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The Movement towards Alaska's Statehood
A Guide to Primary Resources in the Alaska & Polar Regions Collections, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Delegation celebrates Alaska's Statehood by posing in front of a 49 star flag. Identified are Representative Ralph Rivers (far left), Ernest Gruening (beneath flag) and Bob Bartlett (next to Gruening in light colored suit).
In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Alaska's admission into the Union, the Alaska & Polar Regions Collections (APR), with funding from the Alaska Humanities Forum, has published this bibliography as an attempt to familiarize researchers with the primary resources available in APR collections pertaining to the statehood movement. These materials were created by the people who were directly involved. Examples include committee reports and notes from a Constitutional Convention delegate, or a television broadcast of a debate about the need for Alaskan statehood, correspondence of the Alaskan delegates to Congress, political cartoons depicting the Alaskan plight, and recorded interviews with those who played key roles in the struggle. It is our hope that this guide will help the stories of Alaskan statehood be told…and retold.
Image of what may have been an alternate version of the 49-star flag after the statehood of Alaska.
ERNEST H. GRUENING PAPERS, 1914-[1959-1969] 1974, UAF-1976-21-77747
These manuscript collections may be viewed in the Research Room of the Alaska and Polar Regions Collections in the Rasmuson Library. Access is limited to research room hours.
- Alaska Constitutional Convention Papers, 1955–1956
This collection contains records generated from the Alaska Constitutional Convention held on the University of Alaska campus from November 1955 through February 1956. The collection is a compilation from different sources and includes a copy of the clerk’s journal from the convention, the official Convention proceedings, as well as the biography sheets filled out by the delegates, committee reports, ceremony programs, and informational handbooks and bulletins for the delegates. The collection also contains a microfilm copy of the Alaska Constitutional Convention Papers in the Alaska State Archives consisting of administrative and committee files from the Convention.
- Alaska Statehood Collection,1943–1980 [bulk 1943–1958]
The Alaska Statehood Collection contains correspondence, press releases, statements, speeches, and reports from the Territorial congressional delegation as well as other federal officials pertaining to the Statehood movement. The collection also includes newsclippings and journal articles, legislative bill drafts and analyses, brochures published by the Alaska Statehood Association and Alaska Statehood Committee, as well as a copy of the Constitution of Alaska.
- Alaska Statehood Miscellanea, 1947–1984
While this collection contains mostly newspaper and journal articles, it does include some interesting ephemera pertaining to the Statehood movement including commemorative stamps and covers from both 1959 and 1984, a 1958 postcard, as well as programs from a 1959 dinner "A Salute to Alaska and Hawaii" and to various festivities celebrating Alaska Statehood Day in 1984. Records also include a citation from Governor Sheffield honoring leaders of the statehood movement and blueprints of the Alaska flag.
- Alaska Statehood Records, 1950–1959
This collection consists of one box almost entirely comprised of copies of bills and congressional records pertaining to Alaska statehood. It also includes correspondence between Gus Norwood, who was serving as Executive Secretary of the Northwest Public Power Association at the time, and Governor Heintzleman and delegate Bob Bartlett.
- Bartlett, E.L. "Bob" Papers, 1924–1970
The bulk of this collection is generated from Bartlett's service as a Territorial delegate to Congress and then as Senator after Alaska became a state. Bartlett's particular importance in obtaining statehood for Alaska is especially documented in Series XV, Statehood File, which contains materials from the Alaska Statehood Committee and the Alaska Constitutional Convention as well as Bartlett's correspondence. Researchers will also find relevant correspondence in Series XVI which is Bartlett's personal correspondence file.
- Bartley, Ernest R. Constitutional Convention Papers, 1955–1957
Bartley was a professor of Political Science at University of Florida. He was very involved in the statehood movement, serving as a consultant to the Alaska Statehood Committee and to the Constitutional Convention. His papers contain a significant amount of correspondence with George Lehleitner concerning the Tennessee Plan as well as correspondence with Bob Bartlett, Ernest Gruening, Bob Atwood, and other political figures in Alaska as well as the U.S. House and Senate. Also included are newsletters and press releases from the Alaska Statehood Committee; materials from the Alaska Project, a study undertaken by one of Bartley's graduate classes analyzing every congressional district in the nation for statehood support; drafts and copies of various staff papers for the Convention which he worked on for the Public Administration Service; and a memo from 1994 where he critiques a report on statehood, providing a behind-the-scenes look at the people and events involved.
