Focus Remains on Transportation & The Mining Industry
The 2nd Alaska Territorial Legislature faced numerous pressing needs, one of the most important of which was transportation. The Legislature established four road districts and the Office of Road Commissioner for each district. To support the building, repair and maintenance of trails, roads, and bridges, lawmakers appropriated receipts from the Forest Reserves Fund (Chugach and Tongass National Forests) to be distributed equally to each district. During the early 1900s, several small railroad lines provided transportation to some towns and mines with mixed success. The federal government proposed to build a rail line through the Interior to Fairbanks and, in 1915, President Woodrow Wilson decided that the Alaska Railroad would run from Seward to Fairbanks. Construction began in April of that year, but the railroad would not be completed until 1923. The construction camp at the southern end, which was also the headquarters of the Alaska Engineering Commission, became the city of Anchorage.
The Legislature continued to focus on the mining industry. For example, Territorial lawmakers passed a supplement to federal law that established procedures for the location and possession of mining claims, as well as workers’ compensation provisions for injured miners. In addition, the Legislature established a Board of Education and a uniform system of schools in the Territory (the federal government continued to administer schools for Native children). The 2nd Territorial Legislature also did the following:
- Provided for the inspection of food and made the re-serving of food a misdemeanor;
- Authorized incorporated towns to require itinerant merchants to obtain a business license;
- Established a $10 bounty on wolves;
- Provided for local self-government in certain Alaska Native villages;
- Provided for a Territory-wide advisory ballot measure on whether or not liquor could be sold in the Territory after January 1, 1918;
- Prohibited the importation and exportation of women and girls for immoral purposes;
- Made family desertion and nonsupport a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500, imprisonment for up to 12 months, or both.
Beyond the Legislature
The Anchorage Times publishes its first issue.
The Alaska Native Sisterhood holds its first convention in Sitka.
In 1916, James Wickersham, the Territory's delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, introduces the first bill for Alaska statehood.
President Woodrow Wilson signs the Alaska Schools Lands Bill, turning over to the Territory portions of all surveyed townships.
Alexander Graham Bell demonstrates the first transcontinental telephone service-from New York to San Francisco.
Albert Einstein publishes his General Theory of Relativity.
The U.S. Coast Guard is created from the Life Saving and Revenue Cutter Services.
On May 7, 1915, the British ocean liner, RMS Lusitania, enroute from New York to Liverpool and carrying 1,959 people, including 159 Americans, is sunk by a German U-boat; 1,198 lives are lost. This act enrages Americans and leads to the U.S. entrance into World War I.