The ALASKA STEAMSHIP COMPANY – Passenger Liners 1952
Passengers on deck enjoying shuffleboard aboard an Alaska Steamship Line steamer in the1930s. En route from Seattle, Washington to Juneau, Alaska.
Alaska Steamship Company poster – 1930s
HISTORY of the Alaska Steamship Company. Regular monthly boat service from U.S. ports to Alaska began in 1867 following the purchase of Alaska from Russia. Occupation troops were dispatched and cargo and mail soon followed. By 1875 several ship lines were making the voyage up the Panhandle in spite of often-inhospitable waters and a treacherous coastline. The first tourists began booking passage as reports of unparalleled scenery were increasingly publicized.
On August 3, 1894, Charles Peabody, Capt. George Roberts, Capt. Melville Nichols, George Lent, Frank E. Burns and Walter Oakes formed the Alaska Steamship Company, which would eventually enjoy a near monopoly of freight and passenger service to Alaska. This group of six men began gathering $30,000 by selling 300 shares of stock, at $100 each. Charles Peabody was named president of the company.
On Jan. 21, 1895, the Alaska Steamship Company was finalized. The first vessel purchased was the 140-foot steamer WILLAPA.
Alaska Steamship Company – Pier – Seattle, Washington
Sustaining the company’s growth was the completion of a railroad into the interior, encouraging mining activity for precious metals that brought both fortune-seekers and tourists. By 1905, activity shifted from the Juneau/Skagway area to Valdez/Cordova, then eventually to Nome, where Alaska Steamship was ready to capitalize on the bonanza by switching its ships accordingly. At the end of 1897, Charles Peabody reorganized the Alaska Steamship Co. and his fleet expanded rapidly as the Klondike gold stampede mounted. In 1898 the stockholders formed the Puget Sound Navigation Co. as an inland water subsidiary. That new company was registered in Nevada where corporate laws were more lenient. The Puget Sound routes were a natural place for the company to recycle some of its smaller original vessels as they became obsolete for the strenuous Alaska runs.