Alaska Steamship Company photograph collection, circa 1940s  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Alaska Steamship Company
Alaska Steamship Company photograph collection
circa 1940s (inclusive)
13 photographic prints
30 stereo slides
Collection Number
Promotional photographs of steamship company
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 206-543-1929
Fax: 206-543-1931
Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

The Alaskan shipping industry began to grow in the late 1800s with the expansion of fishing and cannery activities. As a result, there was a dramatic increase in the need for transportation of other products to and from the lower 48 states. In 1894, six men, recognizing this need, incorporated; they gathered $30,000 by selling 300 shares at $100 each, and then set about scouting for a ship to begin hauling. They found and purchased the Willapa , which could carry passengers as well as freight. Their timing could not have been better; soon after the Alaska Steamship Company (ASC) opened for business, Alaska began to experience major economic benefits resulting from the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897. In addition to fish products, ASC began hauling mining equipment, dog sleds, cattle, and miscellaneous supplies.

The company began by servicing Southeast Alaska, running only between Skagway and Seattle. Another shipping company, the Northwest Steamship Company, had organized the northern route as a result of the Nome gold strike in 1900, servicing Valdez, Cook Inlet, and the Bering Sea ports. A third party, the Guggenheim Company, bought out both ASC and the Northern Steamship Co., keeping the ASC name. They expanded the fleet into 18 ships and expanded service to all Alaskan ports from Ketchikan to Kotzebue.

For the next quarter of a century, ASC relied on copper from the Kennecot mines, gold, and salmon for backhauls from northern cities to the lower 48 states. By 1938, the copper mine had closed and the gold rush had subsided. With backhauls now significantly reduced, the Alaskan shipping industry was severely impacted. In addition, the much relied-upon fishing industry was only seasonal. The one-way haul was one of the great problems of the Alaska run; the other problem was the weather. Ships were constantly threatened by fierce Alaskan weather patterns.

Eventually, the Kennecot Company acquired controlling interest from Guggenheim Company. In 1944, G.W. Skinner of Seattle purchased all interests and retained the management identified with the Alaska Steamship Company for the next several years.

The ASC joined the war effort in 1942, losing five ships in various campaigns. In 1953, they expanded into container service. The holds of the vessels were paved to accommodate fork lifts. New masts were engineered to lift massive vans. New generators were installed to provide power for van refers (refrigerated vans) and heater equipment. Containerization was recognized as the most significant development in ocean transport since the steam engine. There was less damage to freight, less pilfering, and labor costs were significantly reduced as there was no more piece by piece handling of cargo.

In 1954, the company ceased passenger operations due to high costs of labor and union standards. By then, ASC had established itself as a pioneer in containerization. At one point, the company pumped $11 million into the economy by employing dockworkers, ship workers, and stevedores, hauling freight, and operating ship and dock facilities. However, because of increased fuel and insurance costs, increased competition from barges, ferries, and tugboats, and continual union demands, the Alaska Steamship Company ceased operations in 1971.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection consists of 13 mounted 16x20 black and white photographs depicting scenes in Alaska circa 1940 that were used by the Alaska Steamship Company as promotional materials. Also included are 30 color stereo slides to be used with "The Stereo Realist Viewer" (not included). These include scenes from the S.S. Aleutian and its trip through the Inside Passage to Alaska.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Restrictions may exist on reproduction, quotation, or publication. Contact Special Collections, University of Washington Libraries for details.

Preferred Citation

The required credit line for use of images from Special Collections is: University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, [plus the negative number.

The negative number is provided with the image and is a letter + number combination such as UW13452; Hegg 1234; or NA1275. A typical credit line would be, University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, UW13452.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top


PhotographsReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Sitka, St. Michael's Cathedral, bell
circa 1940s
Sitka, Greek Orthodox Church
circa 1940s
Sitka, St. Michael's Cathedral, interior
circa 1940s
Two boys with fish
circa 1940s
Alaska scenic view
circa 1940s
Chilkoot barracks
circa 1940s
circa 1940s
Hunting lodge, two huskies, man and woman in front of log cabin
circa 1940s
circa 1940s
Sitka panorama
circa 1940s
Cordova panorama
circa 1940s
Skagway panorama
circa 1940s
Valdez panorama
circa 1940s

SlidesReturn to Top

30 color stereo views
Description Dates
Grenville Channel, S.S.Aleutian
circa 1940s
Pier 42, Seattle
circa 1940s
Seymour Narrows, S.S.Aleutian
circa 1940s
Wrangell Narrows, S.S.Aleutian
circa 1940s
Passing Butedale on the Inside Passage, S.S. Aleutian
circa 1940s
Boat deck, S.S.Aleutian
circa 1940s
Sunset, Inside Passage at Johnstone Strait
circa 1940s
Bubble Room, Baranof Hotel
circa 1940s
Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau
circa 1940s
Night lunch, S.S.Aleutian
circa 1940s
Pier 42, Seattle
circa 1940s
Corner of Club room, S.S.Aleutian
circa 1940s
Sitka Main street and old Russian church
circa 1940s
Graham Reach, Inside Passage, S.S.Aleutian
circa 1940s
Alaskan sunset near Wrangell
circa 1940s
Corner of Observation Room, S.S.Aleutian
circa 1940s
S.S.Alaskaat Valdez
circa 1940s
Mt. Fairweather nearing Cape Spencer, S.S. Alaska
circa 1940s
Chichagof Island, near Sitka
circa 1940s
Valdez Harbor
circa 1940s
Chugach Range leaving Valdez
circa 1940s
"Sourdough Dinner," S.S.Denali
circa 1940s
Petersburg on Alaska's Inside Passage
circa 1940s
Comfort on deck S.S.Aleutian
circa 1940s
Anchorage Alaska's new metropolis
circa 1940s
Corner of Lounge, S.S.Aleutian
circa 1940s
Brady Glacier near Cape Spencer
circa 1940s
Sailing day, S.S.Aleutian
circa 1940s

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Visual Materials Collections (University of Washington)
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Photographic prints
  • Slides