Lindsay, with hands of blue, walks up the steps to Alaska Commercial. Our one and only store is very dear to us, and it has a long and venerable history here in the Alaskan bush. In the same year that 56 men gathered in Philadelphia to sign our Declaration of Independence, Catherine the Great granted trading rights in the Alaskan Territory to the Russian-American Trading Company. They set up trading posts across Alaska and operated there for ninety years.
By 1867 the Russian-American Trading Company had lost interest in fur and Russia had lost interest in Alaska. The far-sighted William H. Seward, though, had more than a passing interest in the territory and negotiated the purchase of Alaska for 7.2 million dollars. Some called the deal Seward’s folly. Hah! the joke was definitely on them. Alaskan gold, first discovered in 1849 still hides in the hills and gold mining is big, big business. One has to wonder what Russia’s place in the world, and ours, would be if the Russians had kept Alaska. With Alaskan gold lining their coffers instead of ours and Alaskan oil fueling their economy, might not the world be a different place?
At the same time that Seward committed his unforgivable “folly”, two far-sighted San Fransiscan merchants purchased the Russian-American Trading Company, renamed it the Alaskan Commercial Company and began supplying groceries and general merchandise to trappers, settlers and gold miners across the state. In its early years the Alaskan Commercial Company conducted most of its business by trade and barter. Miners traded gold, trappers brought in pelts, Indians bartered pelts and fish. Times change, though, and our store now accepts cash, Visa and Mastercard. That’s good, because I’m a bit short on gold and pelts.
It’s just down the street, a 10 minute walk, or less, from anywhere. If we need anything, the AC likely has it. Selection is limited and prices are high because it is costly to fly supplies into Fort Yukon. It takes a nanosecond to realize shopping here for groceries is a very expensive proposition, 5 minutes to learn the layout of the store and maybe an hour to memorize its stock.But the AC is our store and cannot imagine what life in the village would be like without it.