31 August 2012

Poulsbo Vikings at the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition, 1909

During the summer and early autumn of 1909, Seattle sponsored Washington State's first World's Fair on the current site of the University of Washington campus.  The fair was called the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition (AYPE), and it celebrated twelve years of local prosperity following the 1897 Alaska Gold Rush.   Many days at the fair had special themes that honored ethnic communities, organizations, or professions.  As a nod to the area's large Norwegian-American population, "Norway Day" was held on August 30.

Poulsbo, Washington was one of the Puget Sound localities most heavily populated by Scandinavians:

On a sunny slope slowly rising from the merry sheet of golden water, stands the town of Poulsbo, in Kitsap County, about 25 miles northwest from Seattle.  Here and there a green nose is pushing itself into the brine as trying to contest with the elements of the deep.  Sweet melodies spring from the laughing ripples, and sail on the wings of lazy zephyrs to cheer the ears of the village.  This muscial bay is a natural abode for Scandinavians who are wont for the songs of happy fjords... [Kitsap County History, Book II--North Kitsap, p.34.]

The town of Poulsbo sent twelve prominent citizens (one for each year of prosperity) to participate in a 500-plus person Norway Day parade representing nine periods of Norwegian history at the Exposition.

Many years after the AYPE, in preparation for the publication of a local history, a member of the Kitsap County Historical Society sent a worn set of photographs of the twelve 1909 Poulsbo Vikings to a photography studio for refurbishing.  The bill that was returned with the refurbished photographs of the men, who had posed wielding clubs and wearing bear skins and leather sandals,, read:  "Reconditioned:  12 Cave Men." [Kvelstad. Poulsbo, Its First Hundred Years, p.67]

Judging by the appearance of the Viking costumes, it is likely that the twleve men represented the first period of Norwegian history while carrying the Poulsbo banner in the AYPE Norway Day parade.  Their pre-historic appearing costumes were meant to showcase the "warriors of the fifth century, clad in sandals and sporting long hair and beards, representing Norsemen and Visigoths capturing Roman soldiers." [HistoryLink.org]

I became interested in finding out more about these twelve intriguing Poulsbo cave men, er... I mean "Vikings," so I decided to research them for a series of blog articles.  The fearless twelve are:  Stenar Thorsen, Peter Iverson, George Teien, Nels Sonju, Carl Breivig, Halvor Holte, Christian Garthe, John Twedt, Chris Lakeness, Tenander Iversen, Ole Hanson, and Ole Ellefson Espelund.  First up will be Viking #4:  Nels Sonju.  Stay tuned!


Sources:

HistoryLink.org, Essay 8923: "Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle celebrates Norway Day on August 30, 1909."

Kitsap County Historical Society.  Kitsap County History.  Seattle:  Kitsap County Historical Society, 1977.

Kvelstad, Rangvald.  Poulsbo:  Its First Hundred Years.  Silverdate, Washington:  Poulsbo Centennial Book Committee, 1986.

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Chery Kinnick

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