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After its rudimentary beginning in 1749, fur farming
in Alaska rose and fell for two centuries. It thrived
during the 1890s and again in the 1920s, when
rising fur prices caused a stampede for land and
breed stock and led to hundreds of farms being
started in Alaska within a few years. The Great
Depression, and later the development of warm,
durable, and lightweight synthetic materials during
World War II, brought further decline and eventual
failure to the industry as the postwar economy of
Alaska turned to defense and later to oil. Fur Farms
of Alaska brings this history to life by capturing the
remarkable stories of the men and women who
made fur their livelihood.
Sarah Crawford Isto was born and raised in
Fairbanks and practiced medicine in Juneau for
twenty years. Now retired, she continues to live and
write in Juneau. She is the author of Good Company:
A Mining Family in Fairbanks, Alaska.
A very enjoyable history of fur farming in Alaska. . . . It is a story of people who lived in challenging, Spartan, and
solitary conditions; a story studded with poachers, pirates, and charlatans; and a story of an industry governed by
fluctuating prices, changing fashions, world wars, and government intervention. . . . well worth reading.
For more than 200 years 'soft gold' brought many people to Alaska. Fur farming was Alaska's third-largest industry in the 1920s, and Sarah Isto writes of the many efforts, successes, and ultimately of the fur farming industry's failure. This well-researched history contextualizes current fox elimination projects on Alaska islands and explains the abandoned pens one stumbles across. This is a story that has long needed to be written.
—Joan M Antonson, Alaska State Historian
[Isto] writes clearly, with sharp details and a focus on . . . showing the reader how that piece of Alaskan history is also a part of the larger tapestry that is U.S. and world history. . . . The result is a multihued, fascinating look at an era long gone, when a few hardy souls made their fortunes without grubbing in the ground, and built up—and eventually saw the fall—of an industry that to this day resonates in the state. Highly recommended for all adventurers.
—Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
The Fur Farms of Alaska is a terrific book well worth the time of scholars and general readers.
—The Northern Review
The Fur Farms of Alaska represents the best in local history. Intended for a general audience, it is a useful source for Alaska’s
economic history, those who are interested in the fur industry, and those with antiquarian interests in Alaska’s rich history.
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