James H. Wheeler was born on this day, July 25, 1871 in New Orleans, Louisiana. He worked for the Chicago Portrait Company in the late 1800’s on the West Coast. He was based out of Portland and met Father Duncan who founded the mission at Metlakatla. As a friend of Fr. Duncan he was invited to Metlakatla where he did business and was the first “white man” to stay overnight in the village. (Wouldn’t we love to see some of those portraits!)
Seeing another business opportunity in Skagway, he bought up stray cats in Portland for 50 cents each, brought them to Skagway and sold them to dance hall girls for as much as $300 each. This earned him the apt nickname of the “Cat Man of the Yukon”. If he thought of himself as a cat wrangler, perhaps that is why he moved not long after, to Wrangell. There he bought the Ft. Wrangell Hotel, sent for his fiance, and started a drug store which he ran for several years. The family also ran businesses in Petersburg. James died in January 1974 in Seattle at the age of 103.
Is this the source of the term “Wheeler Dealer”?
Family website: sandyhershelman.com