Posts Tagged ‘Alan Stewart’

This post is the third in a series of reports on the 2009 Mushing History Conference, which took place Nov 6-8 in Anchorage and Wasilla, Alaska. The first report in this series included the presentations of Tim White and Carol Beck. The second report described the display panels on mushing history from Denali National Park, and the presentation by Kevin Keeler, Administrator for the Iditarod National Historic Trail.

Dr. Linda Chamberlain

Dr. Linda Chamberlain of Homer, Alaska, is a scientist, author, professor, historian and dog musher, and she lives with her 20 Huskies and her husband, Al, on their 45-acre Howling Husky Homestead outside of Homer, Alaska. An epidemiologist specializing in childhood exposure to violence and brain development, Dr. Chamberlain has combined her public health career with her passion for dog mushing and rural living. During the summer months, she leads narrated tours of a circa 1910 wall tent, the sled dog kennel, and a living museum of dog mushing on their homestead. For her first book, Arctic Inspirations, she traveled from Alaska through the northern Canada and on to Siberia to gather stories of women starting businesses in the Arctic. She is currently working on a book called Mushing the Mail on the Iditarod Trail that traces the history of mail delivery by dog team in Alaska.

Collection of Linda Chamberlain

For the 2009 Mushing History Conference Dr. Chamberlain brought a presentation which traced the history of mail delivery by dog teams along the Iditarod Trail and the Kenai Peninsula, based on historical documents from the National Archives and Records Administration, the U.S. Postal Museum, the Alaska State Library, universities, museums and historical societies, interviews, private collections, and an extensive literature review.

While details on dog team mail carriers were sporadically and sparsely documented, Dr. Chamberlain has found many rich stories describing this dominant mode of transportation to deliver supplies and mail in Alaska from the late 1800s through the mid-twentieth century. Dr. Chamberlain described life on the trail of a Star Route Contract mail carrier and their dog team, and included many details about the types of dogs and equipment used, distances traveled, and the loads they carried. Her riveting stories of heroic deeds and tragedies on the trail provided a panoramic portrait of these postal pioneers and the Iditarod Trail that served as a lifeline between communities.

Rod Perry

Alaskan author, musher, filmmaker, adventurer and self-proclaimed raconteur Rod Perry brought a colorful exploration of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to the Conference, beginning with an impressive freehand drawing of the state of Alaska, which he filled in with rivers, mountain ranges, towns and cities, and of course, the Iditarod Trail. Rod was one of the intrepid mushers making the 1,000 mile trek to Nome in the very first Iditarod in 1973, with his media darling of a lead dog, “Fat Albert,” showing the way. Rod has been chronicling the rich history of the race for his two-volume set of books titled Trailbreakers. He describes Trailbreakers Volume I on his website:

“…Daring men and dynamic events that force the lock and break of the silence of the unknown North. Gold rush leads to gold rush, trail leads to trail, until it culminates in the last, glorious, hell-bent-for-leather gold rush and the final great gold rush trail in North America.

Trailbreakers Volume I is the most-complete, most-accurate telling of how the fabled Iditarod Trail came to be. As it relates the 1840-1930 progression of events establishing the “Last Great Gold Rush Trail in North America,” the book educates and corrects long-standing myths and misinformation that have grown up.

Amongst the misinformation that has come down through the years, the very beginnings of the Iditarod Trail constitute some of the most interesting, and Rod addresses this at length in his book Trailbreakers, Volume 1. Rod explains how there were trails running north from Seward for about 200 miles to the Alaska Commercial post at Susitna Station, a steamboat stop on the Susitna River; and trails which coursed south from Nome, 300 miles to Kaltag on the Yukon river, over a popular route between Nome and Fairbanks; but in between the ends of those routes lay over 400 miles of little-used and rarely traveled terrain:

Did the natives of the trail route at one time or another travel every foot of the country over which the trail passes? Of course. Did they trade with one another? Absolutely. But were any of their trails of a character to constitute ready-made, connected, serviceable platforms for a direct trail between Susitna Station and Kaltag? Any close look into the situation strongly indicates that that is a most fanciful stretch.