- Beistline, Earl Papers, 1930–1950s
Earl Beistline was Dean of the School of Mines at University of Alaska and served as a consultant for the Committee on Resources during the Constitutional Convention. His papers include one box of materials from his consulting work which includes correspondence, a report of his comments as well as statements of others submitted to the committee, his revisions on committee proposals, staff papers from the Public Administrative Service, newsclippings and convention publications.
- Dimond, Anthony J. Papers, 1904–1953
Anthony Dimond served as a Territorial Delegate from 1933-45 and his papers, particularly the Legislative Bills and Political Correspondence series, provide researchers with the range of pre-statehood issues which he presented to Congress as Alaska’s representative. Dimond championed statehood during his tenure as Delegate as well as afterwards when he served on the Alaska Statehood Committee; this work is especially documented in his personal subject files as well as his correspondence with E.L. Bartlett, who replaced him as Delegate.
- Egan, William A. Papers, 1940–1984
Bill Egan served as President of the Constitutional Convention and as one of the Tennessee Plan Senators before ultimately serving three terms as Alaska State Governor. Series I of his papers, Constitutional Convention files, consists of Egan's personal records from the Convention including his correspondence. The bulk of Series II, Tennessee Plan Files, consists of Egan's correspondence from when he served as a Senator to Congress under the Tennessee Plan. Other materials in this collection which document Egan's work for statehood include his speeches, hearing testimonies, and political correspondence. Researchers might also be interested in his gubernatorial research files and constituent correspondence, which document many of the issues that concerned Alaskans during the early years of statehood.
Delegates to the Alaskan Constitutional Convention view a musk ox at the University of Alaska Musk Ox Farm during the 10 anniversary celebration of the signing of the states constitution. WILLIAM A. EGAN PAPERS, 1940-1984, UAF-1985-120-266
- Ferber, Edna Collection, 1958
This collection consists of a two-volume unrevised proof of the manuscript for Ferber's novel, Ice Palace, which was set in Fairbanks in the 1950s. The work is notable for its discussion of the struggle for Alaskan statehood. Alaskan Territorial Governor Ernest Gruening regarded the novel as important publicity for the statehood campaign.
- Fischer, Victor Papers, 1954–76
Victor Fischer served in the Territorial Legislature and was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. He also worked for the organization Operation Statehood as its Vice-president. His papers contain a review draft manuscript of his 1975 book, The Alaska Constitutional Convention, along with his research materials in writing it including newsclippings, correspondence, convention materials, and Fischer’s notes as well as notes written by those invited by Fischer to review the draft. There are also some memoranda, statements, and lobbying materials from his work with Operation Statehood. Fischer also organized an Alaska Constitutional Review forum and Delegates reunion in 1976 and there is one box of correspondence, mailers, and programs generating from the arrangement and activities of the event.
- Flakne, Joseph T. Papers, 1926–1999
Joseph Flakne worked as the director of the Alaska Territorial Employment Service before ultimately serving as the chief of the Alaska Division for the U.S. Office of Territories to, in his words, "fight for statehood". Of particular interest are the papers during his time as Alaska Chief from 1946-1953 in the Work Files series, as the correspondence, memoranda, and reports which crossed Flakne's desk document how the federal government responded to the needs of Alaskan citizens. These papers represent a wide range of pre-statehood issues the Territory grappled with including resource management, health care, transportation needs, and labor allocation.
- Gruening, Ernest Papers, 1914–1974
The Ernest Gruening Papers is a rich resource for statehood materials. Series 4, "Alaska Statehood, 1947–1958" includes correspondence and subject files which document his efforts as well as others’ in obtaining statehood for Alaska. Researchers will also find relevant materials in other series of the collection, particularly in Gruening's gubernatorial correspondence and his diaries which date from 1935–1970 and document his political life more than his personal.
