[Original Autograph Letter Signed by “Frank” to His Mother, Mentioning ACC’s Steamship “Dora,” USRC “Corwin” and Its Search for USS “Jeannette” in the Bering Sea, Unalaska’s Sunsets, “Corwin” Capturing a Small Schooner <…> Selling Liquor to the Indians,” etc.]
“Ounalaska Station”, Alaska: 18th July 1880, “Sunday eve – 9 o’clk.”. Quarto (ca. 26,5x20 cm or 10 ¼ x 7 ¾ in). 2 pp. Brown ink on watermarked wove paper with the printed letterhead of “Alaska Commercial Company of San Francisco,” the address completed in manuscript as “310 Sansome St.”. Fold marks, a couple of minor splits on folds, several mild stains, but overall a very good letter written in a legible hand.
Early historically interesting Unalaska letter authored by a young employee of the Alaska Commercial Company and written on a sheet with the company’s official letterhead. “Frank,” wrote to his mother, apparently in San Francisco, during his first year of service and described Unalaska’s “grandest” sunsets, his hunger for news and newspapers, the regularity of postal communications, etc. He also mentioned the ACC’s new steamship “Dora,” just launched earlier that year, and US revenue cutter “Corwin” (1876) and its fruitless search in the Bering Sea for George W. de Long’s expedition onboard the USS “Jeannette.” De Long attempted to reach the North Pole from the Pacific during his 1897-81 expedition, but “Jeannette” was crushed with ice and sank north of the Siberian coast in June 1881. Although “Corwin” never found “Jeannette,” a part of her crew reached the Siberian mainland and survived. Overall a rare content-rich original letter written by an early American Unalaska resident. The “Alaska Commercial Company” was an immediate successor of the Russian American Company, formed on its base with the purchase of Alaska by the United States in 1867.
Excerpts from the letter: “The quiet day we have had with its close in the grandest sunset I have ever seen <…> In my seagoing days, the memory of the sunsets are the most tenacious but none of them, nor those of the Golden Gate, have ever, in grand splendor, come up to this just passed. Words fail me, in attempting to describe it – I only hope it may be a forerunner to what we are to have this winter.
The snow is still upon our mountain tops and patches below, but all else (except the water) is of one vivid green, from the luxuriant vegetation. I wrote you yesterday by the Steamer “Dora” direct to San Francisco, which is due on her return here in forty days, including ten days stay in San F. <…> This morning a “Prize Crew” from the Revenue Cutter “Corwin” came in with a small schooner that had been caught up north selling liquor to the Indians. She leaves in the morning for San Francisco. In two or three weeks I shall have another chance to send letters by the “Corwin” that will put in here on her way down from looking after the “Herald’s” “Jeannette.” At first it was reported that the “Jeannette” was lost, but that is only conjectural, for the “Corwin” could not find her or hear of her <…>
We have everything around us to make us comfortable and with our books the time will not hang so heavily as you in civilization might anticipate. I am already astonished at my interest in old newspapers, as a package came to me last week, sent by Sam, a week or two after my departure and I now take up one, as has been my habit at the Occidental, with my lamp and pipe after dinner, with almost the same interest…”.
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