As I look out the window and see the sun shining at me from the south, it's starting to feel like winter is here again. That means a lot of things (as opposed to "that can only mean one thing..."), but for this blog it means more posts. For the men of the Arctic Brotherhood over a century ago, winter would have meant hunkering down and, in a lot of cases, being cut off from ingoing and outgoing transportation. They were quite a bit more rugged than we are today in the north, but their legacy still lives on in a big way.
This summer I put the Arctic Brotherhood on hold, just as the men of the Arctic Brotherhood may have put things on hold during the months of working their butts off. Just before the season started, i did a little bit of research in old newspapers and found over forty new pieces of information I'd never seen before. Some of them were small and only added to things I'd already uncovered, but a good deal of them related to things I had been struggling to piece together. And then there were some articles which brought up new things altogether.
For instance, the Arctic Brotherhood and YMCA of Nome, traveling under the name Arctic Brotherhood, toured extensively the lower states, territories, and Canada in winter of 1907. Why? They were a basketball team playing against local clubs in just about every corner of the country. Whether or not the team performed well is yet to be seen, but at least two newspapers reported on the upcoming events.
Newspapers reporting on the Arctic Brotherhood weren't limited to the north. Sure, most of the coverage comes from papers in Skagway, Dawson, Nome, and other locales that had active camps; but the AB name was dropped in papers all over. There is a good representation of the club in Washington and British Columbia. As the Grand Camp of the AB met in Seattle, Tacoma, Victoria, and Vancouver, it wasn't surprising that "Arctic Brotherhood" was a common enough term to show up in papers. Also, with the proximity to Alaska, the cities of Washington and southern BC were natural meeting places of those giong to and from the North. A good deal of men and women who had headed north during the gold rushes found themselves leaving after not striking it rich and ending up in Seattle or Victoria.
Even so, the Arctic Brotherhood was somehow important enough to be mentioned in farther away places. The Bisbee Daily Review from Arizona reported on them several times, as did the Minneapolis Journal. Even papers in Missouri and Louisiana mentioned the AB in one regard or another.
Finding all of these newspaper articles accomplished a main goal of mine in diong this research, which was to find out what became of the Arctic Brotherhood after 1909 (stay tuned on that one). Beyond that, it emphasized beyond any shadow of a doubt that, without newspapers and magazines, the story of the Arctic Brotherhood would now hardly exist. One of the most important sources for telling the story is a serial article by Dr. Moore of Skagway in an Alaska magazine. Coverage of AB events, from presidential receptions to building dedication ceremonies and galas, would not exist without newspapers. And, most importantly, the cliffhanger of the Arctic Brotherhood story which occurred in 1909 would have gone unresolved in my mind without newspaper articles covering the aftermath.
The story of Alaska itself, the development of the north, the gold rushes, is all well documented. Journals, diaries, and letters all have survived the decades to provide insight into the events that shaped our northern corner of the continent. Yet the secret society of the Arctic Brotherhood is, in so many cases, left out of these first-person accounts. A majority of the sources that I've found in this year-and-a-half-long quest to write the story of the organization have been from newspapers and magazines.
So, as you go through your day-to-day life from this point onward, I hope that at some steps along the way you take time to acknowledge that the writers of newspapers, magazines, internet news sites, even blogs (current-events blogs, not historical blogs) are documenting the contexts of our lives so that future generations will be able to experience them first hand.