Frank H. Nowell Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition photographs, 1908-1909

Overview of the Collection

Nowell, Frank H., 1864-1950
Frank H. Nowell Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition photographs
1908-1909 (inclusive)
178 glass plate negatives
Collection Number
Photographs of the buildings, grounds, exhibits and events of the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle, for which Nowell was the official photographer.
Museum of History & Industry, Sophie Frye Bass Library
Sophie Frye Bass Library
Museum of History & Industry
P.O. Box 80816
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 2063241126 x137 or x237
Fax: 2067801533
Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public by appointment.

Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Frank H. Nowell was born on February 19, 1864 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, one of six sons of Thomas and Lydia Ham Nowell. The elder Nowell spent part of each year in Alaska for business purposes, and in 1886, at age 22, Frank joined him, setting sail for Juneau with six cows and one bull to begin the first dairy ranch in Alaska. He soon sold that business and joined his father operating a mining company on Douglas Island near Juneau. Over the years, Frank continued to work in Alaska in various capacities in his father's business ventures.

On one of his trips back to the east coast, Nowell took up photography as a hobby. He also met Elizabeth Helen Davis of Detroit and the two were married in 1894. Frank and Elizabeth moved to the west coast, where Frank set up an office as a purchasing agent for his father's company in Juneau. They lived in California for a time, in San Francisco, Oakland and Pacific Grove, where their daughter Dorothy was born. Leaving his family behind, Frank returned to Alaska, first to Juneau and then, in 1900, to Nome. Nowell was involved in business ventures for several years, neglecting his photography until Elizabeth brought his camera to Alaska when she and Dorothy met him in Teller, where Nowell was working for the Ames Mercantile Company. Nowell began to make photographs of Alaska and its native people; before long, he opened a studio on Second Avenue and Steadman Street in Nome and was making photographs full time. Nowell photographed businessmen, city officials, native Alaskans, railroads, hydraulic mining and waterways and ports, creating a visual record of Alaska just after the turn of the century.

Nowell traveled between Nome and Seattle while an assistant ran the Nome studio, and by 1908 was spending most of his time in Seattle. Around 1908, J.E. Chilberg, president of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle, appointed Nowell as the fair’s official photographer. Nowell’s many AYPE photographs were displayed at the fair and used in many official publications.

After the APYE, Nowell remained in Seattle, running a commercial photography studio for 25 years. In the 1940s, Nowell retired and lived with his daughter on his ranch at Crystal Lake, where he died on October 19, 1950.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection consists of 178 glass plate negatives of the Seattle Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in 1909, for which Frank H. Nowell was the official photographer. Most of the images depict AYPE building exteriors and grounds, though a few depict exhibits on display inside various buildings. Several images document the attractions of the amusement area, the Pay Streak, include images of Alaskan natives and the Igorrote people of the Philippines on exhibit.

Historical BackgroundReturn to Top

The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition opened in Seattle on June 1, 1909 with nearly 80,000 visitors. Originally planned for 1907 to mark the 10th anniversary of the Klondike Gold Rush, the Exposition was postponed two years to avoid a conflict with another summer long exhibition in Jamestown, Virginia, marking that town’s tercentenary. In addition to providing time in which to raise additional funds, the delay gave the planners the opportunity to expand the original concept from that of a commemorative Alaska exhibit to a fair encompassing all the Pacific Rim countries and territories. The new scope of the AYPE would not simply commemorate the past, but display the value of commercial trade with the Pacific Rim, celebrate a new era of commercial and industrial expansion and promote Seattle as its center.

Nationally known landscape architects from Boston, brothers John and Frederick Olmstead, designed the fairgrounds. The central portion of the grounds was oriented along axes that exploited the natural beauty of the setting, with views of Mount Rainer, Lake Union and Lake Washington. Built on 250 acres of the largely undeveloped campus of the University of Washington (and partially funded by the state legislature for later use by the University), the AYPE grounds were close to downtown and convenient transportation. Though most of the buildings, designed by John Galen Howard, were too poorly built to survive, the landscaping of the grounds added value to the university by removing wilderness and opening new possibilities for future university installations.

