Alaska and the Voyage of Understanding

This picture was taken just before President Harding fell ill and shows the Alaskan party in front of one of the famous Totem poles at Cordova, Alaska. 31-1923-165

This picture was taken just before President Harding fell ill and shows the Alaskan party in front of one of the famous Totem poles at Cordova, Alaska. 31-1923-165

In the summer of 1923 President Harding left Washington D.C. to travel across the country and visit the U.S. territory of Alaska. He initiated the visit to Alaska – feeling that Washington, with its great distance from Alaska, could never have a proper appreciation of their problems if they were only presented on paper. Harding wanted to help with the solution of those problems and with the development of the resources of Alaska. Herbert Hoover, who was Secretary of Commerce at the time, and his wife, Lou Henry Hoover, were members of his traveling party. The two month long trip was called the “Voyage of Understanding”. It was designed to give President Harding first hand knowledge of Alaska and  to travel across the country to hear from Americans. He was the first U.S. President to visit Alaska and Canada.

One outcome of the trip was to create a new policy that would both protect and wisely use Alaska’s natural resources. As Secretary of Commerce, Hoover had an interest in Alaskan fisheries because it was their primary industry.

“We came to Alaska in the hope that by a better understanding of the problems of Alaska we might give better service from the Government to the people of Alaska; that by personal contact we would come to know you and we would come to know your vision of Alaska, your future and your ideals,” Herbert Hoover, Sitka Alaska, July 22, 1923. 

Hoover’s assistant, William Mullendore, documented the trip in a journal and in letters to his wife. Mullendore gave almost daily accounts of the activities of the presidential party. These writings were used in creating the new exhibit, Alaska and the Voyage of Understanding, opening at the Hoover Museum on January 23, 2016. They will guide you as you travel Alaska through the eyes of William Mullendore. The exhibit is on display from January  23 – March 27, 2016.

Some of the items displayed include: Oil paintings by “The Alaska Four”, totem poles, artisan gifts given to Harding, itinerary booklets from the trip and photographs from the trip.

This carved totem pole was a gift from Denali Post 1685 VFW Anchorage, Alaska. It was a favorite of Hoover's - it was displayed at the White House, the Palo Alto house and the Waldorf.

This carved totem pole was a gift from Denali Post 1685 VFW Anchorage, Alaska. It was a favorite of Hoover’s – it was displayed at the White House, the Palo Alto house and the Waldorf.

 

 

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