By 1900, most of Alaska had been explored by Europeans. From the Russians on the
coast in 1741 to the U.S. military expeditions and traders and prospectors from
many nations in the interior
in later years, there were few locations left that had not been seen by the newcomers.
In exploring new regions, the naming of geographical features is important so
that other travelers can identify the routes that had been used previously. In the United
States, however, the compilation of such names
was a rather haphazard process, and many locations had more than one name. To rectify such
problems, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names
was established in 1890 by President Benjamin Harrison, who issued
an executive order on September 4th. The Board was given the authority to resolve questions
concerning geographic names, such as deciding which name should apply to a particular location.
In 1902, the United States Geological Survey published a monumental work by
Marcus Baker, detailed the origin of thousands of geographical place names in
the Territory of Alaska.
The Geographic Dictionary of Alaska also provides brief biographies of about 120 of the
people who had given the names he describes. Those biographies are reprinted below, ordered
by date of exploration on this page, then alphabetically on subsequent pages. At the bottom
of this page are links to more sites to help you explore this subject further.
Spanish Place Names on the Face of Alaska
Dr. Arsenio Rey-Tejerina provides a comprehensive look at geographic place names left by
Spanish explorers in the Prince of Wales Island area, and in many cases their Anglicized
Alaska Community Histories
Location maps, short histories and some photographs of 355 communities, from the smallest
villages to the cities.