Item #6582 [An early Alaska manuscript liquor license]. William S. Dodge.

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[An early Alaska manuscript liquor license].

Sitka, Alaska, 1868. 4to manuscript document, 12.5” x 8”. 1 p. of manuscript.

A scarce manuscript liquor license granted and signed by the first Mayor of Sitka, Alaska, William S. Dodge, just a year after Alaska was purchased by the U.S.

In 1867 the U.S. bought Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million (2 cts an acre), and Sitka—a city in the southeast portion of the Territory—was the site of the transfer ceremony for the purchase. (Russia had been undergoing economic and political turmoil after losing the Crimean War in 1856, and decided to sell Alaska before it was snapped up by Britain.) From 1867 to 1873, American settlers in Sitka established and conducted affairs under a provisional city government, as Alaskan communities were prohibited from legally incorporating until 1900, when the U.S. Congress passed legislation enabling them to do so. With the blessing of the transition military commander, General Jefferson C. Davis, the townspeople of Sitka drew up a charter; elected a governing council; and named William Sumner Dodge mayor. Dodge was one of two mayors of Sitka under the provisional government, the other being John H. Kinkead. Sitka was the U.S. Government Capital of the Department of Alaska from 1867 to 1884, and the District of Alaska from 1884 to 1906. In 1906 the seat of government was relocated to Juneau due to Sitka’s declining economic importance relative to Juneau, which experienced a spike in its population resulting from the Klondike Gold Rush. Following Sitka’s decline, Dodge abandoned his position to practice law in San Diego.

The certificate reads in full:

Whereas S. W. English has in pursuance of and in conformity with an act entitled an Act for the Increase of Revenue from Licenses for the City of Sitka, made application to me as Mayor for a License for the wholesale of Liquors, and having exhibited to the certification of the City Treasurer, that he has paid the License fee for the same for one month from the 1st day of February 1868 to the 31st day of March 1868.


Now therefore, be it known, that I do hereby grant a License to the said S. W. English to carry on the business above specificed, and to the extent specified in conformity with law for the period of one month dated from the 1st day of February 1868 to the 31st day of March, 1868. At which time this License must be renewed or it will be null and void.


Given under my hand and the official seal of the city of Setka this severth day of March 1868.


William Sumner Dodge, Mayor.


REFERENCES: Atwood, Evangeline; DeArmond, Robert N. Who's Who in Alaskan Politics (Portland, Oregon: Binford & Mort for the Alaska Historical Commission, 1977), p. 24; The Era of Neglect at


CONDITION: Very good, old folds.

Item #6582


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