The Fur Farms of Alaska

Two Centuries of History and a Forgotten Stampede

Sarah Crawford Isto

The Fur Farms of Alaska

Sarah Crawford Isto

Distributed for University of Alaska Press

230 pages | 50 halftones, 2 maps | 6 x 9 | © 2012
Paper $29.95 ISBN: 9781602231719 Published March 2012
E-book $7.00 to $29.95 ISBN: 9781602231726 Published March 2012

After its rudimentary beginning in 1749, fur farming in Alaska rose and fell for two centuries. It thrived during the 1890s and again in the 1920s, when rising fur prices caused a stampede for land and breed stock and led to hundreds of farms being started in Alaska within a few years. The Great Depression, and later the development of warm, durable, and lightweight synthetic materials during World War II, brought further decline and eventual failure to the industry as the postwar economy of Alaska turned to defense and later to oil. The Fur Farms of Alaska brings this history to life by capturing the remarkable stories of the men and women who made fur their livelihood.
“For more than 200 years ‘soft gold’ brought many people to Alaska. Fur farming was Alaska’s third-largest industry in the 1920s, and Sarah Isto writes of the many efforts, successes, and ultimately of the fur farming industry’s failure. This well-researched history contextualizes current fox elimination projects on Alaska islands and explains the abandoned pens one stumbles across. This is a story that has long needed to be written.”—Joan M. Antonson, Alaska State Historian


1. The Russian Period, 1749–1866: Planting Foxes on Aleutian Islands
2. The Pioneer Period, 1867–1909: Americans Reinvent Alaska Fur Farming
3. Prewar Expansion and WWI, 1910–1918: Conservationist Support for Alaska Fur Farms
4. The Fur Farm Rush, 1919–1924: "A Stampede to Take Up Islands"
5. The Peak Years, 1925–1929: A Territorial Veterinarian and 700 Fur Farms
6. The Great Depression, 1930–1940: Depression Years and Alaska’s Experimental Fur Farm
7. World War II, 1941–1945: A Nonessential Industry in a War Zone
8. Post-War Hopes and Decades of Decline, 1946–2000: Cold War, Oil Boom, and the Demise of Alaska Fur Farming

Reference List
Review Quotes
Ross Coen, University of Washington | The Northern Review
The Fur Farms of Alaska is a terrific book well worth the time of scholars and general readers.” 
John W. heaton | Pacific Historical Review
"The Fur Farms of Alaska represents the best in local history. Intended for a general audience, it is a useful source for Alaska’s
economic history, those who are interested in the fur industry, and those with antiquarian interests in Alaska’s rich history."
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