– Michelle Stanley

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“If you like reading historical novels, then you will appreciate these fascinating tales and rich heritage of Alaska … Laurel Downing Bill did a remarkable job writing this book and illustrating it with hundreds of historical photographs.”

Aunt Phil’s Trunk Volume Three by Laurel Downing Bill contains valuable historical information and interesting stories about the entrepreneurial expansion and technological modernization of Alaska during the years 1912-1935. Alaska grew in population, and so did opportunities for skilled and unskilled workers. Laborers were needed to build railroads that would link towns. Many people became trendsetters with ventures that would benefit the country. Motor vehicles were seen as replacements for horses and mushers with dogs. Another advancement was aviation, which significantly reduced hours spent traveling inland and delivered mail promptly. The main disadvantage of aviation and motor vehicles was poor weather that delayed travel, so mushers and dogs still played vital roles in transportation. Volume Three also shares how humorist Will Rogers and pilot Wiley Post died in 1935 when their plane crashed in a storm near Barrow. Bill also discusses how diseases traveled to Alaska with immigrants, including the “Great Sickness” of 1918 (Spanish flu) and a diphtheria outbreak that threatened to wipe out the village of Nome in 1925. Mushers and their dog teams raced vials of diphtheria serum north to save the people who lived there. Alaska offered a promising future, but one had to work under extremely hard conditions to claim it.

Aunt Phil’s Trunk Volume Three describes an exciting period that sees Alaska being transformed. There are authentic photos that depict Alaska’s people and environment. An interesting story was the Natives’ battle for equal rights. Another was the government’s poor planning and negligence to build schools. The author wrote well and entertained me with historical stories and anecdotes of the country’s development.