Aunt Phil’s Trunk: Volume One Bringing Alaska’s History Alive is a historical work co-written by Phyllis Downing Carlson and her niece, Laurel Downing Bill. Carlson was a teacher and author who amassed a lifetime’s worth of pictures, articles and stories about her beloved home state, Alaska. This 5-volume history has been compiled, edited and written by her niece. Volume 1 covers the early history of Alaska, starting from settlement of the first Asiatic travelers across the Bering land bridge. The volume describes the Russian expansion into Alaska, the purchase of Seward’s Folly by the United States and the subsequent gold rushes that made Alaska the stuff of dreams for adventure seekers. There’s an impressive stockpile of photographs that make this very much a pictorial history.
Phyllis Downing Carlson and her niece, Laurel Downing Bill’s pictorial history, Aunt Phil’s Trunk: Volume One Bringing Alaska’s History Alive does what it sets out to do – it really does bring Alaska’s history alive. I was enthralled by the stories and marveled at the photographs that are such an integral part of this work. The depth and extent of the research conducted by these authors is remarkable. I loved the descriptions and pictures of the earliest tribes, and the stories of how they lived and survived in this harsh environment. The gold rush stories are also superb, with accompanying pictures that make all the history one might have learned in school feel so much more complete and real. The images of prospectors hauling their supplies up icy heights are ones I won’t be forgetting any time soon, but my favorite story of all is that of Reindeer Mary. Also, at the end of the book is a marvelous bibliography filled with an impressive amount of sources. Anyone who thinks that history is dry, dead and boring should give this work a try and they’ll be quite pleasantly surprised. Aunt Phil’s Trunk Volume One: Bringing Alaska’s History Alive is an enthralling adventure and is highly recommended.