The First Feature Film Shot in Alaska: The Chechahcos

 
Archive of 327 early film set photographs, most from the set of The Chechahcos, circa 1924. Emigrant miners on the long trail to the gold fields. Estimate $2,000 to $3,000. At Auction September 24, 2020 in Printed & Manuscript Americana.
 

Melodrama During the Klondike Gold Rush

You may never have wondered about the birth of the Alaskan film industry. The first Hollywood film studio was launched in 1911, and from there the industry spread up and down the Pacific coast. Just 13 years later, The Chechahcos became the first feature film shot in Alaska. A melodrama set during the Klondike Gold Rush, no Alaskan or Wild West cliché was spared in its production. If you like glaciers, saloons, and damsels in distress, this is the film for you.  
 
In our September 24, 2020 auction of Printed & Manuscript Americana, we offer an archive including 82 glossy 8 x 10 photographs from the set of The Chechahcos film shoot. As expected, you’ll find images from the film, such as this shot (pictured above) of emigrant miners on the long trail to the gold fields.

 
Archive of 327 early film photographs, most from the set of The Chechahcos, circa 1924. Estimate $2,000 to $3,000. At Auction September 24, 2020 in Printed & Manuscript Americana.
 
Archive of 327 early film photographs, most from the set of The Chechahcos, circa 1924. Estimate $2,000 to $3,000. At Auction September 24, 2020 in Printed & Manuscript Americana.
 

Behind the Scenes of The Cechahcos

The archive is also rich in behind-the-scenes images. You can see the film crew shooting a massive glacial crevasse, and cast and crew posed on set.   Our favorite shot is an actress posed affectionately with two crude dummies, who were apparently about to be sent to their doom in a white-water canoe scene. 


 
Archive of 327 early film photographs, most from the set of The Chechahcos, circa 1924. Lighting engineer Gernie Hays. Estimate $2,000 to $3,000. At Auction September 24, 2020 in Printed & Manuscript Americana.
   

Provenance

The collection has a bit of provenance. They were the personal mementos of an engineer named Gernie Hays, who managed sets and lighting on The Chechahcos, and also had a bit part on screen in the film. He gave them to a friend in the 1940s, and they have been in that family ever since, in the same old leather satchel. There’s a shot of Hays with his voluminous lighting rig and cables in an Alaskan cabin (pictured above).   Unlike many films of this era, The Chechahcos has been preserved in the National Film Registry.  If you find this story intriguing but don’t want to put in a bid, you can watch for free on YouTube. “Guerney” Hays appears in the credits, 12 seconds in.


 
   
Archive of 327 early film photographs, most from the set of The Chechahcos, circa 1924. Estimate $2,000 to $3,000. At Auction September 24, 2020 in Printed & Manuscript Americana.
   

Related Reading: Fall 2020 Printed & Manuscript Americana Highlights


 

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