UA Journey

1921-1925 Robert Bloom

Robert Bloom

Fairbanks

Robert L. Bloom was born in Siaulie, Lithuania on October 15, 1878.  He fled Lithuania and immigrated to Dublin, Ireland but decided to head west. At 17, he arrived at Ellis Island in 1895. Bloom traveled to Seattle where he worked with his Uncle Shapiro. News of the Klondike gold rush brought Bloom to Dawson in 1898. He used the supplies he had brought with him from Seattle to sell to prospectors. After Dawson, Bloom went over to Fairbanks where he opened his own hardware store in 1904.

Robert and Jessie met in 1910, in Dublin, when both, coincidently, were vacationing there. In 1912, Robert and Jessie, who were also second cousins, were married in London. Shortly afterward they moved to Alaska.

The transition from England to Alaska was no unpleasant for Jessie and they soon began their pioneer life together, working on the development and settling of Alaska.

Phograph of four pioneers in Big Delta. Robert and Jessie are the couple on the right. Photo: UAF Rasmuson Libary, Historical Photograph Collection

Robert was involved in many activities. He was a charter member of Igloo No. 4, Pioneers of Alaska, a fraternal organization. He was a member of an advisory group that helped establish and Air Force base in Alaska and was a founder of what was later to become the University of Alaska, serving a member of the Board of Trustees of the U.A.’s forerunner, the Alaska Agriculture College and School of Mines from 1921 to 1925 when his term expired. Arthur Shonbeck was appointed to take his place on the board.

Together, the Blooms were co-founders of the Fairbanks Airplane Company and in 1925 Jessie became one of the first women in Alaska ever to ride in an airplane. Robert and Jessie were also very active in conservation efforts in Alaska, supporting efforts to set aside lands for wilderness preserves and opposing efforts such as the Alaskan oil pipeline, which, they felt, posed a serious threat to Alaska’s natural environment. Finally, the Blooms were very active in establishing and promoting the Jewish community in Alaska. Robert served as chairman of Alaska’s Jewish Welfare Board and together, they served as unofficial chaplains for Jewish servicemen stationed in Alaska during World War II.

The Blooms also raised a family in Alaska. They had four daughters: Meta Buttnick, Dr. Olga Bloom Backer, Dr. Deborah Kaplan and Ruth Ibbetson.

Robert and Jessie moved to Seattle to retire. Robert died there in April 1974 at the age of 95. Jessie remained in Seattle, in continual close contact with the friends, activities, and causes she had left behind in Alaska, until her death in December 1980 at the age of 92.


Robert Bloom is also mentioned in this article

Notable People:Jessie Bloom

Links:

Bloom found refuge, respect in gold rush Alaska

The American Jewish Archives: Robert and Jessie Bloom Papers

Sources:

BOR file

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