Alaska 1915

This post is the third in a series of reports on the 2009 Mushing History Conference, which took place Nov 6-8 in Anchorage and Wasilla, Alaska. The first report in this series included the presentations of Tim White and Carol Beck. The second report described the display panels on mushing history from Denali National Park, and the presentation by Kevin Keeler, Administrator for the Iditarod National Historic Trail.

Still to come are the presentations by Joe Redington Jr., Jane Haigh, Jeff Dinsdale and Chas St. George, and contributions sent for presentation by Thomas ‘Swanny’ Swan and Alan Stewart.


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The 2009 Mushing History Conference is bringing together an unprecedented gathering of authors, historians, researchers, writers, veteran mushers and supporters of the colorful history of sled dog travel. Presentations will cover the evolution of man’s relationship with working sled dogs, including delivering the U.S. mail by dogteam, sled dog use in polar expeditions, the Centennial of the Iditarod National Historic Trail, Joe Redington’s work with dogteams for the U.S. Army, trapline use of sled dogs in the North American fur trade, historic and present-day sled dog races, the early Nome author Esther Birdsall Darling, the evolution of sled dog nutrition and diets, the Iditarod Trail Committee’s historical documentary about the race, and much more.

Among the speakers and presenters will be Jane Haigh, Kenai, Alaska, author of Gold Rush Dogs, Assistant Professor of History, Kenai Peninsula College; Joe Redington, Jr., Manley, Alaska, veteran musher and son of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race founder; Jeff Dinsdale, Quesnel, British Columbia, Canada, writer involved in breeding and working with sled dogs for almost 40 years; Kevin Keeler, Anchorage, Alaska, Iditarod National Historic Trail Administrator; Dr. Linda Chamberlain, Homer, Alaska, scientist, author, professor, historian and dog musher; Rod Perry, Chugiak, Alaska, author of Trailbreakers and veteran of the first Iditarod in 1973; Carol Beck, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada, musher, co-chair of the 2008 Arctic Winter Games Dog Sledding Committee; and Tim White, Grand Marais, Minnesota, inventor of the Quick Change Runner (QCR) System, winner of multiple championship sled dog races, and a Mush with PRIDE Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

Among the presentations and media will be Alan Stewart’s half hour slide show on Scotty Allan with many pictures and details of his life from his early years in Scotland as recounted by his relatives there and more; A reissued DVD of the first Iditarod movie, 1974, with additional footage in a new prologue and following segment on Joe Redington’s legacy; and a presentation which was prepared by Thomas Swan, Two Rivers, Alaska, Stardancer Freight Dogs, on Dog Mushing in the North American Fur Trade, 1763 to 1821.

Also presented will be historic photographs, books, maps, pamphlets, posters, slide shows, mushing films, videos, short subjects, documentaries and more.

The Conference will open with an informal gathering for the presenters on Friday, November 6, from 5 to 7 pm, at the Iditarod Trail Headquarters in Wasilla, mile 2, Knik-Goose Bay Road, and the public is invited to meet the conference presenters at that time.

The Conference will begin at the University of Alaska Anchorage on Saturday, November 7, at the Commons Conference Room 107A, 3700 Sharon Gagnon Lane, from 9 am to 5 pm. The Conference will reconvene at the Grand View Hotel in Wasilla on Sunday, November 8, from 9 am to 3 pm. Both events are free to the public, donations appreciated but not necessary, and families are encouraged to attend. Maps and directions to both venues can be found at the Conference website, https://mushinghistory.wordpress.com or call the Conference Coordinator, Helen Hegener, at 907-354-3510 for information.

Conference Director Tim White, 881 County Road 14, Grand Marais, MN; email: twhite@boreal.org; or Conference Coordinator: Helen Hegener, Northern Light Media, P.O. Box 759, Palmer, Alaska 99645; (907) 354-3510; email: helen@northernlightmedia.com

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