Author

Michael Engelhard

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Parade on Nome’s Front Street, 1916. Courtesy Library of Congress Loving liberty, Americans honored their nation’s birth in Alaska when it was still foreign soil. Two years before the United States bought the territory from Russia, the Western Union Telegraph Expedition’s Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Henry P. Fisher arranged its first July Fourth bash in the capital New Archangel, present-day Sitka. As guest of the Russian governor, Fisher had tired of the outpost’s routine and diet. The Brooklyn exile decided to celebrate Independence Day stylishly, helped by two supply vessel captains anchored in port. He requested the customary gun salutes and received Russian-American Company officials and their wives and daughters for a light meal on Clara Bell’s quarterdeck. Before music and dancing commenced, they all toasted Lincoln and the Tsar. Elegant shipboard dining continued to mark the anniversary: a Depression-era feast-day menu for the Inside Passage on SS Aleutian—a steamer considered “palatial”—boasted…