I believe this is the same Jacox, which also saw service across the Pacific to Asia and Australia:


It seems odd today to think of such large steamships calling at Funter Bay. The largest vessels we usually saw in the bay were yachts and the occasional research vessel, the present-day docks are more suited for small fishing boats and cruisers. I have heard that some of these larger steamships used the cannery dock to discharge freight; probably the wharf on which cannery buildings were constructed out over the bay. It’s also possible that they would lower freight into barges or scows to be taken ashore to operations lacking a dock (like the Dano mine). I’ve also heard from recreational divers that such steamships would sometimes have lazy kitchen crews, who would throw dirty plates out the window instead of washing them. The intact china plates being recovered from under the cannery dock by these divers certainly seems to support that story!

And while we’re at it, here are a few more Funter Bay shipwrecks I’ve come across (I should try to make a comprehensive list of these!)

10:22/1928: The Anna Helen, a gas yacht used as a floating dental office, burned after an engine backfire caused a gasoline explosion. Vessel sank 2 miles from entrance to Funter Bay.

10/14/1938: An unnamed troller belonging to Geo. Ford was found sunk in Funter Bay, with no sign of him around. Fred Patrick was also missing. Both were found at Funter three days later (From Juneau newspaper via Kinky Bayers note cards). (I was able to devote an entire post to the adventures of Fred Patrick).