National Geographic : 1959 Jul
The National Geographic Magazine some eyes turned north to a new frontier. Thousands of gold seekers boarded any craft that would float, bound for the romance and riches-or disillusionment, even death-of places named Dawson, Skagway, and Nome. The excitement leaped cross-country to New York. There I, too, had a touch of gold fever. My parents took a dim view of a pros pecting career for an 11-year-old, and that career died aborning. I was to see Alaska, but not until a medical education and a news paper career had put nearly 40 more years behind me. Nor did I dream that it would be my privilege one day to serve the Terri tory as Governor. Sourdoughs, Scenery, and Supermarkets In the interim, Alaska sank once more into obscurity. It was not until Japanese troops filed ashore on fog-shrouded Attu and Kiska in the Aleutian Islands during World War II that the United States took much notice again of its northern outpost. So three times in less than a century Alaska has been "discovered." Today it enjoys its fourth and final recognition-as a State. Yet Alaska is a State less known to most Americans than any of the others-less fa miliar to many, in fact, than much of Europe. Though the number of tourist visitors in creases each year-some 80,000 in 1958-most Americans have never seen their 49th State.* It is not surprising, therefore, that some old misconceptions survive: that Alaska is an empty icebox, a frozen waste of worn-out gold mines and ghost towns, a land of igloos and dog sleds, saloons and sourdoughs. Alaska is all these things, to some degree. But it is much more. It is a land of incredible beauty, of friendly people, of fantastic wealth, still largely untapped-of oil, minerals, hydro electric power, natural gas, and vast forests of prize timber and pulpwood. It does have glaciers and frozen wastes. But in so big a place-almost one-fifth as big as the rest of the United States-there is room for these and people too. And portions of civi lized Alaska have warmer winters (and cooler summers) than many of the other States; here farms produce rich crops of lush fruits and giant vegetables, and cattle grow fat (page 60). Flowers, wild and garden, grow as they do nowhere else. Moreover, Alaska's snows, as they melt, turn into sparkling rivers and sapphire lakes which offer some of the world's finest fishing. And scenery. And swimming, sailing, and camping. Alaska's greatest potential of all, I think, may be as a vacationland. But most important, Alaska is a State of people-enterprising, vigorous, warmhearted, modern. In the larger communities they shop in supermarkets and neon-lighted drugstores, read everything from comics to classics, and watch television. They see the World Series on film, a week late, and try to pretend they don't know who's going to win. Mosquitoes Fly on High Octane They fly planes-more per capita than any other State. So many are the small private planes, in fact, that one imaginative business man has started a helicopter tow-truck serv ice. When your plane won't run, he flies out in a powerful helicopter, picks it up (after removing the wings), and hauls it to the shop for repairs. The new giant in the national family im mediately became a favorite theme of car toonists and the source of many jokes at the *See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC: "Alaska's Warmer Side," by Elsie May Bell Grosvenor; "Alaska, the Big Land," by W. Robert Moore; and "Photo graphing Northern Wild Flowers," by Virginia L. Wells, all in June, 1956. For many other articles on Alaska, consult the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC Cumu lative Index. A Tent Town That Became a Metropolis Highlights Alaska's Growth Once a railroad camp in the midst of a wilderness, Anchorage boasts 30,000 residents, one-seventh of Alaska's population. Modern apartments and office buildings rise beside log cabins. An international airport, a crossroads of Arctic air travel, welcomes flights from Stockholm, Edmonton, and Tokyo to the State's largest city. The camera peers east along broad 4th Avenue to the snowy Chugach Mountains (page 74). Overhead sign commemorates a 1957 national award for civic work. Luxuriant lawn gets a trim in Juneau. Warmed by Pacific currents and long hours of sunlight, this Alaska panhandle city enjoys a July as warm as that of San Fran cisco. Homeowners raise spectacular flowers and thick crops of grass. "The stuff grows so fast it runs away from you." a resident remarked to the photographer. KODACHROMESBY MAC'S FOTO SERVICE (UPPER) AND THOMASJ. ABERCROMBIE, NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSTAFF N.G .S.