John J. Sesnon Family photograph collection, 1900-1907  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Collector
Sesnon family
Title
John J. Sesnon Family photograph collection
Dates
1900-1907 (inclusive)
Quantity
83 b/w photographs (1 box and 2 folders)
2 panoramic photographs (1 folder)
5 photographs (1 folder)
Collection Number
PH1240
Summary
Images of the Sesnon family residence and family members, Eskimos, indigenous Canadians and settlers, livestock, transportation, recreation, industry, events, settlements, and commercial buildings in and near Nome, Alaska.
Repository
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
98195-2900
Telephone: 206-543-1929
Fax: 206-543-1931
speccoll@uw.edu
Access Restrictions

Entire collection can be viewed on the Libraries’ Digital Collections website. Permission of Visual Materials Curator required to view originals. Contact Special Collections for more information.

Additional Reference Guides

Languages
English


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

John J. Sesnon was a leading businessman in early Nome, Alaska. He was born in 1867 to a prominent San Francisco family, and moved to Nome during the 1900 gold rush with his first wife Anna Blennerhassett (alias Alma/Elma Hassett). There he established a shipping business at the mining camp. His business interests expanded to operation of warehouses, wharves and a toll road; commodities shipping, the sale of coal and most notably, lighterage. All of these services were an integral part of the Nome economy, especially lighterage, which was a means to get goods to shore from the steamships. The Bering Sea waters on Nome’s coast were too shallow and rough for large ships, so they anchored offshore in deeper waters, and goods were freighted to shore on barges (or “lighters”). John Sesnon expanded his lighterage operations to include towers mounted on huge caissons anchored offshore and inshore, with an aerial tramway and large crane. John J. Sesnon Co. became one of the largest enterprises in the territory. By 1907, he was reported to transact nearly a million dollars of business in one season. In 1907 he retired to Seattle, Washington in poor health. That same year, he married his second wife, Elizabeth Wetzel, a trained nurse who had attended him during a long illness. In Seattle, he invested in real estate and was prominent in yachting affairs, often sailing his yacht Elizabeth to San Francisco and Southeast Alaska. Mr. Sesnon died at his residence in Seattle on June 25, 1912, leaving a fortune to his widow and $5000 to Anna Hassett "providing that she did not marry before his death." During his life, Mr. Sesnon was involved in many legal disputes, concerning both family and business affairs.

Beverly Bennet Dobbs worked in Nome as a professional photographer from 1900 to about 1911. He photographed scenes in Nome and the Seward Peninsula and made portraits of Eskimos, for which he won a gold medal at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (St. Louis World's Fair) in 1904. About 1911 or 1912, he sold his photography business to the Lomen Bros and focused on his moving picture business.

Benjamin William Leeson lived 1866-1948, and worked as a photographer 1887-1900. In 1894 he moved from Vancouver B.C. to Quatso Sound on north Vancouver Island, B.C., where he ran a store with his father and studied and photographed the Quatsino native people.

Frank Nowell was a photographer who spent the years from 1900-1909 in Nome, documenting life in Nome and the Seward Peninsula. During his stay in Alaska he made frequent visits to Seattle on business leaving his studio operation in the hands of an assistant. Eventually he decided to remain and work in Seattle where he was appointed official photographer for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (AYPE) in 1909.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The first section of this collection contains images of the Sesnon family members in their residence and around Nome, Alaska. Another portion of the collection documents John J. Sesnon's wharf and lighterage business, focusing on the destruction along Nome's waterfront in the storm of 1907, and of the building of a replacement caisson. Also included are assorted images of Nome, including mining camps, waterfront activity, special events and commercial buildings; individual and group portraits of Eskimos, Native Alaskans and settlers, and images of areas outside of Nome including transportation, recreation, commerce, industry, settlements, and landscapes. The collection includes two hand-colored portraits and several panoramas and photographs by commercial photographers B.B. Dobbs, B.W. Leeson and Frank Nowell.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Restrictions might exist on reproduction, quotation, or publication. Contact the repository for details.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

 

Nome wharf and lighterageReturn to Top

Lighterage was a means to get goods to shore from the steamships. The Bering Sea waters on Nome’s coast were too shallow and rough for large ships, so they anchored offshore in deeper waters, and goods were freighted to shore on barges (or “lighters”).

