мир очень мале нький, or a Little Known Chapter of Russian America, Orthodox Community in the Pribilov Islands, Long After the Alaska Purchase

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мир очень маленький

It’s a Small World, #101

This month’s featured transmission is about a little known persistence of Russian America, an Orthodox community in the Pribilov Islands, long after the 1867 Alaska Purchase, as seen in 1919 by a young paleontologist and fur-seal census-taker G Dallas Hanna (1887-1970)

The Russian Exploration

On roughly 16 July 1742, Bering and the crew of Sv. Petr sighted Mount Saint Elias on the Alaskan mainland; they turned westward toward Russia soon afterward. Meanwhile, Chirikov and the Sv. Pavel headed back to Russia in October with news of the land they had found. Beginning in 1743, small associations of fur-traders began to sail from the shores of the Russian Pacific coast to the Aleutian islands. As the runs from Asiatic Russia to America became longer expeditions (lasting two to four years or more), the crews established hunting- and trading-posts. By the late 1790s some of these had become permanent settlements, especially in the Pribilov islands, in what later became Russian America.

Russian America

The signing of the Treaty, March 30, 1867 (detail)

One cottage, 216 log cabins, 23 isolated posts and a large piece of land sold for 7,2 M$

Seward told the nation that the Russians estimated that Alaska contained about 2,500 Russians and those of mixed race (that is, a Russian father and native mother), and 8,000 indigenous people, in all about 10,000 people under the direct government of the Russian fur company, and possibly 50,000 Inuit and Alaska Natives living outside its jurisdiction. The Russians were settled at 23 trading posts, placed at accessible islands and coastal points. At smaller stations only four or five Russians were stationed to collect furs from the natives for storage and shipment when the company’s boats arrived to take it away. There were two larger towns. New Archangel, now named Sitka, had been established in 1804 to handle the valuable trade in the skins of the sea otter and in 1867 contained 116 small log cabins with 968 residents. St. Paul in the Pribilof Islands had 100 homes and 283 people and was the center of the seal fur industry. After the transfer, a number of Russian citizens first remained in Sitka, but very soon nearly all of them decided to return to Russia. The Aleutian and Métis population of St. Paul became the main persistence of the Russian presence.

Alaska Purchase


Summer Expedition to St.-Paul Island

G Dallas Hanna (1887-1970)

Pribilov Islands, Bering Sea, 1919

Album with one map, a manuscript table, recent censuses of the seal hord and 68 vintage silver prints, mostly 180×240 mm, several signed in negative, with a printed booklet, Geological Notes on the Pribilof Islands, Alaska, with an Account of the Fossil Diatoms, excerpt from the American Journal of Science, September 1919, stamp: "private library of John P torsch"

His first name was G, just that, no period, G Dallas Hanna (1887-1970) worked for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries as Assistant Warden, Teacher, Radio Operator on St. George Island (1913—1914), then Agent, Teacher, Storekeeper, fur-seal census-taker on St. Paul Island (Summers 1913—1919), before becoming paleontologist and curator at the California Academy of Sciences, (1919-1970).

This album includes photographs made by Hanna to illustrate his own manuscript, The Alaska Fur-Seal Islands, as well as photographs made by others that were collected by Hanna. Images show wildlife on St. Paul and St. George islands including seals, sea lions, and birds. They also depict aspects of the fur-seal census, and sealing operations, including fur-seal harvests, and buildings, and Pribilof Islands native villagers with their orthodox Pope – presented as Greek Catolic….

The last images illustrate the hellish activity of the island, mass killing of artic animals. Killing fields, "thousands of carcasses were left to rot…".

Further reading: John A. Lindsay, Gina Rappaport, and Betty A. Lindsay, Pribilof Islands, Alaska Guide to Photographs and Illustrations, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, August 2009





Serge Plantureux
Cabinet d’expertises et d’investigations
Palazzo Augusti Arsilli
Via Marchetti 2
60019 Senigallia

The transmission presents articles as well as selections of books, albums, photographs and documents as they have been handed down to the actual owners by their creators and by amateurs from past generations. The physical descriptions, attributions, origins, and printing dates of the books and photographs have been carefully ascertained by collations and through close analysis of comparable works. When items are for sale, the prices are in Euros, and Paypal is accepted.

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