THE SKAGWAY STREET CAR (ALASKA) : PRESENTER AND COMPONENT OF LOCAL HISTORY (1928)

This vintage real photo postcard features a portrait of the “Skagway Street Car”. At least two passengers are inside the bus; and the driver poses outside the vehicle. For those who are wondering, Skagway is a port town located on Alaska’s panhandle. Jack London wrote about Skagway in his book, “The Call of the Wild”. This postcard was postmarked in Skagway in 1928. The growth and history of Skagway is very much related to the Klondike gold rush. In 1896, gold was discovered in the Klondike region of Canada’s Yukon territory. Thousands of miners travelled there through the town of Skagway. A number of new arrivals stayed in Skagway and opened up businesses to serve the miners. The town rapidly became the largest city in Alaska. A narrow gage railroad was completed by 1900. After a short time, Skagway became under the control of corrupt individuals, including con man “Soapy Smith”. By 1897 and 1898, the town became, basically, lawless. Drunkeness, fighting, and prostitution were rampant. Among Soapy Smith’s criminal enterprises was a telegraph office that charged five dollars to send a message anywhere in the world. Unfortunately, for people paying for these telegrams; there was no way to send telegrams from Skagway until years later. Skagway’s economy began to collapse in 1899 as the “gold rush” came to an end. Some of the early residents of Skagway were committed to saving the history of the town. One such resident was Martin Itjen (1870-1942), who ran a tour bus in the history rich town. Itjen saved the historic gold-rush cemetery (Boot Hill, purchased Soapy Smith’s saloon, and opened Skagway’s first museum. President Warren Harding, while holding office, visited Skagway in 1923. Thanks to Itjen’s efforts, and others like him, Skagway is a tourist destination today. It’s historical district has more than one hundred building dating back to the gold rush era. Martin Itjen came to Skagway in 1898 with the purpose of seeking gold. His life went another direction. Instead, he became the town’s undertaker, Ford dealer, coal deliveryman, tour director, and the unofficial town storyteller (historian). In fact, he gave President Harding a sight seeing tour of Skagway in his brightly painted motorized coal truck. He called the vehicle his “streetcar” and he continued these tours for decades. His tours were actually theatrical productions. They included mechanical actors, poetry, and comedy; all incorportated to present the history of Skagway and its residents. In 1935, in order to promote tourism for Skagway, Itjen and his “street car” visited Hollywood. When appearing with screen star, Mae West, he quipped she should “come up and visit him sometime”. These historical tours continue today. This vintage postcard is in very good condition (see scans).

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Buy this original Vintage Real Photo Postcard (includes shipping within the US) #3317

To purchase this item, click on the Pay with PayPal button below

$32.00

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Buy this Vintage Real Photo Postcard (includes International shipping outside the US) 3317

To purchase this item, click on the Pay with PayPal button below

$41.00

Published in: on December 15, 2020 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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