- Harrais Family Collection, ca. 1895–1965
Martin and Margaret Harrais each assumed several different roles during their lives in Alaska. He was primarily a prospector and business speculator, she an educator and Prohibitionist, and both served as U.S. Commissioner in Valdez at different times. They also were ardent proponents of Statehood and their papers reflect this. Researchers will be interested in Margaret’s correspondence, particularly one folder titled "Statehood Correspondence", which contains her communications with the Secretary of the Interior, Bob Bartlett, Anthony Dimond, Ernest Gruening, and Evangeline Atwood regarding statehood issues and the development of local pro-statehood chapters. Martin's papers include his unpublished manuscript "Gold Lunatics" which is, in part, an autobiography as well as an historical account of the federal mismanagement of Alaska.
- Hellenthal, John S. Collection, 1915–1989
John Hellenthal practiced law in Alaska for nearly 50 years. He was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention and his papers include reports, journals, proposals (many are annotated), notes, memoranda, and correspondence generating from his work at the Convention, particularly as Chairman of the Committee on Suffrage, Elections, and Apportionment. His papers also include his and other delegates' comments at a symposium hosted by John Whitehead commemorating the Convention's 25th anniversary in 1984.
- Huber, Louis R. Papers, 1933–1966
Louis Huber was a freelance journalist whose articles appeared in Collier's and The Progressive, among other magazines and, for a decade, he covered Alaska for the Christian Science Monitor from 1945 to the mid-1950s. His papers contain his correspondence, notes, research files, photographs, and newsclippings of pertinent Alaskan issues during this period, not the least of which was the question of statehood. Researchers will find drafts and clippings on statehood and other Alaskan issues (Huber claimed to have written the first magazine article on statehood) as well as correspondence with notable political figures including Bob Bartlett, Ernest Gruening, and Anthony Dimond. The correspondence is especially useful as it gives a behind-the-scenes peek into statehood politics as Huber tried to scoop the inside story.
- Ivey, Joseph W. Collection, 1892–1946 [bulk, 1892–1908]
Ivey served as a U.S. Customs collector in Alaska from 1897-1902 before going to Washington D.C. to vigorously lobby for Alaskan issues. He bemoaned the neglect shown Alaska by the federal government and was a proponent of representation in Congress by establishing a Delegate position. His correspondence, statements, speeches, interview and hearing transcripts in the collection document these lobbying efforts.
- Jessen, Ernest F. Cartoons, ca. 1920's
This collection contains five photographic copies of Alaska-related political cartoons drawn by Ernest Jessen. The cartoons humorously address issues relating to pre-statehood Alaska including unresponsive and over-regulatory federal bureaus and the exploitation of Alaskan resources by outside business interests. Two of these cartoons can be accessed online in the Alaska Digital Archives.
- Kay, Wendell Papers, 1955–1965
This collection consists of photocopies of Kay's scrapbook which document his activities in the Democratic Party as well as an attorney. Of particular relevance is folders 1-2 which cover Kay's tenure as Territorial Speaker of the House and Democratic Party chairman during a time in which statehood was a primary issue. Newsclippings and correspondence detail his support for Alaska statehood as well as his criticism of Republican and federal officials on such issues as fish traps and partitioning the Territory.
- McCutcheon, Stanley Papers in the Candace Waugaman Collection, 1946–1961
Stanley McCutcheon served in the State legislature and was very active in the Democratic Party, serving as Party chairman in Alaska and also serving as the campaign manager for Bob Bartlett. His papers are filled with correspondence from Bartlett, Gruening, and other key Democrats which shed a light on the activities of the party in Alaska, particularly the impact the statehood question on state politics at this time.
- Operation Statehood Records, 1953–1958
The records of the organization known as Operation Statehood reflect the complexities confronted by its members in their endeavor to achieve acceptance of Alaska as one of the United States. They include bills and resolutions of the Alaska Territorial legislatures, congressional reports pertaining to statehood for Alaska and Hawaii, reports from the Alaska Constitutional Convention, correspondence of congressional delegate E.L. Bartlett, and materials on the Alaska-Tennessee Plan.
