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Guide to the Alaska Commercial Company Records, 1868-1940 JL006
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Collection Details
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  • Materials withdrawn from the collection
  • Scope and Content
  • Historical Note
  • Preferred Citation:
  • Provenance
  • Publication Rights
  • Access Restrictions

  • Title: Alaska Commercial Company Records,
    Identifier/Call Number: JL006
    Contributing Institution: Department of Special Collections and University Archives
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 18.0 Linear feet
    Date (inclusive): 1868-1940
    creator: Alaska Commercial Company

    Materials withdrawn from the collection


    Scope and Content

    The collection consists of loose papers and volumes of general accounts. The first group in the series of loose material consists of sundry papers and documents from 1888 to 1897, and were originally found together as such. The second group contains three numbered subseries, which are also in their original order; these are headed accounts. The subject matter of these accounts is varied and with no obvious order other than chronological; the papers have been listed with their numbers preserved as they were numbered in the envelopes in which they were found. The series are H-1 to H-30, I-2 to I-17, and 1-629. These papers are dated from 1890 to 1939; some numbers are missing, which the donor stated at the time the collection was presented to this library. There is a rough progression in date, and the subjects include: individual accounts and collections, legal documents, (bills of sale, contracts, charters), correspondence, and statements. The third group of papers are financial reports from Unalaska and date from 1936 to 1940 and the last group consists of annual financial reports and lists of stockholders of the Alaska Commercial Company.
    The volumes include (under the name of the Alaska Commercial Company): stock certificates, stock journals and ledger, general ledgers, private ledgers and journals, a fur book and fur average record, and a Yukon Saw Mill ledger. Volumes for the Northern Commercial Company and the Northern Navigation Company are very much the same: minutes (three volumes for each company), stock certificates and journals, private ledgers and journals, and trial balances. The Alaska Commercial Company volumes are dated from 1868 to 1940; the Northern Commercial Company, 1906-1926; and the Northern Navigation Company, 1905-1921.
    The records of the Alaska Commercial Company are of particular interest to anyone seeking information about the business activity of the early Pacific Coast, mainly in the business and accounting activities of the company, rather than in the managerial or executive area. Minutes of the board of directors are included among the material for the Northern Commercial Company and the Northern Navigation Company, but not for the Alaska Commercial Company itself, which eliminates a detailed look at this aspect of the business. Because of the very similar nature of the activities of the Alaska Commercial and the Northern Commercial Companies, however, the existence of these minutes is a valuable source for information concerning many aspects of the entire business.

    Historical Note

    The history of the Alaska Commercial Company actually begins in 1776, when, under the flag of Czarist Russia, Gregor Shelikof and Ivan Golikof formed a trading company in the Alaskan territory that was under Russian rule. In 1799 they received trading privileges on the western coast of the United States and became the Russian-American Company. After the 1867 purchase of Alaska by the United States, the firm of Hutchison, Kohl & Company, including Hayward Hutchison, William Kohl, and Louis Sloss, bought the Russian-American Company. In 1868, Sloss, Lewis Gerstle, and A. Wassermann bought this company, although Hutchison, Kohl & Company was in simultaneous existence and under the same ownership until 1872, when the new company paid off the purchase. This new company, formed in 1868, was called the Alaska Commercial Company, and did business under this name until 1901. In that year, because of increasing competition in the sealskin trade, the Alaska Commercial Company merged with the International Mercantile Marine Company and Alaska Goldfields, Ltd., to form two new companies, the Northern Navigation Company and the Northern Commercial Company. The original owners of the Alaska Commercial Company, Louis Sloss, Gerstle, etc. carried on the business under the name of the Northern Commercial Company. Shortly afterwards, W.J. Erskine bought some of the old Alaska Commercial Company boats and set up a small successor to the Company in certain areas of Alaska.
    Volney Richmond, since 1910 a Company supervisor, was one of several employees to purchase the Northern Commercial Company in 1922, thus leaving the functioning of the Company virtually unchanged, except in legal ownership. The Northern Commercial Company is still very much in existence today, with its executive offices in Seattle, Washington. Volney Richmond, Jr. carries on his father's position as president of the Company.
    In the 1868 articles of incorporation, the stated purposes of the Alaska Commercial Company were "...to buy, sell, rent and lease real estate...to erect buildings...to buy, sell, exchange..merchandise, stocks, bonds, franchises...to build tramways and roads...to catch and pack fish...to manufacture..." The Company established stations in Alaska at Nome, Kodiak, Sunrise, Eagle City, Circle City, St. Michael, Unga, Unalaska and others, and in Dawson in Canada, as well as various other Canadian stations.
    Although the Northern Commercial Company became the new name of the Alaska Commercial Company in 1901, business was still carried on in the name of the Alaska Commercial Company as well, according to the papers and records in this collection of material. Among the papers of the company, both the Alaska Commercial Company and the Northern Commercial Company are involved, and volumes for the Alaska Commercial Company, the Northern Commercial Company and the Northern Navigation Company are included in the collection. From evidence accumulated through correspondence regarding this collection, the Alaska Commercial Company apparently did not cease doing business in its own name until 1942, leaving the Northern Commercial Company as the sole successor to the A.C.Co.

    Preferred Citation:

    [Identification of item] Alaska Commercial Company Records, JL006, Dept. of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, Calif.


    Gift of Louis C. Greene, 1944 to Jackson Library and transferred to the Department of Special Collections in 1979.

    Publication Rights

    Property rights reside with the repository. Literary rights reside with the creators of the documents or their heirs. To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the Public Services Librarian of the Dept. of Special Collections.

    Access Restrictions