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William S. Wanamaker Collection


Scope and Contents

Biographical Note

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

William Wanamaker Collection, 1912-1944.

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William S. Wanamaker Collection, 1912-1944 | Sealaska Heritage Institute Archives

By Mary Brooks & Zachary R. Jones

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Collection Overview

Title: William S. Wanamaker Collection, 1912-1944Add to your cart.

ID: MS/047

Primary Creator: Wanamaker, William S. (1889-1944)

Extent: 1.0 Boxes

Date Acquired: 04/09/2013

Subjects: Alaska Native Brotherhood--History., Russian Orthodox Brotherhood--History, Tlingit Indians--History.

Languages: English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

This collection consists of papers and records associated with Tlingit Indian William S. Wanamaker (1889-1944). These center on an original hand-written record book that chronicles the life events of William S. Wanamaker while he lived in Sitka and Juneau, spanning the period of 1912-1944. This record book was both a diary of Wanamaker’s doings, but also included a record of his financial affairs and involvement in the Alaska Native Brotherhood and Russian Orthodox Brotherhood. In this record book Wanamaker chronicled the births, deaths, marriages, citizenship petitions, and social life of Alaska Natives, as well as his dealings with the Russian Orthodox Brotherhood and Alaska Native Brotherhood, including his involvement in social and political activism. Wanamaker’s documentation of these events is highly important since newspapers of the day did not contain or allow information to be published on these aspects of Alaska Native life, due to racism of the period, and thus this record book provides unique content on Alaska Native life.

This record book is, however, very fragile and brittle, so a preservation copy (photocopy) of the book has been made for public use, created by the donor Brian Wallace (grandson of William Wanamaker). Use of the original record book is prohibited to preserve the original.

Also included in the collection are correspondence and legal papers of Wanamaker, such as his petition of American citizenship in 1919. Additional papers of this nature concerning Andrew and Jean Wanamaker are also included, who were the adopted parents that raised Elizabeth Wanamaker Peratrovich, the noted Alaska Native Sisterhood civil rights activist for who the state holiday Elizabeth Peratrovich Day is named. These latter papers are photocopies of the originals obtained by the donor to assist the researcher.

Researcher Note: Additional papers (Mss 239) and photographs (PCA 520) of William S. Wanamaker are held by the Alaska State Library.

Biographical Note

William S. Wanamaker (1889-1944) was a Tlingit Indian of the Kiks.ádi clan and born at Sitka, Alaska on August 12, 1889. He was the second child and son of Archie Wanamaker and his birth mother (name presently unknown). At age two his birth mother died. (His father later remarried Helen Wanamaker (1840-1934).)

Shortly after Wanamaker’s birth he was baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church by Rev. Donskoy, and with his mother’s death Wanamaker spent his childhood under the care of his grandmother, who also enrolled him into the local Russian school (1905) and made sure he completed five years of learning (1910).  While attending the Russian school in Sitka he learned to speak Russian and English along with his other studies, completing his education at the eighth grade level. After completing his schooling, in 1912 he married Margaret S. Jackson (1888-1981) of Sitka.

Sources indicate that Wanamaker soon took work in the common professions open to Alaska Natives in the 1910s, such as working in fish canneries and/or mines. These professions, however, often placed Alaska Natives and other migrant workers, such as Filipinos, in dangerous and unhealthy situations. The 1910s and thereafter was a period of heightened political and social activism for Southeast Alaska Natives and Wanamaker became a member of the Russian Orthodox Brotherhood movement and the Alaska Native Brotherhood (ANB). Wanamaker reports that he joined the Russian Orthodox Brotherhood in 1917 and ANB in 1920. Both ANB and the Russian Orthodox Brotherhood sought to address social and political concerns of Alaska Natives, especially ANB. Through these two organizations Wanamaker was an activist for improvement and social justice.

Later, after moving to Juneau in 1926 for employment with the A.J. Mining Company as a sorter, he joined the Juneau Mine Workers Association, a union organization that fought to improve conditions and pay for workers. A surviving diary and ledger kept by Wanamaker reported on the Juneau Mine Workers Association marches and strikes during the 1930s and 1940s and Wanamaker’s involvement. Surviving ANB records also document how Wanamaker was a political activist for the cause of Civil Rights, such as how in 1940 Wanamaker, as ANB Camp 2 president, organized an Alaska Native boycott of sporting facilities in Juneau due to racial discrimination.

In 1944, after health complications, Wanamaker died at the age of 45 from “Black Lung Disease,” an affliction contracted from working in the mines and inhaling poisonous materials.  He left behind his wife and seven children.

Subject/Index Terms

Alaska Native Brotherhood--History.
Russian Orthodox Brotherhood--History
Tlingit Indians--History.

Administrative Information

Repository: Sealaska Heritage Institute Archives

Access Restrictions: Open to the public according to the policies of Sealaska Heritage Institute. Note: One item in the collection is restricted because of fragility, but a preservation copy of the original is available for viewing.

Acquisition Source: Brian Wallace

Acquisition Method: The material in the collection was donated to SHI on 4/9/2013 by Brian Wallace, the grandson of William S. Wanamaker.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Box:

[Box 1: William Wanamaker Collection, 1912-1944.],

Box 1: William Wanamaker Collection, 1912-1944.Add to your cart.

Item 1: Preservation copy of the William S. Wanamaker record book, 1912-1944.

Fd 1:    Three photocopies of court documents for William S. Wanamaker. Photocopy of typewritten letter from court to William S. Wanamaker; handwritten note from William S. Wanamaker to court; stapled photocopies of genealogy for William S. Wanamaker (supporting documents); and record of funeral.

Fd 2:    Three photocopies of court documents for Jean Wanamaker. Photocopy of typewritten letter from court to Jean Wanamaker, and stapled photocopies of genealogy for Jean Wanamaker (supporting documents).

Fd 3:    William S. Wanamaker record book, 1912-1944.

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