Funter Bay History: A Commemorative Plate

September 15, 2017

This somewhat mysterious artifact rests in the Juneau-Douglas City Museum’s collections. A fancy gold-edged plate or dish with a portrait of five Native Alaskan women from Funter Bay.

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The plate has no indication of when or why it was made, the only marks other than Museum collection numbers being a “Made in Germany” stamp on the bottom.

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The artwork is not attributed on the plate itself, but is clearly based on a 1907 Case & Draper photo from Funter Bay.

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

Whether the plate was commissioned by the Thlinket Packing Co, or by Case & Draper studios, or by someone else, I don’t know. I’m also not sure if it were a one-off product for a company executive or family member, or some mass-produced item sold as a souvenir or offered as advertising material. Such plates with Alaska scenes were sometimes commissioned by companies as advertising, but there is no company name on it.

The JDCM catalog notes that this was donated by Mamie and Marcus Jensen, and used by the Feusi family of Douglas.

I would love to find more information on this curious Funter Bay plate, if anyone knows more they are encouraged to contact me!

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Thanks again to the Juneau-Douglas City Museum for letting me see and photograph this artifact!

 

 

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Funter Bay History: Cannery Workers in the 1920s

February 26, 2015

My last post displayed some 1920s-era postcards (RPPCs) from Funter Bay, showing buildings and boats of the Thlinket Packing Company’s salmon cannery. Other postcards from the same set show some of the workers and people associated with the cannery in the same time period. It is not clear if these are commercial mass-produced postcards or personal images printed on postcard stock.

Here we see a group of men unloading items from the hold of a ship. The items are likely knocked-down cases for canned salmon. These would be assembled, filled with cans, and then shipped out again. An example of assembled cases can be seen here. In the background are Tlingit native houses and a scow or barge.

Unloading Ship

The next two photos are not labeled as Funter Bay, but were found alongside Funter Bay photos in the same collection. The firewood behind the seated man looks very similar to the wood stacked next to the boardwalk seen in a previous post. Also visible in the background is a wooden frame for clotheslines with hanging laundry, and some fencing or netting, similar to the garden fencing and clotheslines seen before. I suspect this fellow was one of the Tlingit Natives who worked at the cannery during the summers.

Lumberman

The next photo is labeled (in reverse) “Native Cannery Hands”. The photo seems to be printed in the correct orientation based on the product held by the small boy, reading “Sw… Pr…” (perhaps candy?). In a previous post I linked to a report indicating native children as young as 8 sometimes worked 9-hour days for 10 cents an hour.

Native Cannery Hands

There is a lot going on in the above photo. The man on the right is making some sort of gesture or counting 3. The younger people are all looking at the camera and many are smiling, while the older woman stares away with a stern expression. This phenomenon is noted in “The Tlingit Encounter with Photography” where author Sharon Gmelch points out that Tlingit women photographed at Funter Bay tended to look away from the camera unsmiling. One explanation is that smiling for a picture was considered disrespectful by elders. (As another side note, the 1907 photo of the Tlingit women apparently found its way onto a commemorative porcelain plate made in Germany in 1910, which is now at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum).

Another notable feature of these 1920s photos is the popularity of hats or headgear. The children display a variety of hats, including what looks like a naval hat on the smallest boy (marked with a steering wheel at the front). The men unloading the ship mostly have caps, while someone in the hold and someone in the foreground seem to have fedoras (perhaps the bosses?). Earlier photos of Funter Bay workers also show a wide variety of hats, especially among the men. I am not sure if hats were universally popular among all Alaskans/Americans at the time, or if this were a local cultural habit.

A man rowing a boat near the cannery may have been another cannery employee. He appears to have several cut logs in the boat, perhaps for firewood.

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Another portrait shows a man of possible Asian heritage, standing on the wharf at the cannery (Mt. Robert Barron is barely visible behind him). He appears to be the only hat-less person in this post!

