Fourth of July in Alaska 100 years ago
July 1, 2022 | View PDF
The following selections were published in Alaska newspapers July 1922. Nonstandard spelling and punctuation are presented as found in the original articles.
Nome Nugget, July 8, 1922: At one o'clock, notwithstanding the various handicaps [bad weather and a flu epidemic], the Square presented a lively appearance, many adults braved the inclement weather while the children formed the majority, the enthusiastic element of the days celebration. Taking it all in all the day was especially for them, to impress upon their minds the meaning of our Day of Independence and with the lessons of true American patriotism went the sports of the day to amuse as well as to instruct....
Frank Dufrese, post adjutant of the American Legion, read that immortal document, the Declaration of Independence.... The entire Square was hushed as this document, pregnant with our high ideals and lofty principles, was read in a voice that was distinctly heard by all present....
The sports of the day now started In full swing. Foot races for young and old, peanut races, egg race for ladies, sack and three legged races for the boys, doughnut eating contest and other contests kept the crowd In an uproar.
Three features were staged by and for the especial benefit of Eskimos and consisted of blanket tossing, in which men and women tried their skill in maintaining their balance while' being thrown high into the air, from a skin blanket operated by men holding the sides of the skin. One young man and one young woman were proved to far excel their competitors by making perfect jumps without disturbing their equilibrium. Two white men tried the game and soon found that it looked easy but was difficult to accomplish.
The event that created the most interest was the high jump and kick. This feat Requires a peculiar coordination of mind and muscles in that the participant must make a high jump and kick at the same time, the mark being a white ball suspended from a string. After all had kicked at the ball it was raised an inch at a time until the height limit had been reached. On this day a record of 6 ft. 10 inches was the highest that could be attained, falling below the standing Nome record of 7 ft. 2 Inches made by Long Boat Dick, now deceased.
Next and last on the program came the kyak race, eight skin boats or "kyaks" as they are called, each contained one native paddler, raced out to the Sea Wolf and return, the event being won by Tony. The natives had been holding trial spins in the sea off the spit for some days and the rivalry was spirited and keen.
Free candy, peanuts and ice cream filled the Juvenal hearts with joy and caused numerous tumy aches thru over indulgence. In the evening the A. B. Hall was the scene of the "end of a perfect day." A most enjoyable dance was given free to the public....
Damper put on celebration by weather
Cordova Daily Times, July 5, 1922: On account of the downpour of rain for several days the Fourth celebration planned for yesterday had to be postponed, much to the disappointment of the town's folk and the large number of visitors here. One of the big events was the ball game between the Kennecott and Cordova teams and sooner than disappoint our people the Kennecott boys decided to remain over today. Although the weather showed signs of breaking this morning, rain again set in at noon, but not withstanding this fact it was decided to play the game regardless of the weather and it is in progress as we go to press.
Chairman Chase has decided to Stage a boxing event at Empress theater tonight, immediately after the show. This will be free to everybody and as the contestants are raring to go a good bout may be expected. On Saturday afternoon the children's events will take place at the ball park.
Douglas has great sport on July 4th
Alaska Daily Empire, Juneau, July 5, 1922: The celebration held in Douglas yesterday was a great success and everyone had a good time. With the weather doing its best to be good, real holiday spirit prevailed throughout the entire day. The first event Of the day was the oration delivered by John H. Dunn in the Liberty Theater, which was well attended. In his address Mr. Dunn dwelt upon patriotism to the government and the country. The oration was very impressive.
Immediately after the exercises the field sports began, culminating late in the afternoon with a baseball game between Douglas and U.S.S. Unalga, which ended 11 to 0 in Douglas' favor.
In the evening one of the best dances ever held here on a Fourth Of July Was held in the Natatorium. The Coliseum Theater Orchestra played a series of snappy fox trots and dreamy waltzes which won great favor with everyone and when 1 o'clock came the crowd was loath to depart and the orchestra was prevailed upon to play another hour to 2 a. m. Over 200 people enjoyed the dance.
Lawrence D. Weiss is a UAA Professor of Public Health, Emeritus, creator of the UAA Master of Public Health program, and author of several books and numerous articles.