Ranger led walking tours in Skagway

In the summer in Skagway the best free tour is the ranger led walking tour of downtown. They leave about every hour, just like Old Faithful, and the groups are limited to 30, so people have to go in and get a free ticket for the next available walk. As you can see from their attire, a cool windy day is not uncommon and so a light wind breaker and rain hat is a good idea. If you’re lucky you may get a smart and handsome ranger like Arlen!


It has taken weeks, but I have now successfully categorized all of my previous 715 posts into 35 categories to make it easier to find topics. Hopefully this will be helpful to those tour guides hoping to do stories for the tourists in the summer. Let me know if you find anything mis-categorized or that should be categorized into more than one. Hmmm, what should this entry be put under? Entertainment?

Alexander Pantages

Alexander was born in 1867 in Andros, Greece. He ran away from home at the age of nine while with his father on a business trip in Cairo, Egypt. He then went to sea and spent the next two years working on merchant ships all over the world. Although he left Greece at a tender age he never forgot his home country and seems to have been conscious of his ethnic identity. Thus, he changed his name to Alexander after hearing about Alexander the Great.
He came to Skagway in 1897 and worked for Ma Pullen as a waiter. He later used Klondike Kate for money and ran the Orpheum in Dawson. In 1902, Pantages left Dawson and moved to Seattle, Washington, where he opened the Crystal Theater, a short-form vaudeville and motion picture house of his own. By 1920, he owned more than 30 vaudeville theatres and controlled, through management contracts, perhaps 60 more. In 1929 he was accused of raping a 17-year old woman. Pantages was tried, convicted and sentenced to 50 years in prison, despite his claim that he was “set up by Joseph Kennedy.” (Kennedy had offered to buy his theaters in 1927 but Pantages refused.) He was later acquitted in the appeal trial, after his lawyers portrayed the victim as a woman of low morals.
Pantages died on February 17, 1936 and was interred in the Great Mausoleum, at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

Wikipedia; Highjinks, page 156

Jack Holt

Another famous person who worked in Skagway during the Gold Rush is Jack Holt, born in 1888 in New York City. He worked in Skagway as a laborer, maybe for White Pass but then moved to Los Angeles and started working as a film actor. He made several silent films, and then worked in sound films. His son Tim Holt also became an actor and starred in The Treasure of Sierra Madre with Humphrey Bogart.
Jack died on this day, January 18, 1951 in Los Angeles of a heart attack.
Seen above in his chaps in a still from one of his westerns.

S.S. Buford

In 1890 the S.S. Mississippi was built in Belfast as an private Atlantic Transport ship. In 1898 she was purchased by the U.S. Army for use in the Spanish American War. Renamed the S.S. Buford (after General John Buford, union cavalry hero of Gettysburg) she saw use as a troop transport ship to the Philippines, as a supply vessel in San Francisco following the great quake in 1906, famine relief missions to China, refugee and troop carrier during the Mexican Revolution and as communication hub for Galveston during the great hurricane there in 1915. In World War One she helped evacuate Americans from Europe and then transported troops. Following the war she brought home 4700 soldiers from Europe.
In 1919 she was dubbed the “Red Ark” and transported 249 “undesirables” back to Russia.
In 1921 she rescued 65 passengers and crew from the burning Tokuyo Maru near Tillamook, Oregon.

In 1923, the Buford was sold to John C. Ogden and Fred Linderman of the San Francisco-based Alaskan Siberian Navigation Company. From July 20 to September 8, 1923 the S.S. Buford sailed up from San Francisco to the Arctic. Here is a list of the ports that this aging vessel visited:
Nome, Juneau, Seward, Wrangell Island, Unalaska, Teller, Ketchikan, Pribiloff Island, Skagway, Duncan’s Bay, Swanson’s Bay, Auk Lake, Cordova, Copper River, Akutan whaling station, Dutch Harbor, Salmon Creek, Taku Glacier, Mendenhall Glacier, Spencer Glacier, Miles Glacier and Muir Glacier.
The Buford was actually commanded by Capt. Louis Lane and went 185 miles north of the Arctic Circle. At that time it was the largest ship to enter the Arctic Ocean. The Buford then went on another trip to the South Seas in early 1924.

It was then that the Buford was chartered for three months by silent movie comedian Buster Keaton for use as the principal set of his film “The Mariner” later renamed “The Navigator.” The Buford had been “discovered” by Keaton’s Technical Director Fred Gabourie while scouting for ships for another, outside project, The Sea Hawk.
Released on October 13, 1924, “The Navigator” proved to be Keaton’s most financially successful film and one of his personal favorites. An aging Captain Johnny “Dynamite” O’Brien (seen above with Keaton) partook in the filming of the movie.
After so many adventures and heroic trips, the S.S. Buford sailed on May 11, 1929 from Los Angeles to Yokaham Japan to be scrapped. If she had been a military person, she would have been decorated, but on her final voyage her only decoration was the American flag which fluttered proudly off her stern.