- Rivers, Ralph J. Papers, 1959–1966
Virtually all of this collection documents Rivers' tenure as Alaska’s first representative to Congress rather than his leadership in helping obtain statehood for Alaska. His papers do reflect the efforts of Alaska's congressional delegation in representing the interests of a new State which, with vast unutilized resources and remote populations, presented unique challenges. Rivers' papers include his correspondence, legislative files, interviews, and scrapbooks from his term in office.
- Stepovich, Mike Papers, 1957–1962
Stepovich served in the Territorial Legislature before being appointed by Eisenower as Territorial Governor from 1957-1958. Although his political papers are located in the Alaska State Archives, this collection contains personal correspondence, speeches, and newsclippings which document his activities and support for statehood.
- Thompson, George and Bee Gee Papers, 1958
The George and Bee Gee Thompson Papers consist of one copy of the 1958 Statehood Act, signed by the Alaska Delegation.
- University of Alaska Fairbanks. Associated Students of the University of Alaska Records, 1926–
The records of the Associated student body contains a folder in Series 1 documenting the students' support of statehood. Materials include correspondence and resolutions from the Constitutional Convention thanking them for the use of their student union as well as a plea by the President of ASUA to students across the country to endorse statehood for Alaska and communicate this to their congressional delegations. The bulk of the folder consists of correspondence from colleges and universities nationwide with information of action taken. Another folder in Series I contains minutes and proposals from a parallel Constitutional Convention the students held while the Alaska Constitutional Convention was being conducted in 1955-1956.
These collections are housed at other institutions but researchers can access microfilmed copies in the APR Alaska Microfilm Collection. See the library catalog, for call numbers.
- Records of the Alaskan Territorial Government, 1884–1958.
Alaska State Archives, Juneau.
M/F 74, 76-77, 158
The official records of the Alaskan Territorial Government consist of the Governor's correspondence, 1909-1958 (MF 77), and subject files, 1913-1953 (MF 74), correspondence of the Secretary of Alaska, 1900-1913 (MF 76), and records of the Alaska Territorial Legislature (MF 158). These records document the development of Alaska, both economically and administratively, as well as the complexities it faced as an isolated territory under federal oversight.
- U.S. Department of the Interior. Office of the Secretary, Alaska Statehood, 1933–1953. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C.
This microfilm contains selected federal records pertaining to Alaska which Claus Naske collected for his research on Alaskan statehood. Most of the materials relate to statehood and is in the form of reports and statistics.
- Wickersham, James Family Papers, 1884–1970. Alaska Historical Collections, Alaska State Library, Juneau.
MF 18, 34
James Wickersham was Alaska's third Delegate to Congress. During his tenure as Delegate, he secured passage of the Organic Act of 1912 which granted Alaska territorial status and was the first to introduce a statehood bill for Alaska in 1916. MF 18 contains Wickersham's diaries from 1900-1939 which serve as a daily record of his activities as well as his views of events. MF 34 consists of Wickersham's correspondence from 1885-1940.
Oral History Collection
Oral histories can be checked out through the Oral History Office located in the APR Research Room, the Rasmuson Library circulation desk, or through interlibrary loan. Call numbers have been provided for each tape.
- Alaska Historical Society Meeting, 1984
On the occasion of Alaska's 25th year as a state, John Whitehead led this panel discussion at the 1984 Alaska Historical Society annual meeting to explore how Alaska could identify and preserve the heritage of Statehood for future generations. The panel consisted of Vic Fischer, John Hellenthal, Seaborn Buckalew, Jr., Bob and Evangeline Atwood; Herb Hilscher was present in the audience as well.
- Alaska Statehood Commission Tapes, 1982
At the behest of the Alaska Statehood Commission in 1981, Claus Naske, John Whitehead, and William Schneider interviewed 54 key individuals involved in the statehood movement. The group principally included delegates to the Alaska constitutional convention and others identified as having shown a strong political interest in the statehood issue. The interviewers sought both the memories these people had of the statehood movement and their assessment of the success, or lack thereof, of statehood at that current time. A summary of these interviews can be found in the publication Alaska Statehood: The Memory of the Battle and the Evaluation of the Present by Those who Lived It. The interviews with three of these individuals—Leslie Nerland, Clem Tillion, and Ada Wien—can be accessed online at the Alaska Digital Archives.