The grounds were centered around the Arctic Circle, with its cascading fountain and reflecting pool, and the surrounding Court of Honor, flanked by two wings of three buildings on either side. Descending from the domed Government Building, these six building were named for Europe, Asia, Alaska, Hawaii and the industries of Manufacturing and Agriculture. Among other notable AYPE buildings was the Forestry Building, a massive structure built entirely of huge logs in their natural state and surviving for several years after the Exposition as the Washington State Museum, until it was damaged by beetles and razed in 1931. California, Utah, Oregon and Idaho each provided buildings, as did the Washington counties of Chehalis, King, Yakima and Spokane. Most of the buildings were constructed cheaply and easily of plaster and were razed immediately after the fair. Brick buildings that survived include Meany Hall, which was used by the University until the 1964 earthquake, and the Fine Arts Building, now the University’s Architecture Hall. The Geyser Basin reflecting pond still survives as the University of Washington's Frosh Pond; the statue of George Washington, one of several patriotic statues built on the fair grounds, also remains as a feature of the University of Washington campus.

Exhibits ranged from the educational to the sensational, including a 30 feet high pineapple made of smaller pineapples, and an elephant made entirely of exotic nuts. The Fine Arts building displayed numerous paintings in its galleries; government exhibits displayed artifacts of American history and highlighted the work of federal agencies of special interest to the west, such as the reclamation service. The Seattle Symphony Orchestra and other local musical organization held concerts. Many exhibits were enhanced by free lectures and special guided study tours for children. Promotional publications and souvenir booklets accompanied some exhibits, depicting each locality as a sort of paradise on earth. Designated “days” for cities, state, peoples and special interest groups were popular. These included parades, contests, speeches, and balls--often occasions to dress in traditional costumes, as in a pageant of Norwegian history, featuring a Viking ship and armor-clad warriors.

The amusements of the Pay Streak were a popular stop for many Exposition visitors. The Pay Streak featured attractions like the Alaska Theater of Sensation, the Fairy Gorge Tickler ride, a miniature railway journey and a recreation of the Battle of Gettysburg. The Pay Streak also featured a variety of exotic dancers and, purportedly, the largest ferris wheel in the world The most popular Pay Streak attraction, however, was an exhibit of a mock village of the Igorrote people, natives of the Philippine Islands. Igorrote men, women and children were displayed in a simulated “native” habitat, with typical Igorrote houses; they performed dances and demonstrated traditional crafts in their--sometimes controversial--traditional attire of loincloths.

Business leaders hoped the Exposition would create an interest in real estate and lure capital for development to Seattle. Though the fair brought money to the city, it actually brought few long term benefits. The anticipated influx of people from other parts of the country never did occur, nor was there significant increased development of Alaska or the development of better trade relations with Pacific rim countries. The buildings did not offer much help to the University of Washington. The fair returned a modest profit, however, and paid a 4 % dividend to stockholders. It brought some recognition to Seattle, provided a season of entertainment and rallied the local community. After drawing approximately 3.7 million paying visitors to its gate, the AYPE closed on October 16.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Alternative Forms Available

Photographic prints made from the glass plate negative originals are available for reference purposes.

Alternative Forms Available

View selections from the collection in digital format by clicking on the camera icons in the inventory below.

Restrictions on Use

The Museum of History & Industry is the owner of the materials in the Sophie Frye Bass Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from MOHAI before any reproduction use. The museum does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners.

Preferred Citation

Frank H. Nowell Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition Photographs, Museum of History & Industry, Seattle

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Items 1-161 were arranged in ascending order by photographer’s number, then given a new number by the repository. Items 162-167 were not numbered by Nowell according to the same system. Items 168-178 were added after conservation and are also consecutive by photographer’s number.

Location of Collection

4b.4.4 (glass plate negatives)
2b.2.9 (modern prints)

Acquisition Information

Found in collection.

Related Materials

The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition Collection (2006.3) includes promotional and souvenir publications, photographs, postcards and ephemera related to the AYPE.

The O.D. Goetze Photographs and Other Materials (1995.38) include approximately 240 photographic postcards of the AYPE.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Photographer's number given in parentheses.

Description Dates
1 : Frank H. Nowell in profile undated
2 :   Official emblem of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (Nowell x89) 1909
3 : Geranium plant (unnumbered) 1909
4 : Men with logs for Forestry Building construction (Nowell x348) 1908 December 16
5 : Mount Rainier from University of Washington Campus (Nowell x397) undated
6 : Manufactures Building (Nowell x526) 1909 June 1
1980.6987.11: AYPE officials, including AYPE President J.E. Chilberg and AYPE Director General Ira E. Nadeau (Nowell x580)
This photograph by Nowell is part of the Collection on the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in the repository and is included in this inventory for reference purposes.
7 : Planked walkway (Nowell x702) 1909
8 :   Igorotte workers at Igorotte Village (Nowell x757) 1909
9 : Official emblem of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (Nowell x773) 1909
10 : Fine Arts Building (Nowell x796) 1909
11 :   Birds-eye view of AYPE grounds from Government Building (Nowell x926) 1909
12 : Music Pavilion and walkway (Nowell x932) 1909
13 :   Oriental Palace (Nowell x966) 1909
14 :   Staging of AYPE emblem with live models (Nowell x1059) 1909
15 : Cascade fountain with Government Building in background (Nowell x1067) 1909
16 : Stairway inside Forestry Building (Nowell x1085) 1909
17 :   Igorotte and Inuit group at Igorotte village (Nowell x1105) 1909
18 :   Igorotte child (Nowell x1108) 1909
19, 20:   Igorotte and Inuit children (Nowell x1109, 1110) 1909
21 : Log exhibit, with plank grain arranged to look like human body (spirit board?) (Nowell x1158) 1909
22, 23 :   Cascade fountain with Government Building in background (Nowell x1161, 1163) 1909
24 : Field of flower beds planted with pansies (Nowell x1205) 1909
25 : Dairy Exhibit Building (Nowell x1235) 1909 May 21
26 :   Ezra Meeker with covered wagon near Pioneers Restaurant (Nowell x1264) 1909
27 : Oriental Building (Nowell x1277) 1909 March 18
28 : Paraffine Paint Company Building (Nowell x1279) 1909
29 : Spokane Building (Nowell x1283) 1909
30 : Chehalis County Building (Nowell x1284) 1909
31 : King County Building (Nowell x1285) 1909
32 : Bastion (Nowell x1286)
The Vancouver B.C. Daily World headquarters was housed in this structure, built to replicate the Hudson Bay Co. bastion at Nanaimo, Vancouver Island.
33 : Washington Good Roads Building (Nowell x1287) 1909
34 : Alaska Building (Nowell x1291) 1909
35 : Oregon Building (Nowell x1292) 1909
36 : California Building (Nowell x1293) 1909
37 :   Cascade Fountain and Government Building (Nowell x1310) 1909
38 :   Washington Good Roads Building (Nowell x1337) 1909
39 :   United States Life Saving Station (Nowell x1357) 1909
40 : U.S. Government Philippine Exhibit Building (Nowell x1401) 1909
41, 42:   Fine Arts Building (Nowell x1411, 1418) 1909
43: Court of Honor across the Geyser Basin (Nowell x1446) 1909
44, 45 : Exhibit inside Forestry Building (Nowell x1459, 1461) 1909
46: California Building (Nowell x1469) 1909
47: Idaho Building (Nowell x1470) 1909
48 : Alaska Building (Nowell x1474) 1909
49 : Yakima County Building (Nowell x1475) 1909
50 : Replica of the New York home of William H. Seward (Nowell x1479) 1909
51 : Men in front of Great Northern Railway locomotives on display (Nowell x1483) 1909
52 : Court of Honor showing Geyser Basin (Nowell x1488) 1909
53 : Canada Building (Nowell x1491) 1909
54 : Grand Trunk Railway Building (Nowell x1492) 1909
55 :   Education Building (Nowell x1495) 1909
56 : Formal sunken gardens (Nowell x1501) 1909
57: People near Yakima County Building (Nowell x1503) 1909
58 : Washington State Building (Nowell x1505) 1909
59 :   Looking north on the Pay Streak, showing crowds near Japanese Village, and the Scenic Railway (Nowell x1515) 1909
60 :   Looking north on the Pay Streak, showing crowds and the Gold Camps of Alaska (Nowell x1516) 1909
61 :   Fine Arts Building (Nowell x1518) 1909
62 : Hawaii Building (Nowell x1525) 1909
63 : Auditorium Building (Nowell x1529) 1909
64 : Vienna Cafe (Nowell x1532) 1909
65 : Spokane Building (Nowell x1534) 1909
66 : Replica of the New York home of William H. Seward (Nowell x1541) 1909
67 : Oregon Building (Nowell x1545) 1909
68 :   Army detachment in front of Arctic Brotherhood Building and Amphitheater (Nowell x1553) 1909
69 : Alaska Building showing Cascade Fountain (Nowell x1569) 1909
70: U.S. Government Philippine Exhibit Building (Nowell x1576) 1909
71 : Oregon Building (Nowell x1586) 1909
72 :   Firmin Michel Roast Beef Corporation and Eskimo Building in Pay Streak (Nowell x1594) 1909
73 : Pacific Avenue looking toward the Forestry and Paraffine Paint Company Buildings (Nowell x1596) 1909
74 : Vienna Cafe (Nowell x1602) 1909
75 :   Manufactures, King County and Machinery Buildings, looking toward Lake Washington (Nowell x1606) 1909
76 :   Crowds around Music Pavilion (Nowell x1609) 1909
77 : Bandstand and crowd in Nome Circle, with Forestry Building (Nowell x1631) 1909
78 :   Young woman making clay pot in Igorotte Village (Nowell x1640) 1909
79 : Igorotte family outside "Typical Rich Man's House" in Igorotte Village (Nowell x1686) 1909
80 : Washington State Building (Nowell x1700) 1909
81 : California Building (Nowell x1707) 1909
82 :   Looking south on the Pay Streak (Nowell x1709) 1909
83 : California Building (Nowell x1713) 1909
84 :   "Caribou Bill" with woman and his dog team at Eskimo Village (Nowell x1854) 1909
85 : Loaded pack mules in exhibit (Nowell x1859) 1909
86 : Spokane Building (Nowell x1886) 1909
87 :   Utah Building (Nowell x1888) 1909
88 : Panorama of exposition grounds across Lake Union (Nowell x2005) 1909
89 : Ornamental planters near Government Building (Nowell x2100) 1909
90: View down Washington Avenue, with Manufactures Building (Nowell x2109) 1909
91: King County Building and Music Pavilion (Nowell x2135) 1909
92, 93:   Ornamental plantings near Agriculture Building (Nowell x2138, 2140) 1909
94:   Igorrote pipe makers in exhibit (Nowell x2145) 1909
95: Ornamental plantings near Manufactures Building (Nowell x2149) 1909
96: Walkway alongside Music Pavilion (Nowell x2163) 1909
97: Ornamental planter and plantings around pond, with Manufactures Building (Nowell x2174) 1909
98: Formal gardens, with Manufactures Building in background (Nowell x2185) 1909
99:   Leather artwork with fringe (Nowell x2218)
Decorated with drawing and a poem about an abandoned claim in the Klondike Gold Rush, signed "M.H. Craig of Dawson"
100:   Group of men in front of Japan Exhibit Building (Nowell x2286) 1909
101: View of gardens and Music Pavilion (Nowell x2304) 1909
102: Auditorium and stairway of U.S. Government Building (Nowell x2311) 1909
103: Emergency Hospital and grounds showing horse-drawn ambulance (Nowell x2365) 1909
104: Court of Honor (Nowell x2402) 1909
105: Birds-eye view of gardens and Agriculture Building from King County Building (Nowell x2421) 1909
106:   Rose garden and ornamental planters (Nowell x2423) 1909
107:   Alaska Building and walkways (Nowell x2461) 1909
108: Court of Honor showing Alaska Monument, Cascades fountain, Geyser Basin and Alaska and European buildings (Nowell x2494) 1909
109:   Birds-eye view of Hawaii Building with Cascade Fountain and Geyser Basin (Nowell x2495) 1909
110:   Two white men and Igorrote man in car exhibit (Nowell x2609) 1909
111, 112: Diorama showing animals native to Canada in Canada Building(Nowell x2709, 2714) 1909
113: Court of Honor looking southeast towards Rainier vista, showing Geyser Basin, Cascades Fountain and Alaska Monument (Nowell x2751) 1909
114: Stairs of "rustic trestle" (log bridge spanning Great Northern Railroad tracks) and dirt trail into wooded area (Nowell x2782) 1909
115:   Court of Honor showing Geyser Basin, ornamental plantings, European Building and Government Building (Nowell x2802) 1909
116:   Birds-eye view of Hoo-Hoo House with Lake Washington in the distance (Nowell x2805)
Hoo-Hoo House was headquarters of the national fraternal organization of men engaged in the lumber trade known as the Hoo-Hoos.
117, 118: Hawaiian Building and Cascades Fountain (Nowell x2848, 2849) 1909
119:   Official Photographer for the AYPE Building (Nowell x2867) 1909
120:   Group of children of different ethnicities (Nowell x3016) 1909
121: Garden and stairs to Music Pavilion (Nowell x3029) 1909
122:   Canadian military bugle and drum band in front of the Bastion replica (Nowell x3040)
"6th D.C.O.R. Bugle Band"
123: AYPE guard with two fawns in enclosure (Nowell x3116) 1909
124:   Audience at Swedish choir event (Nowell x3139) 1909
125:   Crowd listening to speaker at James J. Hill monument (Nowell x3178) 1909
126: James J. Hill monument (Nowell x3212) 1909
127:   National Hostesses in front of the Alaska Building (Nowell x3234) 1909
128: Path through trees near water (Nowell x3336) 1909
129:   Crowd around Alaska Monument in Court of Honor (Nowell x3346) 1909
130:   Hawaiian Building from Alaska Building (Nowell x3350) 1909
132:   Rainier Circle looking south, with Grand Truck Railway building (Nowell x3360) 1909
133: View of grounds showing Music Pavilion, King County Building and Machinery Building (Nowell x3361) 1909
134: Music Pavilion and grounds (Nowell x3362) 1909
135: Birds-eye view of gardens and Manufactures Building (Nowell x3364) 1909
136: Birds-eye view of gardens and Court of Honor (Nowell x3364) 1909
137: Birds-eye view of gardens and Agriculture Building (Nowell x3365) 1909
138: Grounds through trees (Nowell x3366)
139:   Florist's Office in rustic log building (Nowell x3407) 1909
140:   Display of Eskimo and Indian artifacts in Alaska Building (Nowell x3426) 1909
141 : Agriculture Building and formal garden (Nowell x3440) 1909
142: Manufactures Building and formal garden (Nowell x3444) 1909
143: Washington State Dairy Exhibit Building (Nowell x3491) 1909
144:   Igorrote men and children and Masonic Lodge members in front of Igorrote hut (Nowell x3641) 1909
145 :   Crowd on stairs and span of “rustic trestle” across Northern Pacific Railroad tracks (Nowell x3655) 1909
146, 147 :   Official medal bearing AYPE emblem (Nowell x3727, unnumbered) 1909
148 : Building through trees (Nowell x3732) 1909
149 : Garden and path near Machinery Building (Nowell x3739) 1909
150 : Water lilies in exhibit (Nowell x3747) 1909
151 :   Crowd on Pay Streak, showing Battle of Gettysburg building (Nowell x3802) 1909
