A trip (or two) through Alaska 1897-1901

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In the period 1897 and 1901, someone associated with Henry Wellcome or with William Duncan's Metlakatla, Alaska Mission did some traveling and took some pictures. These pictures later became part of the Wellcome Collection at the US National Archives, even though very few have any particular relation to Metlakatla or William Duncan's Mission there. They are mostly easy to spot because most are square rather than rectangular, which is unusual for pictures of that era and for the Wellcome Collection. Once they are recognized, they are readily organized into a narrative of one or two trips. One square photo is dated 1897 in the NARA listing, as are two rectangular photos. A larger group of square photos, with similar content, is undated. Others are dated 1901 in their descriptive titles and another group of undated photos can be grouped with these. Overall, this set could represent two separate trips, or they could be from one trip involving an extended and largely un-photographed stay, perhaps at Metlakatla.

The 1897 pictures and a larger group of undated pictures are from a voyage on the SS Queen and from Sitka. A few other Southeast Alaska pictures could go with either set or come from an intervening period. The 1901 pictures are from a trip on the White Pass Railroad to White Horse, YT, thence to Dawson and down the Yukon River to St Michael, then to Nome, then returning by ship via Dutch Harbor (Unalaska). (The 1901 trip could have been made in the reverse direction, but time considerations involving ice on the Yukon River and the Bering Sea favored the order given here; examples of similar trips are known and they generally proceeded as described.)

Of course it is possible that some pictures were cropped or trimmed. A few likely candidates have been identified and included here - these are readily distinguished from the rest by their shape. One is obviously a cropped versions of another set member. The data do not include the sizes of the originals. The inclusion of other rectangular photos in the set is largely a matter of judgment, based on subject, contrast (often low), date, style, and lack of an alternative reason for their presence in the Wellcome collection; their inclusion has fluctuated as the set was assembled. Another possibility is that they (particularly the four in a 4 x 5 proportion) are from the same trip but a different camera, possibly a different photographer, or a different trip entirely. Note that the linkage between the 4x5 images and the square images is entirely dependent of the dating of one square image to 1897 in the NARA record, and the weak coincidence that both sets involve the steamer Queen.

The rectangular images in the 1901 subset are all half-tone illustrations, probably from a railroad brochure. These have been inserted where they seem to fit. There is also a map of unknown origin and significance. Neither it nor the half-tones have been used to establish itinerary or chronology, which can be established from the square photos alone.

The legends are reproduced verbatim from the NARA titles, any interpolations are in brackets. The origin of these descriptions is not given; it is plausible that some go back to the photographer and highly likely that some do not. The symbol ^ possibly represents a question mark in a different digital encoding.

1897 photographs, dated in NARA record[edit]

Photographs of indeterminate date[edit]

1901 photographs, either dated or because they fit the itinerary[edit]

Images along the Yukon have been grouped by similarities of topography (and architecture and vegitation where applicable) but where locations are not specified the order is uncertain.


Map of Alaska [This map may or may not be related; it was in the Wellcome Collection, is from the same period, and shows many but not all of the related locations. Its authorship is unknown.]