Wikipedia; Pacific Coastal Liners;

“Diamond Lil” Davenport

Her real name was Honora Ornstein born in 1882 to a prominent Jewish family in the cattle business in Butte, Montana. She stood about 6 feet tall and sported a diamond stuck in her front tooth, hence the nickname.
Diamond Lil had a “Luxury House” in Skagway. “But Diamond Lil was a courtesan in the fullest sense of the word, only entertaining the obviously rich clients who could pay handsomely for what she had to offer. Nevertheless she was fully entrenched in ‘the world’s oldest profession.’”
After the rush, Lil moved to Seattle where some accounts say she opened another house of ill repute and others say she took a job scrubbing floors.
She was married several times but died at the ripe old age of 93, in June 1975 in Yakima, Washington of insanity (probably dementia).
Seen above, she makes chubby look good.

Martinsen; Allen p 336; Klondike Stampeders Register; Yukon News online

Ella D. Wilson

The New York Times of March 22, 1898 reported that a black prostitute had shot and killed a laboring man at the entrance to her cabin in the saloon district in Skagway. According to the captains of the Alki and the Hueneme the murder started as a result of trouble which began early on Monday evening over the disappearance of the man’s watch.
Apparently nothing was done to investigate this, but on May 28, 1898 – only two months later, Ella D. Wilson, a black prostitute or laundress, was strangled in her bed and her belongings stolen. Her house was on Holly Street, the same neighborhood. Perhaps the murder of Ella Wilson was simply retribution or frontier justice for the earlier murder. Although it was widely rumored that she had $3000, it is highly unlikely that a poor black prostitute could have amassed that much money. Even the high priced call girls made little money. Anyway I will check the local newspapers and see if there is a connection….

Dahl; Skagway death/coroners inquest and probate record

Charles Kreling

Charles was born on this day, June 1, 1871 in New York. His father, Martin Joseph Kreling, born in Germany, moved the family (wife Barbara and 6 kids), soon after to San Francisco.
In 1877 Mr. Kreling thought that San Francisco needed music. Determined to fill that need, he a gave concerts in a former mansion near the foot of Eddy Street by performers that included a ladies’ orchestra from Vienna. When the craze for Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore swept across America, Alice Oates and company performed it in San Francisco, and soon afterward other comic opera companies appeared on the horizon. Kreling hired various members of these companies and with them founded his own opera company in 1879.
Charles grew up with performers and perhaps that is how he came to know Jauquin Miller who he accompanied in 1897 to the Klondike. Charles was a photographer by trade and took photos of the trail and Dawson, although I have not actually seen any of these photos. Charles Kreling died in 1951 in San Francisco.

Seen above is a photo taken in 1878 of the Tivoli Opera House in the Tenderloin of San Francisco.

cameraworkes directory online; J.Miller site; 1880 SF census; SS deth index

Max Kollm

Max Kollm was born in 1854 in Germany. He was a member of the Arctic Brotherhood in 1900 here in Skagway. As an artist, one day he noticed that in the spring there appeared in the snow on the mountain above town, the letters “A” and “B”. He brought this apparition to the notice of the National Geographical Society who named it Mt. Arctic Brother. Today we just call it AB Mountain. Max may also have designed the logo for the Arctic Brotherhood.

Max moved on from Skagway and he left Dawson for Fairbanks in 1909. The picture above is an example of his work as a pyrographist done in 1909!
Pyrography has a long history as a decorative technique outside the United States and became a popular hobby in America in the early 1900s with the availability of pyrographic kits and materials. Alaskans adapted the technique to burn images onto moose hide and birch bark. They used pyrography to decorate personal and household items, create vacation mementos, illustrate Alaskan scenes, commemorate events, and honor organizations.
He and his wife Sophie lived in Seattle in 1910 and he was still working as an artist, but then in oil. Sophie died in San Francisco in 1955 but Max does not show up on any death indexes.

Woodcarver online magazine article on Pyrograffitti; Alaska Weekly 1931 article.

Archibald “Archie” League

A couple of years ago the grandson of Archie League came by and pointed out his grandfather in this picture, which you have all seen no doubt. Archie was a bartender here-seen in white behind the counter. He also worked at Jake Rice’s opera house, was part owner in brothel, and he went on to Dawson and managed a theatre there.
His grandson said he was born in 1873 in Mechlenberg, Tennessee. That would make him 25 in the photo above, and the fellow there seems a little older, but who knows?
Now I checked the old newspaper listings at the National Park library and found that Archibald League shows up as an actor in 1903 in Nome, at the Monte Carlo Theatre. Seems he got around, but whether he was actually here is still a question.

New 2019 UPdate:

Here is a real picture of Archie, contributed by Bill Byrd his descendent: