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Pioneer Fur Trading Company Donates Historical Papers

Fairbanks, Alaska—The Alaska Commercial Company, a division of The North West Company International, Inc. is donating a collection of historical papers to the University of Alaska Fairbanks Rasmuson Library.

A transfer ceremony will be held at 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 26 at the Robert B. Atwood Building in Anchorage. A selection of the materials, including the earliest known invoice for shipping pilot bread to the new territory, will be on display.

The papers and record books are from the ACC collection and document the early days (1868-1940) of commerce in the port of St. Michael and the Yukon River villages. The items include ledgers, records, charts, maps and photographs. They will augment a large collection of ACC papers already at the Rasmuson Library.

A former ACC president collected the items over a period of years, then took them out of Alaska when he retired.

“Recently his widow ‘repatriated’ them to us and we are pleased to ensure that Alaskans will now have access to them through the Rasmuson Library,” said Rex Wilhelm, president and COO of ACC.

The five boxes of items—arrivals and departures of ships, the names of ivory carvers, photographs of pre-World War I Alaska—complement the library’s current collection and help give a more complete history of the company and of Alaska.

“This new collection is pure gold. We are very grateful to the Alaska Commercial Company for such a boost to the collection,” said Dennis Moser, department head of the library’s Alaska and Polar Regions Collections and Archives.

Researchers, scholars, those searching for genealogical records and many others from around the world use the ACC collection at UAF.

Maritime historian J. Pennelope Goforth, of Anchorage, facilitated the transfer after she met with Wilhelm and learned of the collection.

“It was so fortuitous,” she said. “The ACC material at the Rasmuson Library is an awesome portal to the somewhat murky days when Alaska didn’t have a civil government in place. When I saw the scope of the materials I knew they had to join (the collections) at the Rasmuson Library.”

Pioneer fur traders and the first American company to operate in Alaska, the Alaska Commercial Company began trading with coastal Native communities beginning in 1868. Best known for their exclusive 20-year fur seal contract in the Pribilof Islands, at its height the ACC operated more than 40 trading stations from Dawson City and Kenai to Attu in the Aleutian Islands. The company continues its relationship with rural communities under the moniker AC Value Centers and is the largest rural retailer in the state.

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