- Alaska Statehood Tapes, 1984–2000
H84-04, H88-12-14, H88-40, H89-17, H2000-10
The Alaska Statehood Tapes are a collection of sound recordings pertaining to Statehood, the bulk of which are interviews conducted by John Whitehead for his research that ultimately led to the publication of Completing the Union: Alaska, Hawaii, and the Struggle for Statehood. H84-04 are sound recordings of events commemorating the 25th anniversary of Statehood including the Alaska Statehood Dinner, the Statehood Stamp ceremony, and Statehood Day at Constitution Park. The rest of the collection consists of interviews with Jay Hammond, Ted Stevens, Ernest Bartley, Russell Long, George Sundborg, James C. Wright, Sparky Matsunaga, Lindy Boggs, and Mr. and Mrs. George Lehleitner.
- Alaska Statehood Transition Tapes, 1982
These interviews were conducted by Claus Naske with various people involved with the judicial activities of Alaska. They discuss the transition from Territory to State. Interviewees include Thomas Stewart, Buell Nesbett, Everett Hepp, James Fitzgerald, Bill Stump, Wendell Kay, Olga T. Steger, and Eugene Bellaud.
- Creating Alaska: the Origins of the 49th State tapes, 2003–2004
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Alaska Constitutional Convention and eventual statehood, the University of Alaska launched the "Creating Alaska" project. A component of that project was to conduct interviews with remaining figures from the statehood era. Interviewees include George Sundborg, George and Jean Rogers, Tom Stewart, Helen Snedden and Chuck Gray, Robert DeArmond, Jay Hammond, Mike Stepovich, Jr., Katie Hurley, Walter Hickel, Neva Egan, Maynard Lundborg, and Jack Coghill, Sr. There are also videorecordings of these interviews located in the Alaska Film Archives.
- Egan Collection, 1986
These audio recordings from the William A. Egan Papers are primarily educational programming on the statehood movement . H86-121 is the audio portion of the CBS "See it Now" documentary on Alaska statehood which aired on March 2, 1958. H86-122 through 128 appears to be the audio portion of a program series on the Constitutional Convention with narration and recorded segments from various speakers at the convention. These audiorecordings have been transferred to the Oral History department.
- Faces of '84, 1984–1985
From 1984-1988, Jean Lester conducted interviews with notable Alaskans which ultimately led to the book Faces of Alaska: a glimpse of history through paintings, photographs, and oral histories. Four of these interviewees—Olga Steger, Tony Zak, Al Larsen, and Niilo Koponen—reminisce about various aspects of Alaska's move to Statehood.
- Gruening, Ernest Tapes, 1967
This is a sound recording of the opening address Gruening gave at Alaska Methodist University on March 2, 1967. Titled "Battle for Statehood", his speech touches on the problems, issues, and people involved with the movement towards Alaska statehood.
- [Naske, Claus interviews], 1969
These interviews were conducted in 1969 by Claus Naske in preparation for his thesis and subsequent books on the Alaskan statehood movement. Interviewees include Ralph Rivers, Bill Snedden, Thomas Stewart, Vic Fischer, Vide and Doris Ann Bartlett, Herbert Faulkner, Mary Lee Council, and Marie Dimond.
Portrait of Vide Marie Gaustad (Bartlett) as a young woman. Bartlett was interviewed by Claus Naske in 1969. EDWARD LEWIS BARTLETT PAPERS, 1938-1970, UAF-1969-95-390
- Sunday at Noon, 1989–1991
H89-25, H89-31, H91-01, H93-19
These are interviews conducted by Susan McInnis for her radio show "Sunday at Noon" on KUAC. The interviewees, respective to the collection numbers listed above, are Robert Atwood, Walter Hickel, Elmer Rasmuson, and George Sundborg. Each person relates their Alaskan experiences including their memories of Statehood.
Archival Film & Video Collection
These videorecordings are located in the Alaska Film Archives in the Rasmuson Library. Copies are available for check out at the Library circulation desk. Call numbers have been provided with each film.
