Alaska Legislature celebrates Centennial

Corner of Front and Franklin Streets in downtown Juneau looking up Franklin to the Elks Hall

Corner of Front and Franklin Streets in downtown Juneau looking up Franklin to the Elks Hall (tall building in center background), circa 1913-1918. Winter and Pond photograph courtesy of Alaska State Library Historical Collections ASL-P87-0961

It was almost exactly a hundred years ago when Alaska first began to exercise a form of self-government. The Second Organic Act of 1912 allowed the creation of the Territorial Legislature.

Eight senators and sixteen representatives from around the state met on March 3rd, 1913 in the Elks Hall in downtown Juneau, the first Alaska legislative hall, for the first Alaska legislative session that lasted sixty days.

The Territorial Legislature almost immediately gave women the right to vote, and eventually passed the Bone Dry law, a precursor to national prohibition, and the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1945 which preceded the national civil rights movement by almost twenty years.

But the Organic Act hamstrung the Territorial Legislature. The federal government still retained control over Alaska’s resources and the right to legislate on some issues like divorce or the sale of liquor, and still had overall authority on the Territory’s fiscal issues.

Senator Gary Stevens from Kodiak is chair of the Alaska Legislative Centennial Commission which has put together a series of events starting this weekend marking the very first session.


First Alaska Territorial Senate, March 1913, Elks Hall in Juneau

First Alaska Territorial Senate, March 1913, Elks Hall in Juneau. Photo courtesy of Alaska State Library Historical Collections ASL-P461-27

Stevens credits staffer Tim Lamkin for organizing much of that program that runs March 3rd through the 5th.

Sunday, March 3rd

At 10:00 a.m. downstairs at Rockwell in the Elks Hall, a breakfast program called ‘Waffles with Wickersham: Delegate James Wickersham’s campaign for the 1912 Second Organic Act’ will feature John H. Venables.

During a lunch program at noon, former lawmakers Willie Hensley, Georgianna Lincoln, and Emil Notti will talk about ‘Equal Rights, One Man One Vote, and Alaska Native Leaders in our Legislative History.’

Then at 4:00 p.m. in the upstairs of Rockwell, Governor Sean Parnell and former lawmakers Clem Tillion and Terry Gardiner are expected to participate in the opening reception that will also feature unveiling of the 100-Years website.

Monday, March 4th

At 8:00 a.m., also downstairs at Rockwell in the Elks Hall, a ‘History of the Capitol Building’ that will feature a presentation by architect Wayne Jensen.

A noon lunch discussion on ‘Leading Women in Alaska’s Political History’ will feature Arliss Sturgulewski, Drue Pearce, Katy Hurley, Bettye Davis, and Gail Phillips.

A reception starting upstairs at 5:00 p.m. will include a presentation by Dr. Beverly Beeton on ‘Members and accomplishments of the first Alaska Territorial Legislature, including Women’s Suffrage – 1913.’

A dinner program upstairs at 7:00 p.m. will include a reenactment of the convening of the First Alaska Territorial Legislature and Passage of Women’s Suffrage that will feature Juneau actors and legislative staff.

Tuesday, March 5th

A breakfast program at 8:00 a.m. will feature Clark Gruening and Mike Miller on ‘A History of Politics and Changes’ at Rockwell in the Elks Hall downstairs.

The noon lunch program on ‘Perspectives on Accomplishments and Failures in Alaska’s Legislative History’ will feature Sam Cotten and Randy Phillips as moderators.

Happy Hour begins at 4:30 p.m. with a reception program on ‘Prohibition in Territorial Alaska’ with Dr. Terrence Cole and Rick Halford.

Alaska Territorial House of Representatives, March 1913, Elks Hall in Juneau

First Alaska Territorial House of Representatives, March 1913, Elks Hall in Juneau. Photo courtesy of Alaska State Library Historical Collections ASL-P461-26

For more information, you can go to 100years.akleg.gov

Gavel Alaska and 360North television and AlaskaLegisture.tv will provide coverage of most Centennial events either live or on a tape-delayed basis.