Harriman Alaska Expedition of 1899

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Chief's painted house with totem pole
Chief's painted house with totem pole

Railroad magnate Edward H. Harriman led a team of twenty-three scientists, including the great naturalist John Muir, on a two month expedition to explore the waters and coastal territory of Alaska. Over 5,000 photographs were taken during the voyage and were used to compile the souvenir album of the expedition presented here with 254 of those images .

Edward H. Harriman described his Alaska outing "as a summer cruise for the pleasure and recreation of my family and a few friends". While he initially planned to extend his adventure only as far as Kodiak Island to engage in some big game hunting, his party grew to include some of the country's foremost and distinguished scientific personnel, artists, photographers, writers, and conservationists. On May 31, 1899, the members of the Harriman Alaska Expedition set sail from Seattle on the steamship George W. Elder. For the next two months, they headed north to explore the waters and coastal territory of Alaska. Twenty-three scientists including geologists, botanists, ornithologists, taxidermists, and zoologists engaged in scientific investigation in their respective fields while enjoying E.H. Harriman's hospitality and leisurely lifestyle aboard the steamship. Their stops included Glacier Bay, Sitka, Yakutat Bay, Prince William Sound, Kodiak Island, the Shumagin Islands, Unalaska, the Pribilof Islands, Port Clarence, and Cape Fox, in addition to a short jaunt over to Plover Bay on the Siberian coast. Here is a detailed description of the trip written by expedition member C. Hart Merriam as the introduction to the twelve-volume "Alaska" series, which detailed the scientific discoveries that were made during the journey.

Over 5000 photographs were taken on the trip. Upon their return Harriman produced a two-volume souvenir album entitled "A Souvenir of the Harriman Alaska Expedition, May - August, 1899. Volume 1, New York to Cook Inlet" and "...Volume II, Cook Inlet to Bering Strait and the Return Voyage" which included 253 photographs by both Edward S. Curtis, one of the official expedition photographers, and other expedition members including C. Hart Merriam and Harriman himself. The photographs in the album are digitally reproduced here in their entirety.

About the Database

Selection, research and descriptive metadata for the Harriman Alaska Expedition Albums were completed by Kristin Kinsey and Margaret Fulton in 1998. All of the photographs in these two albums were included in the database. The photographs were scanned using a Microtek Scanmaker 9600L and saved in .jpg format. Some manipulation of the images was done to present the clearest possible digital image. The scanned images were then linked with descriptive data using CONTENTdm software. The original collection resides in the UW Libraries Special Collections Division as the Souvenir of the Harriman Alaska Expedition Photograph Album Collection PH Coll 333.