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The Naming of Alaska: The Explorers

by Murray Lundberg


    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.






Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I-J | K | L | M | N | P | R | S | T | V | W | Z

1741
1763-1766
1768-1769
1775-1779
1778
1780
1786
1786-1787
1786-1787
1786
1788-1789
1789
1790-1792
1790-1792
1790-1792
1791
1792
1792-1794
1799-1867
1803
1804-1805
1804-1805
1804-1805
1809
1816-1817
1816-1821
1818-1845
1818-1842
1819-1822
1824-1834
1826-1827
1826
1827-1828
1827-1828
1829-1832
1831-1850
1831-1832
1832-1838
1834-1838
1836
1837
1838
1839-1840
1842-1843
1842-1844
1848-1850
1848
1849
1850
1854-1855
1854-1855
1861-1863
1863
1865-l867
1865-1895
1867-1900
1867-1869
1868
1868-1869
1869-1891
1869
1872-1876
1873-1880
1877-1900
1877-1881
1879-1880
1879-1881
1879-1881
1880-1899
1880
1881
188l-1883
1881-1883
1881-1883
1882
1883-1886
1884-l899
1884
1885
1885
1886
1887-1888
1888-1889
1888
1889-1900
1889-1891
1889-1891
1889
1889-1891
1890-1892
1891
1892-1895
1894
1895
1895-1898
1896
1897-1898
1898-1900
1898-1900
1898
1898-1899
1898-1900
1898-1899
1898-1900
1898
1899
1899
1900
____
____
____
____

Bering and Chirikof
Glotof
Krenitzen and Levashef
Maurelle and Quadra
Cook
Coxe
La Perouse
Meares and Tipping
Portlock and Dixon
Pribilof
Meares and Douglas
Colnett
Billings
Sarichef
Sauer
Malaspina
Caamaño
Vancouver
Russian American Company
Khwostof and Davidof
Krusenstern
Langsdorf
Lisianski
Vasilief
Kotzebue
Shishmaref
Etolin
Ilin
Vasilief
Veniaminof
Beechey
Franklin
Lutke
Staniukovich
Ingenstrem
Tebenkof
Vasilief
Chernof
Zarembo
Woronkofski
Dease and Simpson
Lindenberg
Murashef
Wosnesenski
Zagoskin
Archimandritof
Doroshin
Kuritizien
Grewingk
Gibson
North Pacific Exploring Expedition
Tikhmenief
Rynda party
Western Union Telegraph Exploration
Dall
Coast Survey
Davidson
Pender
Meade
Coast Pilots
Raymond
Elliott
Baker
Jackson
Nelson
Beardslee
Hanus
Symonds
Hooper
Petrof
Glass
Murdoch
Nichols
Ray
Krause brothers
Schwatka
Abercrombie
Coghlan
Allen
Clover
Snow and Helm
Thomas
Fish Commission
Topham
Geological Survey
Mansfield
Russell
Stockton
Turner
Reid
Hayes
Moore (W. I.)
U. S. S. Concord
Becker
Moore (E. K.)
Spurr and Goodrich
Moser
Barnard
Brooks
Eldridge and Muldrow
Glenn
Mendenhall
Peters and Brooks
Schrader
Spurr and Post
Harriman Alaska Expedition
Rohn
Davidson and Blakeslee
British Admiralty
Prospectors and Miners
Russians
Vasilief


Further Reading:

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 current names.

Alaska Community Histories
Location maps, short histories and some photographs of 355 communities, from the smallest villages to the cities.

Maps of Alaska
A wide variety of maps have been posted, from small city maps to large maps (both historic and current) covering the entire state.




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