Aunt Phil’s Trunk Volume Four: Bringing Alaska’s History Alive
by Phyllis Downing Carlson & Laurel Downing Bill
“If we would provide an adequate defense for the United States, we must have…Alaska to dominate the North Pacific.” When US Secretary of State William Seward said these words in the mid-1860s, he was trying to convince Congress to buy Alaska as a state. It wasn’t until almost a century later, however, that the federal government so acted and the people of Alaska were able to shout, “We’re in!” But in the years between these two historic hallmarks, a lot of monumental military moments played out on Alaskan land – and the Aunt Phil’s Trunk series explores each and every one. Volume Four of this series carries readers from 1935 through 1960, touching upon topics such as World War II, the Cold War, and Alaska’s long journey toward statehood. Both a verbal and a visual account, it pools together poignant facts about this period and presents them alongside stunning visual images of Alaska’s people, places, and things. The photographs in the book were compiled from several esteemed institutions, including, among others, the Alaska State Library, the Anchorage Museum of History and Art, and the University of Alaska, Anchorage and Fairbanks – and the wonderful words that fill its pages come from author Laurel Downing Bill’s research of the rare documents and texts found in the library of her late aunt, Phyllis Downing Carlson, one of Alaska’s most respected historians, who had a lifelong interest in preserving the history and heritage of her home place.
The tagline on the title page of this text reads, “Bringing Alaska’s history alive!” – and that’s exactly what “Aunt Phil’s Trunk, Volume Four” does. The writing is very approachable and unassuming and is sure to entertain, educate, and enlighten both seasoned and novice history buffs alike. What’s more, the writing is sincere and obviously heartfelt, demonstrating Bill’s passion for the subject and giving the stories a sentimental appeal that makes learning fun. This sentimentality, together with the photos, maps, reproductions, and/or other illustrations found on nearly every page, imbues life into Bill’s words and helps create a comprehensive and compassionate composite of a unique chapter in the rich history of The Last Frontier state.
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