• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 22s

Story Time with Aunt Phil: President Warren G. Harding’s visit to Alaska

By Laurel Downing Bill 3:56 PM July 10, 2017

This week in 1923, the first U.S. President ever to visit Alaska drove the final spike into an Alaska Railroad track to signify its completion.

On a hot and sunny July 15 in North Nenana, President Warren G. Harding lifted a maul and struck a specially made golden spike into the rail at the northern end of the Mears Memorial Bridge. It was the last piece of track connecting the new Alaska Railroad between Seward and Fairbanks.

But there are a couple of mysteries surrounding President Harding and his trip north.

First, after Harding struck the $600 golden spike– after missing it twice– that valuable piece of history was replaced with an iron one to finish the track. The historically priceless golden spike, which would have a monetary value of more than $8,500 today, went missing.

The second mystery surrounds the death of Harding less than three weeks after that final spike ceremony. Harding and his entourage left Seward on board the USS Henderson on July 17. They made a brief stop in Cordova and then were greeted by residents of Sitka on July 23.

Two days out of Sitka, Harding began to experience severe abdominal pain after eating crab drenched in butter. Tainted shellfish was suspected, but no one else on the ship showed any symptoms of ptomaine poisoning. He continued to get iller as he traveled by train from Seattle to San Francisco, where he died on August 2 at the age of 57.

For years, a multitude of conspiracy theories surrounded his death.

Some people thought his wife had murdered him. Turns out he had a roving eye for the ladies that might make recent presidents look like choirboys.

Others speculated that members of his cabinet killed him to keep him from investigating their wrongdoings. And a few thought Harding may have committed suicide because he had learned his friends were crooks and he was weighed down by their bad deeds. Some people even thought Alaskans must have had a hand in the president’s death.

Recent investigations indicate that none of these theories were true. Harding had a history of heart problems due to his unhealthy diet and fun-loving lifestyle. His medical records show he suffered from high blood pressure and an enlarged heart. A heart attack caused his death, so the mystery of his death was solved.

But the mystery of the golden spike remains.

For years people thought it was at the Harding Museum in Ohio or the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. But, museum representatives at those locations say it is not in their collections. The golden spike still is missing.

Latest Stories

  • News

    Mat-Su Borough requests ownership of more than 500 acres of state tidelands

    by Steffi Lee on Jul 21, 22:12

    This past winter, when Japanese-based company Resources Energy Inc. pulled out of its plans to build a liquified natural gas plant at the Port MacKenzie, the bad news came as a shock. But Mat-Su Borough officials aren’t giving up. “We are in many discussions, but we haven’t nailed anything down just yet,” Borough manager John […]

  • News

    Inside the Gates: PTSD service dog guards the Guardian Angels

    by Bonney Bowman on Jul 21, 22:06

    Every job has its stresses, but for the Pararescuemen of the Alaska Air National Guard 212th Rescue Squadron, their job is life and death. They have a special tool they use to cope with the worst days: a PTSD service dog. The dog, a chocolate lab, is named TOML. The acronym stands for “That Others […]

  • Lifestyle

    Rule change over feathers allows Alaskan Native artists to sprout wings

    by Dave Leval on Jul 21, 19:52

    Perry Eaton works on his latest art work. “The Spirit of the Halibut” is the latest mask made by the Kodiak native in his Mountain View studio. Eaton is Alutiiq. The feathers are one of the key parts to this project. “The majority of them are turkey feathers,” Eaton said, as he explained the feathers […]

  • Politics

    Alaska’s credit rating is now third worst in the nation. What does that mean?

    by Liz Raines on Jul 21, 19:45

    Alaska Lawmakers have yet to pass a long-term budget plan. Without one, Alaska went from having the highest credit rating in the nation to the third worst — in just 18 months. Moody’s was the most recent company to downgrade Alaska’s mark, from AAA in March of 2015 to Aa-3 last week, according to a press […]

  • Lifestyle

    Linkin Park singer died by hanging, coroner confirms

    by CBS News/Associated Press on Jul 21, 17:26

    LOS ANGELES — The L.A. County coroner confirmed Friday that Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington died by hanging. Coroner’s office spokesman Ed Winter said the 41-year-old rocker hanged himself from a bedroom door in his home near Los Angeles. Bennington was found dead Thursday. Winter said a half-empty bottle of alcohol was found in the […]

  • Lifestyle

    Rise in drug-addicted babies prompts judge’s controversial solution

    by CBS News on Jul 21, 17:23

    America’s opioid crisis is expanding to a new class of victims—unborn children. Infants are being born with symptoms of withdrawal, also known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS. In the last decade, states like Tennessee have seen a ten-fold rise in the number of babies born with NAS. One judge in White County, Tennessee is […]

  • ‘Don’t [expletive] shoot’: Wife convicted of murder witnessed by parrot

    by Associated Press on Jul 21, 17:19

    WHITE CLOUD, Mich. – A jury has convicted a western Michigan woman of first-degree murder in the shooting death of her husband in a crime apparently witnessed by the man’s pet parrot. The Newaygo County jury deliberated about eight hours before finding 49-year-old Glenna Duram guilty Wednesday of killing 46-year-old Martin Duram. He was shot […]

  • News

    Decade after fatal accident, ice divers back on USCGC Healy

    by Heather Hintze on Jul 21, 17:02

    As the nation’s only Arctic icebreaker, the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy is familiar with Alaska’s icy waters. Dive instructor Geri Cabrera is about to be, too. “I was fortunate to dive down in Antarctica with the Polar Star. So, coming up here to the North Pole is a check in the box for me. […]