After its rudimentary beginning in 1749, fur farming in Alaska rose and fell for two centuries. It thrived during the 1890s and again in the 1920s, when rising fur prices caused a stampede for land and breed stock and led to hundreds of farms being started in Alaska within a few years. The Great Depression, and later the development of warm, durable, and lightweight synthetic materials during World War II, brought further decline and eventual failure to the industry as the postwar economy of Alaska turned to defense and later to oil. The Fur Farms of Alaska brings this history to life by capturing the remarkable stories of the men and women who made fur their livelihood. “For more than 200 years ‘soft gold’ brought many people to Alaska. Fur farming was Alaska’s third-largest industry in the 1920s, and Sarah Isto writes of the many efforts, successes, and ultimately of the fur farming industry’s failure. This well-researched history contextualizes current fox elimination projects on Alaska islands and explains the abandoned pens one stumbles across. This is a story that has long needed to be written.”—Joan M. Antonson, Alaska State Historian
With the judgement of death, for horse theft in Wales, hanging over his head Hugh Hughes is mercifully transported to New South Wales in 1830 for 14 years. His journey to freedom in the Hunter Valley on the Glendon Estate places him in the midst of a tumultuous time in colonial history. Influential squatters, such as the Scott family, wrestle for power and land against indigenous tribes, the scourge of bushrangers and the attempts by the Governor of New South Wales to establish authority and discipline on the colony's boundaries. Hugh Hughes struggles with his own temptations and the lash is not far from his back. Crossing paths with murderous escaped convicts and the infamous Hall family, death and misfortune continue to stalk him.As a ticket of leave holder and well known horse breeder, he meets the indefatigable Frances Fox, an orphaned immigrant girl who made her way to Sydney in the hope of claiming a better life than famine struck Ireland could offer. Together they scratch out an existence and raise a family.