By Ben Wheeler
FASCINATING images dating back over one-hundred-years have resurfaced this week, providing an insight into the lives of early twentieth century eskimos during one the biggest gold rushes on the North American continent.
The pictures, taken by Henry and Alfred Lomen in the 1900s, reveal the living conditions and pastimes enjoyed by the native population of Nome, Alaska.
Among them are a mother and child sat at an outdoor kitchen facility, whilst another shows hunters having just killed a walrus for their settlement’s next meal.
Additional snaps reveal the eskimos taking part in sport activities, as one appears to walk a tight rope, whilst a group of men are seen to be performing a ceremonial dance for their fellow villagers in another.
Henry and Alfred Lomen, commonly known as the Lomen Bros, are a major source of coverage of Alaskan history.
The two brothers moved to Alaska in 1903 along with their mother and brother Ralph, joining their father and oldest brother Carl, who had both moved there three years earlier.
The family was involved in many commercial and civic interests including law, their reindeer corporation, lighterage, retail as well as photography.
In 1908, the brothers bought a photographic studio which Harry managed, with all the siblings taking photographs, quickly learning how to keep cameras in working order at Arctic temperatures.
Alfred became particularly interested in photography, taking most of the pictures in their collection. However, in September 1934, a fire destroyed the studio destroying most of their negatives and prints.
The studio never reopened and by the 1940s the family moved en masse to Seattle, Washington where they lived out the rest of their days.
Nome was a particularly lucrative place to be at the turn of the 20th Century and was home to the Nome Gold Rush between 1899 and 1909 after scores of easily accessible gold was discovered by a group of three prospectors known as the “Three Lucky Swedes”, who were American citizens of Scandinavian origin.
Word soon got out about their discovery, leading to a population increase of over three-hundred-and-fifty percent as people flocked to the city in a bid to share in its riches.
However, the migrants weren’t all desirable people, with veteran prospector E. C. Trelawney-Ansell reporting at the time; “Nome was a place where the creeks and the town itself filled with thousands of cheechakos who had never known the hardship of the trail and few if any other hardships.
“Worse still, the camp and surrounding country was filled with gamblers, cutthroats and murderers of the worst kind.”
Nome claims to be home to the world’s largest gold pan, although this claim has been disputed by the Canadian city of Quesnel, British Colombia.
Popular culture is also littered with references to the city, for example in The Simpsons Movie when the family move to a log cabin in Alaska, Marge is seen knitting a tapestry that says, “Nome Sweet Nome” implying this is where the family had taken up residence.
Nome was also the setting for the 2009 sci-fi/horror film The Fourth Kind, starring Milla Jovovich and a 1993 episode of the television series, X-Files.