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Reviewed by Steven Robson for Readers' Favorite
Icebound Empire: Industry and Politics on the Last Frontier 1898 - 1938 by Elizabeth A. Tower is a historical account of the arrival of political and industrial influences in Alaska around the beginning of the twentieth century, driven by the prospect of untapped natural resources. Detailed with a focus on three pioneering individuals, George C. Hazelet, Captain David H. Jarvis, and Stephen Birch, this is an extraordinary portrayal of an amazing period in history that saw over 5,000 adventurers descend on the Valdez region in a four-month period of 1898, seeking fame and fortune. These were truly intrepid souls, with the capacity to tolerate hardships and labor unimaginable in today’s society. The feats achieved by Mr. Hazelet alone were staggering, where he indicates that just one of his efforts involved carrying a pack weighing between 50 and 80 lbs over a distance of 460 miles! Told with the inclusion of newspaper articles, historical photos, diary extracts, letters, maps, and council records, Icebound Empire allows the reader the privileged opportunity to obtain a glimpse of a truly remarkable period of discovery and development in the Alaskan wilderness.
Elizabeth A. Tower’s Icebound Empire is clearly a work of passion, containing comprehensive coverage of the period being discussed, that leaves no doubt as to the amount of research, time, and effort expended in compiling this valuable resource. This is not only a chronology of life around 1900 in America and Alaska, but is also quite educational, containing many things that can be learned; one example for me being the fact that reindeer were introduced to Alaska from Siberia by Mr. Jarvis. If you have an interest in history or live in Alaska, I highly recommend this book to you, but even those not so positioned will find much value in the reading; a documentation of man’s history worthy of passing to our future generations.