- Alaska Statehood: the first 25 years, videocassette. Alaska Video Productions, 1983.
Copied from raw film footage, this 22 minute program was produced to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Alaska statehood. Speakers include John Butrovich, Bob Atwood, H.A. "Red" Boucher, Helen Fischer, Bill Egan,
Connie Bouchiever, George Sullivan, Leo Rasmussen, E.Z. Gilbreath, Ted Stevens, Chuck West, Augie Hiebert, Earl Beistline, Bill Hopkins, Emil Notti, Jim Clark, and Dr. Wood.
- Alaska 49th State, DVD, filmed and narrated by Fred and Sara Machetanz. 1959.
These images were filmed and narrated by Fred and Sara Machetanz for use in their lectures when they traveled outside of Alaska. Footage pertaining to the statehood movement include the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner headline "Alaska 49th State", George Sundborg checking teletype and noting the passage of the statehood legislation on June 30, 1958, statehood headlines from the Anchorage Daily Times and Anchorage Daily News, men launching a large star suspended by helium balloons from the Polaris building roof in Fairbanks, a line of people signing a giant telegram in Fairbanks, and a statehood parade down 2nd Avenue in downtown Fairbanks. A few of these film clips can be accessed online at the Alaska Digital Archives.
- Celebration of Alaska Statehood, videocassette. Festival Fairbanks '84, 1984.
This is a broadcast of the black-tie ceremony held January 3, 1984 at the University of Alaska Fairbanks kicking off the 25th anniversary of statehood. Speakers include Bill Egan and Augie Hiebert reminiscing upon the events leading up to statehood and Grace Schaible, Elmer Rasmuson, and William R. Wood reflecting upon the impact of statehood and the future of Alaska.
- E.L. "Bob" Bartlett, debate with Walter Rogers, Facts Forum 36, 1955.
This program was recorded in Dallas, Texas with moderator Dan Smoot interviewing Congressman Walter Rogers of Texas and Bob Bartlett, congressional delegate from Alaska about statehood for Alaska. Rogers speak out against the possibility and Bartlett supports the issue.
- Ernest Gruening, interview with [Harry Kane], First Federal Presents, [1957 or 1958].
This is a program recorded at WCKI Television in Miami, Florida, with Senator-elect Ernest Gruening being interviews by Senator Harry Kane (?) about the need for Alaska statehood. Their interview touches on the history of federal oversight in Alaska with Kane listing the arguments against statehood and Gruening refuting each one.
- E.L. "Bob" Bartlett and Ernest Gruening, interviewed by Walter Cronkite, Meet the New Senators, CBS, January 11, 1959.
This CBS Television program was broadcast from the Sheraton-Carlton Hotel in Washington D.C. on January 11, 1959, to introduce the newest members of the U.S. Senate. Walter Cronkite hosted the Senators and their families who included the new Alaskan delegation to the Senate, E.L. "Bob" Bartlett and Ernest Gruening. Senator Bartlett discusses serving as one of the first senators for Alaska, casting his first vote in the Senate, and the draw for term-length against Ernest Gruening. Senator Gruening discusses some foreign policy as well as his appointment as Territorial Governor, the possibility of statehood for Hawaii, and the status of Puerto Rico.
- [Senator Gruening talks with W.O. "Bo" Smith, Ben Shallit, James W. Wilson, Warren A. Taylor, and William T. Dunn], Report to Alaska from Washington D.C., 1961–1964.
These are interviews Gruening conducted for his television broadcast "Report to Alaska from Washington D.C." In part 1 (AAF-2010) he talks with Alaska State legislator Bo Smith about the state legislature and the transition to statehood. Part 4 (AAF-2013) contains his interview with Alaska State senator Warren Taylor about state and territorial government as well as his involvement with the Alaska Constitutional Convention.
- Statehood for Alaska and Hawaii? See It Now. CBS. March 2, 1958.
In Part I of this program, Edward R. Murrow explores arguments for and against statehood for Alaska. Interviewees include Bob Atwood, William Arnold, Bob Bartlett, Mike Stepovich, George Malone (U.S. Senator from Nevada), Alaskan homesteaders, and University of Alaska students.