Our indexer Dee has finished describing all the photos of the Basil Clemons papers, which we have put online in Alaska’s Digital Archives. Here’s what she says:
This is my house party. (Basil Clemons papers, UAF-1994-71-3)
This collection consists of a mixture of photos and postcards, 130 in all. Images primarily depict mining, streetscapes, and festive gatherings near Ruby, Long, Iditarod, and Flat, Alaska. There are also scenes of Fort Liscum, Valdez, and Anchorage, Alaska, and some photos taken in Seattle, Washington.
On 47 of the postcards and photos, Basil Clemons wrote personal notes to his family members, many of them written with warm affection and lovingly signed, “with love and kisses.”
I have to confess that I developed a deep fondness for Basil during the indexing of this collection. Okay, a crush. I have a full-blown Basil crush. How could I not after spending so much time reading through his loving notes, studying his photos, and then describing all these images photographed through his eyes?
He seemed to quickly immerse himself in the Alaska scene when he arrived in 1909. He writes of mushing all through the night; he talks politics and the effects of elections on the construction of the Alaska Railroad; he mentions the parties he has attended. He joined the U.S Army, training at Fort Liscum, and captured scenes of military men and parades, and writes of “Old Glory” and defending freedom against autocracy.
I love a good party, so my favorite images are of the social and civic gatherings he photographed, and they are profuse. He had a lifetime membership to the Arctic Brotherhood, and photographed festive gatherings related to this organization and other fraternal organizations. There are group portraits taken at the harem-themed party, a necktie-and-apron party, a ship social, and even a “smoker” banquet with men shown sitting around a table, eating and smoking cigars.
I savored my time working on this collection, and fondly referred to my blocks of indexing times as my “Basil dates.” I was impressed with the passion and sense of adventure I imagined he had to have, wandering up to Alaska in his early twenties, traveling around and photographing Alaska natives, ice cutting, dogsled racing — all new and exciting people, events and things that he never saw before, growing up in Ridgeway, Texas.
If I were to write a postcard to Basil, I would express my gratitude and appreciation for the photos he’s left behind, and I myself would sign off with his signature closing, “with love and kisses!”
Ship social in Pioneers’ Hall, Anchorage, Alaska. (Basil Clemons papers, UAF-1994-71-81)