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Rex E. Beach

REX E. BEACH is engaged in the manufacturing business in Chicago. Although a young man, he has "mushed" on the Yukon, mined in the Nome country, and written some very clever stories about the Northland. When he was in Nome his friends knew his genius for storytelling, but the magazines did not discover him until he had broken away from Alaska, and had engaged in the prosaic and practical business of a manufacturer. His Northland stories, which have been published in some of the leading magazines of the United States, bear the impress of striking originality and are a vivid word-painting of fact. They are told in strong terse English, which immediately chains the reader's attention, and holds him captive to the end of the narrative. I remember Rex Beach in Nome, but did not know him well. I remember attending a minstrel show in which he was the chief burnt-cork artist, furnishing the audience with more merriment than ordinarily falls to the lot of the Nome citizen during his period of winter hibernation. I mention this incident as an evidence of the versatility of a man who has the capacity to entertain his friends, in addition to the ability of a successful man of business and the genius which has given him in New York the soubriquet of "The Bret Harte of Alaska."

Believing that Mr. Beach should have a place in this album of Northwestern Alaskans, I wrote him for a photograph and the material from which a sketch could be prepared, and this is his reply:

"I went North in '97 with the first rush, and spent two years on the Yukon, mining with varying success. I say 'varying' because most of the time I was broke and during the rest I owed money. Then I went home and sparred for wind.

"The summer of 1900 I spent in Nome, and acquired some good properties; came out in the fall, and went in again that winter via Katmai. En route I slept much of the time in Indian huts, acquiring as complete a knowledge of the local flora and fauna as any man living — particularly intimate was my study of the latter.

"For two years I mined in the Nome and Council City Districts; then entered the manufacturing business in Chicago, where I now am. With pride I point to the fact that I am the only college man in the first stampede who did not work his way out from the Yukon on a steamboat — the one I left on had all the roustabouts it needed. My only further claim to distinction is that I have never worn nugget jewelry nor sold any rich claims for a song."

Rex Beach has a strong individuality. He belongs to the class of men that do things. He is esteemed among his friends because of the sunshine of his character, and because of his unfailing fund of wit and anecdote. The work of writing his stories is the pastime of a busy man engaged in another line of endeavor.  

Source: Nome and Seward Peninsula by R. S. Harrison. Seattle: The Metropolitan Press, 1905.




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