Aunt Phil’s Trunk Volume Two: Bringing Alaska’s History Alive

by Phyllis Downing Carlson & Laurel Downing Bill

Aunt Phil’s Trunk Volume 2 tells the story of Alaska in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It includes stories from Phyllis Downing Carlson, who moved to Alaska in 1914, and was co-written by Laurel Downing Bill. From their efforts, readers get an in-depth look at what Alaska is like during the time period with stories of railways, the Alaskan entertainment industry, and the economic change due to the Gold Rush that occurred there. The historical context allows you to understand the transformation of Alaska’s rapid development. In fact, during the Gold Rush, people began to discover that the entertainment industry was as profitable as the gold industry, resulting in a surge in popularity of dancers, singers, wrestling matches and more. This in turn arguably created more wealth for those who ventured to Alaska and became entertainers there than those who went seeking to strike it rich and find gold. Indeed, it was easy for gold hunters to be misdirected, literally, down a wrong path. For example, there was an Alaskan newspaper hoax about how the Valdez Glacier trail was the best trail when, in truth, the weather conditions were so harsh that it spelled certain doom for anyone who used it. Can you imagine how difficult and dangerous it would’ve been to try and seek fortune in Alaska, only to get there and have newspapers there lie to you intentionally to make sure you never found your riches? Aunt Phil’s Trunk is full of stories about these kinds of problems that gold miners found waiting for them when they arrived in Alaska.

Perhaps the most important point to mention is the authenticity of this book. If you are interested in reading a book about the Gold Rush and want to find out what it was really like from those that actually experienced it, well, no problem here; Phyllis lived during that time period. This 300+ page read uses wonderful pictures along with her perspective to paint an accurate picture of what life really was like back then. I feel that for this reason, Aunt Phil’s Trunk has enormous value for researchers looking to get insight into that period. This was a very interesting and thorough read.

To purchase a copy of the book, click here to find it on Amazon.