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder item
1/2 11 1902
1/2 12 1903
1/2 13 circa 1905
1/2 14 1905
1/2 15
Man beckoning to four puppies on wharf
circa 1905
1/2 16 circa 1905
1/2 17 circa 1905
1/2 18-19 circa 1905
1/2 20 circa 1905
1/2 21 circa 1905
1/2 22 circa 1905
1/2 23
 Distant view of pier with lighterage equipment surrounded by snow and ice (Dobbs 721)
B.B. Dobbs (photographer)
Caption on photo: Shortest day Nome Alaska Dec. 21st 05.
December 21, 1905
folder:oversize
XH3 24
Panoramic view of Nome waterfront with Seward Peninsula Railroad dock
B.B. Dobbs (photographer)
1906
Box/Folder
1/2 25 June 9, 1906
1/2 26
 Ice jam at Sesnon lighterage dock
B.B. Dobbs (photographer)
Caption on photo: Ice Jam Sesnon dock Nome Alaska Jan. 1907.
January 1907
1/2 27
 Several men examining ice jam at Sesnon lighterage dock, with waterfront buildings and the Lacey building in the background
B.B. Dobbs (photographer)
Caption on photo: Ice Jam Sesnon dock Nome Alaska Jan. 1907.
January 1907
1/2 28
 Nome dock crushed under ice
B.B. Dobbs (photographer)
Caption on photo: The ice jam destroys part of Nome dock Jan. 1907.
January 1907
1/2 29
 Nome wharf crushed under ice and snow
B.B. Dobbs (photographer)
January 1907
1/2 30
 Nome dock collapsed under snow
B.B. Dobbs (photographer)
Caption on photo: The effect of the ice pack, Nome dock, Jan.1907.
January 1907
1/2 31 circa 1907

Construction of caisson, Nome, AlaskaReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder item
1/3 32
Caisson in ice
circa 1905
1/3 33
Close-up view of caisson in ice with man attaching ropes
circa 1905
1/3 34 circa 1905
1/3 35 circa 1905
1/3 36 circa 1905
1/3 37-38 circa 1905
1/3 39
 Men and horses moving caisson next to John Sesnon Co.
B.B. Dobbs (photographer)
Caption on photo: John J. Sesnon Co. moving caisson on Bering Sea for cable support.
circa 1905
1/3 40 circa 1905
Container(s) Description Dates
folder:oversize item
KVXB2 41
 Panoramic view of edge of town approaching Nome
Possibly taken by B.B. Dobbs.
circa 1902
KVXB2 42
 Panoramic view of Nome from outskirts
Possibly taken by B.B. Dobbs.
circa 1902
Box/Folder
1/4 43
 Vessel trapped in ice along shore, with several ships in the background out at sea
B.B. Dobbs (photographer)
Caption on photo: Shore ice at Nome June 20th 04.
June 20, 1904
1/4 44
 Passenger-filled shipOhioin ice (Dobbs 153)
B.B. Dobbs (photographer)
circa 1905
1/4 45 circa 1905
1/4 46 circa 1905
1/4 47
 Sun viewed through dark clouds over Bering Sea
B.B. Dobbs (photographer)
Caption on photo: Shortest day noon Dec 21st 05.
December 21, 1905
1/4 48
 Bird's-eye view of tent camp along shore
B & H or B & M, Nome, 511 or 513 (photographer)
circa 1905
1/4 49
 Tent camp along shore (Dobbs 806)
B.B. Dobbs (photographer)
1906
1/4 50
 Arrival of the first mail in Nome by the steamer Corwinwith men standing next to large stack of mailbags on beach
B.B. Dobbs (photographer)
Caption on photo: Arrival of the first mail in Nome by Str. Corwin, May 30th 06.
May 30, 1906
1/4 51
 Visit of Roald Amundsen and Helmer Hansen to Nome, with a crowd of townspeople in front of the Golden Gate Hotel
B.B. Dobbs (photographer)
Caption on photo: Reception to Capt. Roald. Amundsen & Lut. [sic] Hansen, Golden Gate Hotel, Nome Alaska, Sep 1st 06.Roald Amundsen captainedGjoa, the first vessel to transit the Northwest Passage. They left the Oslofjord in Norway on June 16, 1903, spent a total of 18 months ice-bound, and arrived in Nome on August 31, 1906 to a hero's welcome
September 1, 1906
1/4 52
 Excursion party on train to Salmon Lake on Seward Peninsula Railroad
B.B. Dobbs (photographer)
Caption on photo: Excursion party to Salmon Lake Seward Peninsula R.R. Nome Sep - 06. Con - Hasking. Eng - Meyers.
September 1906
1/4 53
 Life saving crew from Nome rowing out to the ship Greyhound
B.B. Dobbs (photographer)
Caption on photograph: Nome life saving crew making for disabled sloopGreyhound.
circa 1907