152:   Main entrance gate (Nowell x3842) 1909
153:   Unveiling of William Henry Seward statue showing speaker and crowd (Nowell x3879) 1909
154:   William H. Seward and young Harriet May Baxter near the William Henry Seward statue (Nowell x3882)
William H. Seward was the son of the late Secretary of State Seward honored by the statue. Harriet May Baxter was the granddaughter of Ex-Governor John H. McGraw of Washington, who officially unveiled the statue.
155:   Crowd at the foot of the Pay Streak on New England Day (Nowell x3898) 1909
156:   Marcus Whitman statue (Nowell x4165) 1909
157:   George Washington statue (Nowell x4185) 1909
158: Washington State Dairy Exhibit Building (Nowell x4200) 1909
159:   President William Howard Taft and others seated on stage at event (Nowell x4288) 1909
160:   First prize Holstein calf at stock show (Nowell x4578) 1909
161: Geyser basin and Manufactures Building (Nowell x4684) 1909
162:   Canadian military marching band under Vancouver Arch (Nowell A-2) 1909
163: Buildings and grounds
These negatives have "K" numbers and may not have been taken by Nowell.
Four 4" x 5" images on one negative (numbered K5-K8):
  • K5: Oregon Building
  • K6: Educational Building
  • K7: Cascades fountain; Alaska Monument and Government Building
  • K8: Washington State Building
164: Buildings and grounds
These negatives have "K" numbers and may not have been taken by Nowell.
Four 4" x 5" images on one negative (numbered K9-K12):
  • K9: Geyser Basin with view of Lake Washington between Manufactures Building and Music Pavilion
  • K10: Music Pavilion
  • K11: Hawaii Building
  • K12: Manufactures Building
165: Statues
These negatives have "K" numbers and may not have been taken by Nowell.
Four 4" x 5" images on one negative (numbered K17-K20):
  • K17-19: Statues at the base of the Alaska monument, three female figure symbolizing Alaska, the Orient and Pacific Countries
  • K 20: James J. Hill statue in front of Swedish Building
166:   Sculptural decoration of dog and snowshoe (unnumbered) 1909
167: Buildings (unnumbered)
These images are unnumbered and may not have been taken by Nowell
Four 4" x 5" images on one negative:
  • Spokane Building
  • Yakima County Building
  • Chehalis County Building
  • California Building
168: Administration Building (Nowell x320) 1909
169: Birds-eye view of grounds and Mount Rainier from Government Building (Nowell x1040) 1909
170:   Union Circle and Japan Building (Nowell x1490) 1909
171: Music Pavilion with people on adjacent walkway (Nowell x1346) 1909
172: Igorrote man and woman in Igorrote Village (Nowell x1690) 1909
173: Washington State Building (Nowell x1698) 1909
174: Ornamental plantings near Manufactures Building (Nowell x2390) 1909
175: Birds-eye view of Alaska Monument and Court of Honor, probably from Government Building (Nowell x2748) 1909
176:   Historic six-mule Army wagon on exhibit in U.S. Government Building (Nowell x2938)
“Sherman’s coach”
177:   Two women with Caribou Bill's dog team in front of mural (Nowell x3330)
One of the women is "Miss Columbia" from Labrador, the other is a white actress
178:   Washington State Women’s Building (Nowell x4195) 1909

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (1909 : Seattle, Wash.)--Photographs
  • Exhibitions--Washington (State)—Seattle--Photographs
  • Igorrote Village (Seattle, Wash.)--Photographs
  • Pay Streak (Seattle, Wash.)--Photographs

Personal Names

  • Nowell, Frank H., 1864-1950 --Photographs

Geographical Names

  • Seattle (Wash.)

Form or Genre Terms

  • Glass negatives