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Tag: National Archives at Alaska

Facial Hair Friday: Utopia above the Lower 48

These might look like two gentlemen out for a stroll in the early twentieth century, but the well-bearded gentlemen on the right is William Duncan, founder of  Metlakahtla, a Utopian community. The man on the left with the mustache is Sir Henry S. Wellcome, who founded the pharmaceutical company Burroughs Wellcome & Company, which later became part of GlaxoSmithKline.

Why would you form a Utopian community of Anglicans from the native peoples in Alaska? And why would a pharmaceutical businessman have any interest in it?

Duncan was born in Yorkshire, England, but after joining a missionary society, he was sent to Canada. He actually started a community in British Columbia, but after a dispute with Anglican Church authorities in Canada, he persuaded the U.S. Government to allow his group of 800 native Tsimshians  to settle on Annette Island. Duncan lived in Metlakahtla until his death in 1918. (Metlakahtla today has Alaska’s only Indian reservation and 1,400 residents.)

The little town had a church, a sawmill, a brass band and a baseball team. The National Archives has many images of life in of Metlakahtla in the National Archives at Anchorage, Alaska.

Wellcome’s experience with Native Americans was very different from Duncan’s. He was born in Wisconsin to a deeply religious family, and later moved with his family to Garden City, Minnesota. Wellcome witnessed an attack on Garden City … [ Read all ]