Contents and Arrangement

Clippings and Certificate, 1921-1972

1 folder

Collection Overview

Collection Description & Creator Information


Consists of a photograph album, loose photographs, and clippings belonging to Robert J. Sommers (1881-1972), primarily documenting his work as a highway engineer in Alaska in the late 1920s, as well as some materials related to his personal life and career as a civil engineer and businessman involved in construction.

The photograph album contains over ninety images depicting a tour of Alaska made in 1928 by George A. Parks, the territorial governor; Major Malcolm Elliott, the Roads Commissioner; and Sommers, who was then the head Highway Engineer. The group traveled around the territory to inspect the existing Alaska highway system and plan for additional roads, and also to afford territorial officials a better understanding of northern Alaska. The photographer and compiler of the album was likely Sommers, as the majority of images of the traveling party depict only Parks and Elliott. The party traveled over 2,000 miles, mostly by air, on a circular route from Fairbanks to Nome and back, and then south via automobile to Cordova before returning to Juneau. Inside the front cover and on the first leaf of the album are reproductions of an itinerary with intermediate destinations, miles traveled, mode of transport, and dates of the various segments of the journey, which took place from May 22 to June 28. The album documents not only the conditions of highways and transportation infrastructure in northern Alaska, but also captures the residents and living conditions at the stops on their tour. The first series of photographs chronicles the ongoing construction of the Steese Highway (here labelled as the Yukon Highway), but also contains images of a married couple of placer miners in front of their cabin, gold dredgers near Fairbanks and Nome, their airplane and tour group at various airfields, and small outposts they visited. The middle portion of the album collects images from towns along the northern and most isolated portion of their circular route, including Kotzebue, Nulato, Tanana, Bettles, and Fort Yukon. The final section records the group's trip along the Richardson Highway south from Fairbanks, the work still being undertaken on the route, the workers employed on the project, the equipment in use, and some of the scenery and architecture along the highway.

There are also some loose photographs, including family snapshots, photographs related to Sommers's construction business, portraits of Sommers, Governor Parks, and other Alaska Territory officials, and photographs of Sitka and the Taku Glacier (taken by E. Andrews). Other items included in the collection are newspaper clippings and obituaries documenting Sommers's life and career, a certificate noting his membership in the Roosevelt Memorial Association, and a leather pouch monogrammed with his initials.

Collection History

Archival Appraisal Information:

No materials were removed from the collection during 2021 processing.


Processing of this collection was sponsored by the Delafield fund.

Access & Use

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Conditions for Reproduction and Use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to Special Collections Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Credit this material:

Clippings and Certificate; Robert J. Sommers 1928 Alaska Tour Album and Related Materials, C1692, Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

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Storage Note:
Firestone Library (mss): Box P-000175