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Historical Vignettes of the North


Alaska FAQs, 1886


The editor of The Alaskan newspaper in Sitka apparently got quite a few letters in 1886 that contained questions about the little-known Territory. Here is the FAQ ("Frequently Asked Questions") he published in response:

Masthead of 'The Alaskan' newspaper - 1886
November 27, 1886

A   FEW   MORE   ANSWERS.- We can hardly make our columns more interesting to the large number outside of Alaska who are seeking information about the territory than by answering the inquiries upon all topics, and therefore add the following in response to those which have come in since our last was set up:
    There being no means of buying and selling land, of course we have no land agents. Let all our friends or those expecting to come here unite and compel Congress to let us have the means of acquiring homes here.
    The means of getting here are advertised in THE ALASKAN, and always will be kept there. When more vessels per month are run we shall let it be known, with fare, etc.
    The Sitka postoffice is not a money order office; letters with remittances can be registered if desired.
    Flour and pork sell at a small advance on Portland, Oregon, prices. We shall, after this month publish regular market reports.
    There are several sawmills doing well and supplying local custom but no demand for laborers in them. Lumber (rough) brings about $20 per thousand.
    The placer diggings, as far as known, are all the way from four hundred yards to 1,200 miles from the great Treadwell quartz mill at Juneau. Ledges ditto.
    The question of "teams and teaming", is answered in our editorial columns.
    The is no fortune awaiting a new baker or candy manufacturer in Sitka just yet. we have all we knead of the former, and the latter had better stick where he is.
    The industries and business houses in Sitka are shown in our advertising columns. There are only three horses here besides the saw-horses, and those three are mules.
    Nothing in purely placer mining has been done near Sitka.
    There is nothing here to prevent a man working all the year round, Sundays included, except the want of the work. We have heretofore published an instance, and it is true, of a millwright, Thomas Cooper by name, who, in June last, had worked 690 days successively in the sawmill on Douglas island, never losing a day, and in that time had made 2½ days extra, in putting in extra hours.
    It is no inducement to us to beg men to come here because they are healthy and strong. The man who comes here wants money; health is more numerous and easily acquired than wealth.
    The only telegraph in Alaska, as far as we know, is the wire leading from the office of the clerk of the court to that of the district attorney, and as that is out of order, and not used more than twice a month when in order, and its messages are all d. h. and is moreover only a telephone, there is hardly an opening for a telegraph operator here.
    "The gentlemanly postmaster at Sitka" don't want any additional clerks - neither does she want any "taffy."
    No, there is no demand for a soap factory here, though Mr. Pixley says lye is the natural product of the country.