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Several people are shown on the cannery wharf with fish in the photos below. These may be some Ballard (Seattle) High School students who visited Funter Bay in 1919, as the images were in the same batch and are colorized similarly to some photos of that group (to be detailed in a later post).

These two have caught salmon, likely with rod and reel:

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And here we see a large halibut (probably in the 150-200lb range). The men are standing on nets, but halibut are usually caught with rod or ground tackle (longlines).

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If any readers happen to recognize any of the people shown here, I would love to hear about it!


Funter Bay History: 1920s Cannery Postcards

February 25, 2015

I recently came across a batch of postcards showing Funter Bay in the 1920s. These appear to have come from the estate of someone associated with the cannery. I was able to purchase several of these, and was generously given permission to use copies of the others here.

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It is not clear which of these were commercially-sold postcards and which were private photos printed on postcard stock. “Real Photo Post Cards“, or “RPPCs” enabled people to make a postcard from any photo. Kodak began offering pre-printed postcard stock early in the 1900s, and Federal law allowed postcards with written messages on the back in 1907. Some RPPCs were mass produced and some were unique prints by private individuals. Some of the cards in this set are labeled, dated, and/or have a photographers name, but most are unlabeled. Based on what I can identify of the people and vessels depicted, the dates range from around 1918 to the early 1920s.

The following map helps place some of these photos. This is part of the US Fish and Wildlife Service records from the National Archives, showing the cannery in 1942. The general layout is much the same as it was in the 1920s, with only minor changes. The 1929 Aerial photo that I previously posted is also helpful.

1942 Cannery map

Below is a colorized version of the first photo above. This view looks out over the cannery buildings from near the Native employees’ houses. The main wharf with long packing and warehouse buildings are seen, along with the twin chimneys of the boiler house. Bunkhouses and residences are in the foreground, with the mess hall and company store near the middle.

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The next photo shows an open area behind the mess hall and bunkhouses. Boardwalks lead between buildings, with what appear to be vegetable gardens on either side. Stacks of firewood are seen along the boardwalk, with long logs split into quarters. Clothes are hung to dry on the left of the nearest boardwalk, the laundry and bath house was located just off-camera to the left. The building on the far right is probably the repair shop which still stands today, behind it is the Superintendent’s house and just to the left of it are homes for managers and guests (one of these has also been referred to as a schoolhouse).

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Below is a photo of the summer housing for Tlingit cannery workers. This is sometimes referred to as a village, although other accounts state that it was not occupied year-round. These structures were later demolished to make way for saltery buildings. Several canoes and a motor launch are visible.

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A more distant view of the “village” shows its relationship to the cannery buildings (at left):

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A smaller photo or print shows a boat at the cannery’s floating dock, with Mt. Robert Barron in the background. This seems to have been taken from near the bunkhouse which sat partly over the high tide line:

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Two more photos show the floating dock from the other direction, taken at different stages of the tide with different small boats at the dock. A sign on the approach ramp appears to read “Private Float, no gas boats allowed”. The bottom photo shows scows with rolls of netting or fencing in the front, likely fish trap materials. Some of the boats seen in prior photos are moored to pilings in the background:

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The next photo shows a higher angle view of the float approach and bunkhouse, maybe from the mast of a ship. The cannery’s wooden water tank is visible in the background. The cleared area between the tank and buildings would later hold the Chinese and Filipino bunkhouses. The company store is on the left. An interesting feature is the narrow ramp extending from the rear of the store into the water. This was the cannery’s trash chute where garbage was dumped into the bay. The base of this chute was very popular for bottle hunting at low tide in later years!

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The next photo shows the rear of one of the waterfront buildings. A scow is moored to a piling in the middle ground, with the mountain shrouded in clouds behind. This may be from 1919:

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The next image also looks out over the cannery buildings, Mt. Robert Barron is in the background:

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And finally, a view out over Funter Bay to the South, showing Station Island (two sections, one forested), Rat Island, and Bare Island (low rock at left). Clear Point is on the right, and Chichagof Island’s mountains are visible in the distance:

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