The Laughing Woman

This photo is from the Dawson City Museum and Historical Society Collection and is available from the Yukon Archives for a few dollars. I have always wondered what her story was, certainly she laughs with her wrinkled dress as if she doesn’t have a care. ¬†Laugh on Lady – worthy of a bard’s ballad.

Levi, Strauss and Company

Mr. F.A. Insly ran the Levi, Strauss Company sample room in Skagway, probably around 1900. A ‘sample room’ provided display space for the wares of visiting salesmen called ‘drummers’. This Barley photograph shows the various options someone would have in ordering. Reminds me of catalogs today and ordering online.

Scipio G. Ratto

Scipio G. Ratto was born in San Francisco, April 14, 1869, the only son of Mary Cuneo and pioneer Bartholomew Ratto who migrated to the United States from Italy in 1849. Bartholomew Ratto settled in California in 1852, arriving in San Francisco on S.S. GOLDEN GATE after traveling across Isthmus of Panama via muleback. He had a general store in Mother Lode country, Calaveras County. Later he owned and managed two bakeries in San Francisco, one located in the downtown area on Post-Street (present site of Olympic Club), another on Dupont Street (now Grant Ave.) Subsequently they lived with son, Scipio, in the historical old Montgomery Block in San Francisco and managed the building in late 1890s.

As a boy and young man, Scipio Ratto came to Sausalito on family picnics and club gatherings (south end of Sausalito). He grew to love the town, its quiet atmosphere, its scenery, and the blue waters of San Francisco Bay.

Scipio Ratto journeyed to Alaska and Yukon Territory with his cousin Ernest Ratto, during the gold rush of 1897. They left San Francisco on S.S. UMATILLA on Sunday, July 25, 1897. While in Alaska and the Yukon, they prospected for gold.
The receipt above would seem to indicate that “B. Ratto”, his father Bartholomew, bought a few things in San Francisco for Scipio.

Scipio was later a clerk in Dawson, working in stores of J. Timmins and George Bieber in Dawson. By the 1920’s he was back living in Sausilito, California. He had step-brothers Gervasio, Giovanni and John in San Francisco where he died on this day, December 22, in 1951, he was 82.

There was a branch of the Red Front Clothiers in Skagway which is now owned by the National Park Service and leased to businesses. The park is now renovating it to rent to another jeweler next summer.

His daughters donated his papers to the Alaska Library and wrote the biographical information above.

The Tailor of Skagway


I first became interested in compiling the history of individuals in Skagway when I visited George Mowl’s grave in the Elk’s part of the Pioneer Cemetery (difficult to find without directions). His gravestone and the two stones on each side of him were vandalized years ago, so it was difficult to read them and so I decided to do some research.

Turns out, he came here from Ouray Colorado in the goldrush. He was a tailor born in England in 1840. He started a men’s clothing and tailors at 461 Broadway in Skagway with Mr. Ehrlich. He later started the first moving picture theatre here in 1915.

His wife Annie was a ladies tailor and she died in 1911. George then married another English lady, Mary Ann who came to America in 1918. George lived in Skagway over 20 years, and died on December 5, 1919 and was buried next to Annie. Mary Ann died in 1920 and was buried on his other side. He never had any children.