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
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
was at its height, so it is not unusual that we find a number of spoons
Presented in this exhibition are just a few of the many images offered
by this immense state.
Alaska is known as the 'land of the midnight sun' (but this spoon
actually comes from Norway)
Mt. Mckinley is the highest mountain in North America
This 'skyline' style spoon shows us the frontage for Fairbanks, Alaska
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.
Hand engraved skyline view of Valdez, Alaska.
Today, Valdez is best known because of the huge oil spill that occurred
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
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
The Tlinget and Haida natives also produced silver totem pole spoons
and these may be seen by clicking here
Alaskan spoon honoring the musk ox
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
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
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
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.
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
Of course the main impetus for Alaskan growth at that time was gold.
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
Alaskan statehood quarter spoon may be seen by clicking
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.
Return to spoon exhibit index