Locations outside Nome, AlaskaReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
folder:oversize item
KVXB2 54
 Panoramic view of mining tent camp
Possibly taken by B.B. Dobbs.
circa 1902
KVXB2 55
 Panoramic view of sluice mining operation
Possibly taken by B.B. Dobbs.
circa 1902
Box/Folder
1/5 56 circa 1904
1/5 57 circa 1905
1/5 58 circa 1905
1/5 59 circa 1905
1/5 60 circa 1905
1/5 61
 Crowd watching ski jumper at Dry Creek near Nome, Alaska
B.B. Dobbs (photographer)
Nome's first ski club was organized in 1901. The ski area was the slope of Anvil Mountain, and had a natural ski jump on the course of Dry Creek.
circa 1905
1/5 62
 Dogsled next to wrecked boatSadiecovered in snow drifts, Cape York, Alaska
B.B. Dobbs (photographer)
Cape York is about 80 miles from Nome.
circa 1905
1/5 63
 Bob Griffith with two men and mail-carrier dogsled next to snow drifts on Bering Sea
B.B. Dobbs (photographer)
Caption on photograph: Bob Griffis [sic] U.S. Mail carrier one mile in front of Nome, Bering Sea, Alaska.
circa 1905
1/5 64
Two reindeer in pen
circa 1905
1/5 65
 Display of thirteen stuffed ptarmigan (Dobbs150)
B.B. Dobbs (photographer)
Caption on photograph: Ptarmigan of North Western Alaska.
circa 1905
15 66
 Pressed Northwestern Alaska wildflowers
B.B. Dobbs (photographer)
circa 1905
folder:oversize
XH3 67 1906
Box/Folder
1/5 68 circa 1907
1/5 69
 Topkok Ditch Co. mining sluice at Daniels Creek, Alaska
B.B. Dobbs (photographer)
Caption on photo: Looking up Daniels Creek, Topkok Ditch Co.
circa 1907
1/5 70 February 28, 1908
1/5 71 February 28, 1908

Eskimo and Quatsino peopleReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder item
1/6 72
 Portrait of elderly Quatsino woman, Vancouver Island
Benjamin W. Leeson (photographer)
Handwritten on verso: Leeson Collection No. 43.Benjamin William Leeson lived 1866-1948, and worked as a photographer 1887-1900. In 1894 he moved from Vancouver B.C. to Quatso Sound on north Vancouver Island, B.C., where he ran a store with his father and studied and photographed the Quatsino native people.
circa 1900
1/6 73
 Elderly Quatsino man in blanket sitting on steps, Vancouver Island
Benjamin W. Leeson (photographer)
Handwritten on verso: Leeson Collection No. 7 "A Quatsino Grandad".Benjamin William Leeson lived 1866-1948, and worked as a photographer 1887-1900. In 1894 he moved from Vancouver B.C. to Quatso Sound on north Vancouver Island, B.C., where he ran a store with his father and studied and photographed the Quatsino native people.
circa 1900
1/6 74 1903
1/6 75 1903
1/6 76 1904
1/6 77
 Studio portrait of Eskimo baby in fur parka
Photographer is possibly B.B. Dobbs
circa 1905
1/6 78
 Cape Prince of Wales Eskimos and reindeer with sleds of reindeer meat for the Nome market (Dobbs 960)
B.B. Dobbs (photographer)
Caption on photograph: Cape Prince of Wales Eskimo hauling reindeer meat to Nome market.
circa 1905
1/6 79
 Cape Prince of Wales Eskimos and reindeer with sleds of reindeer meat for the Nome market
B.B. Dobbs (photographer)
Caption on photograph: Cape Prince of Wales Eskimo hauling reindeer meat to Nome market.
circa 1905
1/6 80
 Eskimo cache made of poles and blankets in Cape Douglas, Alaska
B.B. Dobbs (photographer)
Caption on photograph: Native cache - Cape Douglas Alaska.
circa 1905
1/6 81 1905
1/6 82 circa 1905
1/6 83 1906

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Personal Names :
  • Sesnon, John J
  • Family Names :
  • Sesnon family--Photographs
  • Geographical Names :
  • Nome (Alaska)--Photographs
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Photographs

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Visual Materials Collections (University of Washington)