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Book Review: Alaska USA

This week I finished the book:

Hilscher, Herb, and Miriam Hilscher. 1959. Alaska, U.S.A. Boston: Little, Brown.

This book was written at the dawn of Alaska Statehood. Herb Hilscher was a delegate to Alaska’s Constitutional Convention in the winter of 1955-56. Mr. Hilscher was concerned at the number of people in the lower 48 states who were coming north with little preparation for what lay ahead. Mr. Hilscher wrote this book both to educate the country about what he considered Alaska’s bright future AND to emphasize that Alaska was not for the lazy or faint of heart.

I found the book to be a quick easy and fun read in most places. Mr. and Mrs. Hilscher write in a conversational manner. There is a good index to the book.

Alaska, USA is part descriptive, part predictive. Some predictions are spot on, like that Alaska would one day have great oil and mining revenue or that great things were in store for the young businessman Wally Hickel. Others, like that Alaska would have a population of 2 million in 1980 or that Alaska would be the nation’s feedlot with its superior barley and a rail connection to Canada, didn’t turn out so well.

Another seemingly failed prediction has given me a future research project. The Hilschers talk abou a thriving sheep industry in the Aleutian islands. In 1959, Aleutian wool was prized and the Hilschers thought that Aleutian lamb would be on gourmet tables everywhere. To my knowledge this didn’t happen. If anyone can document a current Aleutian wool or meat industry, please leave a comment. I’d say I’d get back to you on this soon, but I have a lot of interests and I don’t know when I’ll get around to a fuller study of this area.

If you are a fan of Alaska history looking for a fun snapshot of early statehood life, try this book.

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