Sunday, April 24, 2016

Book R & R: Alaska History in “Aunt Phil’s Trunk”


Some of the best history books kind of find their way to me. I find many in my travels. I love a good museum bookstore, full of local history written by local authors. Although I’ve never been to Alaska, I have a fascination with the history of the state, particularly with the Klondike Gold Rush. I now have a source for Alaska state history that reads like one of those gems that you can seemingly only find while traveling to the location.

Author Laurel Downing Bill was kind to send me a review copy of “Aunt Phil’s Trunk,” which is actually a set of five volumes of Alaska state history from before the arrival of the Russians through the 1980s. “Aunt Phil” is Phyllis Downing Carlson, who came to Alaska at age 5 in 1914. A dedicated school teacher, Mrs. Carlson collected stories, photographs, and wrote articles about Alaska state history her entire life. This treasure trove was bequeathed to her niece Laurel Downing Bill. An author herself, Laurel has compiled, edited this history and where necessary filled in the gaps. The result is an enjoyable history of their home state.


I have just finished Volume 1 which takes the reader through the Klondike Gold Rush. The book is very readable with an easy conversational style. It’s as if you are talking with the author at the kitchen table. The thing I like most about it is the number of period photographs, some of which I have never seen before. These books are staying on my shelf. When I finally take that trip to Alaska one of these summers I will definitely read the series again.