PREFACE (Historic Alaska Information)
Forty years have passed since the foresight and negotiations of a great statesman, William H. Seward, added to our national domain the immense and valuable Territory of Alaska. It has contributed to our public wealth products worth more than three hundred millions of dollars, yet to this day it is a terra incognita to the American public. Not only is the ordinary man of affairs ignorant of the general features of Alaska, but this is also true of the usually well-informed. Indeed, in a widely circulated and standard work of geographic reference the errors relative to the Territory are simply astounding in number as well as in character.
The great economic value of the more northern parts of North America is being gradually recognized, as indicated by the rapidly increasing wealth of northwestern Canada, and by the construction of the transcontinental Grand Trunk Railway with its terminus at the southeastern boundary of Alaska.
For the first time an organized effort has been made to draw public attention to the products and resources of Alaska, through their adequate and material presentation in the Alaska-Yukon Exposition at Seattle.
The need has long been obvious of a Handbook that should assemble widely scattered and reliable Alaskan data of current interest. In attempting this task, the aim of the author looks to a clear, brief summary of such definite and accurate information as may be of interest to the student or of value to the man of action. There are herein presented such phases of Alaskan affairs as may concern those interested in the development of the country, for those who plan Alaskan journeys for business, pleasure, or research, as well as foi those who have in view commercial ventures or contemplate permanent residence.
That Alaska now presents economic conditions of current and growing importance is evidenced by her average imports from the United States, which approximate $17,000,000 annually, nearly double in value those of the Philippines. Moreover, Alaskan products since 1905 have yearly exceeded $30,000,000, and indications point to a large increase in the immediate future.
While touching briefly such topics, yet this volume does not attempt to narrate the history of Alaska, to depict fully the virile and stirring life of its placer miners, or to describe in detail its varied and remarkable scenery, which equals or surpasses the combined charms of the Norwegian fiords and the Swiss Alps.
The topical method has been followed as best suited adequately to treat so extensive a region of greatly varied conditions. The chapters on glaciers, volcanoes, game, and various mining districts are based on reports of the ablest and best-informed Alaskan investigators. Acknowledgments are hereby made to the authors of publications, whose titles follow each chapter for the benefit of readers who desire fuller information on special subjects under consideration.
While relying largely on the reports of experts, the author draws on his own extended experiences and knowledge in cases of conflicting or insufficient data. Twice he has exercised supreme military command over Alaska, and under his control and supervision was built the Alaskan military telegraph system over 4,000 miles of land lines, submarine cables, and wireless. In six visits to Alaska he has thrice traversed the whole Yukon Valley, visited Fairbanks and Prince William Sound twice, and Nome three times.
Familiar with Alaska for the past nine years, he has seen its evolution from a few mining centres without civil law to its present status of an organized Territory, with railways, cables, schools, and all the concomitants of a great and prosperous country.
A. W. Greely.
Washington, D, C, May, 1909.