ALASKAN SPOONS -- The last Frontier

by Wayne Bednersh

In 1867, The United States purchased a huge 586,412 square miles  of land from Russia for about $7,200,000 (about 1.9¢ per acre).
Despite what appeared to be a bargain even at that time, some members of the press strenuously objected and derided the purchase calling it 'Seward's folly', "Seward's icebox", and "Andrew Johnson's polar bear garden". Nevertheless, we all know that this turned out to be a brilliant purchase for the USA.

In the summer of 2011,  I had the opportunity to cruise to  Alaska  twice abroad a luxury passenger ship. During these trips I learned a number of interesting facts about the huge state of Alaska and have decided to re-organize my many spoons about  Alaska  into a  readable narrative.  Many of these spoons are already in other categories, so I will provide links for followup if you desire.

The modern story of Alaska begins on July 17, 1897 when the SS Portland entered Puget Sound and docked in Seattle. The newspapers claimed that the ship contained 'tons' of gold and that there were 68 fabulously rich miners on board. Needless to say, word of this find quickly spread across the entire United States and an estimated 100,000 people suddenly got "Klondike  Fever" which caused them to  give up jobs and families and proceed to Seattle where they planned to  embark for the fabulous gold fields of Alaska and the Yukon in Canada.

 This was also during the time period when the souvenir spoon 'frenzy' was at its height, so it is not unusual that we find a number of spoons from Alaska.

Presented in this exhibition are just a few of the many images offered by this immense state.

spoon midnight sun

Alaska is known as the  'land of the midnight sun' (but this spoon actually comes from Norway)

spoon Mt. Mckinley

Mt. Mckinley is the highest mountain in North America

spoon fairbanks alaska

This 'skyline' style spoon shows us the frontage for Fairbanks, Alaska

spoon alaska miningspoon alaska mining

Generic images of Alaskan gold mining on spoons. Note: a lot of other minerals are also mined in Alaska.
Tanana is located at the confluence of the Tanana and Yukon rivers.

spoon Valdez alaska

Hand engraved skyline view of Valdez, Alaska.
Today, Valdez is best known because of the huge oil spill that occurred there on March 29, 1989, but this spoon was made about 90 years prior.
The City was founded just prior to the turn of the 20th century as a gateway to the “All-American Route” to the  gold and copper fields.  

spoon alaska totem pole

These totem poles were not for religious purposes but were used to identify clans or to honor a person or event..
 More totem  poles may be seen by clicking here

The Tlinget and Haida natives also produced silver totem pole spoons and these may be seen by clicking here

spoon musk ox alaska

Alaskan spoon honoring the  musk ox

spoon mush dogAlaska dog sled spoon
cute Nome, Alaska spoon with the dog saying "who said mush?"
I had the opportunity to meet Libby Riddles who was  the first woman  to  win the grueling Iditarod dog sled  race.
She gave me a lot of fascinating insights into how husky dogs are raised and trained.

More dog sled spoons my be seen by clicking here

spoon juneau alaska

Nicely formed art deco style spoon for the Capital, Juneau, Alaska

Juneau boasts "Gold Creek" which was one of the first discoveries of gold in 1880

Douglas  Alaska spoon

This nice gold washed bowl spoon features a hand engraved picture of the town of Douglas, Alaska which is on an island about 20 miles from Juneau

In 1910, Douglas was the largest city in Alaska and the home of the Treadwell Mine which for awhile was the largest gold mine in the world.

biliken spoon walrus gold

This Billiken is carved from an  antique walrus tooth and a gold nugget is used for its belly button.
I am not sure of the metal composition of the spoon portion.

The Billiken is known as the "God of the ways things ought to be"

The billiken is a doll patented in 1908 by  Florence Pretz of St Louis, Mo. but it has been adopted by Alaskans.

More Billiken spoons/forks may be seen by clicking here

Of course the main impetus for Alaskan growth at that time was gold.

yukon gold spoon

Surviving placer gold nuggets represent less than one tenth of one percent of all the gold  that has ever been mined.
A number of different spoons/forks with gold nuggets can be seen by clicking on these links
Yukon gold nuggets
Yukon set of 6 spoons
Large set of Berry spoons with gold nuggets

Scrimshaw spoons from Alaska may be seen by clicking here
Alaskan statehood quarter spoon may be seen by clicking here

Of the roughly 100,000 people who got "Klondike fever" about 25,000 actually made it to the gold fields of Alaska and Canada. Most ended up working for others or died.
About 4,000 actually found substantial gold. Most of those ended up losing their gold to thieves, women, liquor, gambling etc.
Approximately 50 are known to have 'retired' from their gold discovery.

note: there is still a substantial amount of gold in Alaska and Canada, but mining is now a very high capital and high risk business.

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