Public school children with American flags parading down street for July 4th celebration Nome Alaska 1901 HEGG 198 via Wilkipedia Commons

4th of July in Old Alaska

Here’s an old post about the holiday–Happy 4th of July!

The 4th of July has always been a favorite holiday, even in territorial Alaska. Most small Alaskan towns had parades, contests, and other festivities. Here’s a few I’ve collected from researching for my Gold Rush books.

In the late 1880s, the Treadwell Mine (across the Gastineau Channel from Juneau, Alaska) was a company town, including mine shafts, mills, housing, and recreation for hundreds of workers. They had their own Independence Day celebrations, too, including tug of war, a band concert, and a baseball game.

In Skagway, the infamous conman Soapy Smith was the grand marshal of the 4th of July parade in 1898, riding a big white horse. (And a few weeks later, he was killed by a man when Smith tried to crash a meeting of law-abiding citizens deciding how to break his hold on the town.)

In Nome at the turn of the century, there was a big parade through Front Street, next to the Bering Sea. American flags flew and red, white and blue bunting was draped over many buildings. A blanket toss and kayak races were popular.

In Alaskan homesteads and smaller gatherings it was common to read the Declaration of Independence, or at least acknowledge the day with a meal. In my young adult historical romance Gold Nuggets, Charlotte’s family marks the day at the cabin in Kantishna, near Denali. Here’s an excerpt:

Charlotte stood with her family as they recited the Pledge of Allegiance. “I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the republic for which it stands: one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all.”

Daddy’s accent added a touch of poetry to the words as he read, 

“‘When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’”

As Daddy read on, Charlotte thought about that phrase—”Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Isn’t that what Emerson was talking about too? Each person needed to find her own life and liberty, and pursue her own happiness, whatever the idea of a good life.

May you enjoy the day, however you celebrate it nowadays!

I love to share my passion for Alaska and its history in my writing for young adults and their grown ups.

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