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Cabell Whitehead, Ph.D.

The man that does his life work well is he who obeys the dictates of conscience and follows judgment without shirking, even though the trail lead into unpleasant relations with spoilsmen and the class of citizens whose motives are selfish and ambitions morbid. Dr. Whitehead has shown himself to be a useful citizen of this class. He has persistently striven to secure an abatement of the anomalous conditions which were unfortunately a part of the early history of Nome. He has done his work without ostentation or blare of trumpet, and he may have made sacrifices of personal interests for the public good; but he possesses the broad comprehension of principles that enables him to know that all things for the public good must be for the benefit of the honest-minded individuals comprising the public.

Dr. Whitehead is a prominent banker, ditch owner and mining operator of Seward Peninsula. He came to Nome first in the spring of 1900 as the representative of the Bureau of the Mint. At that time he was chief assayer of the United States Mint, and his primary object in visiting the northern mining camp was to make a report upon its prospects and permanency. Incidental to the main object of this trip he established the Alaska Banking and Safe Deposit Company, and assumed the duties of manager of this institution. This corporation was composed of Washington capitalists. The business established at Nome has developed into one of the leading banking enterprises of Alaska. Dr. Whitehead's report to the United States Government, made at the close of the season of 1 900, said that five years would be required to develop the Nome country; and that the work of this development would necessitate the expenditure of a great deal of money in constructing ditches so as to make water available for min- ing purposes. He said in this report that the Nome country did not offer the advantages to the laboring man that it offered to the capitalist. The history of the country has verified the accuracy of Dr. Whitehead's forecast. Believing that Northwestern Alaska offered better opportunities than a Government job for accumulating a fortune. Dr. White- head resigned his office in the United States Mint to devote his entire time and energies to the work to be done in the development of Seward Peninsula. After his resignation a prominent citizen of Washington asked him what he considered the most interesting event connected with his experience as a Government employe. Having in mind Andrew Jackson's famous expression in a letter to a friend who was seeking a federal position, "Few die and none resign," the doctor said that he believed his most interesting experience was his resignation.

His first conspicuous identification with the development of Northwestern Alaska was in connection with the Topkuk Ditch Company. This company owns an extensive and a valuable ditch property in the Topkuk region of the peninsula. Associated with Dr. Whitehead in this enterprise are O. W. Ashby and Henry Bratnober. Dr. White- head is also largely interested in the Seward Ditch Company. This is one of the most important ditch projects of the country. It has been amply financed, and the ditch will be constructed during the season of 1905. His mining interests are correlative of these ditch enterprises.

Dr. Whitehead is a native of Lynchburg, Virginia. He was born October 5, 1863. He belongs to an old Colonial family, his father's people having come from England in the early part of the sixteenth century and his mother's ancestors emigrating from the same country in 1 728. He was educated in the Virginia public schools, and at the age of seventeen went to Lehigh University, South Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He was graduated from the mining and engineering department of this institution in 1885 with the degree of B. M. He subsequently attended the Columbian University at Washington, D. C, receiving from this school the degree of Ph. D.

After he was graduated from the Lehigh School he went to Boise City, Idaho, to accept the position of assayer at the United States Assay Office at that place. In 1 888, when he was only twenty-five years old, he was appointed to the responsible position of chief assayer in the Bureau of the Mint at Washington, D. C. One of his prominent sponsors was John J. Noah, a man of influence, who urged Secretary Windom to ap- point his young friend to the position. Possessing references and testimonials such as Dr. Whitehead held, there could be no question of his ability and fitness for the trust, but it was urged by the Secretary of the Treasury that he was too young a man for so responsible an office. In reply to this argument, the doctor's loyal friend, Mr. Noah, said "Give him time, Mr. Secretary, and he will overcome that objection." He held this office until 1901, resigning to take up the work he is doing in Northwestern Alaska.

In 1895 Dr. Whitehead was sent to Europe to make a report on the subject of European mints, and to secure data to be used in building a new Government mint in Philadelphia. He visited the mints of England, France and Germany. As a result of this trip, the new Philadelphia Mint embraces the best practice as observed during Dr. Whitehead's inspection of the mints of foreign countries. In this connection, and as a news item not generally known, it may be interesting to know that it costs more to market gold in Europe than in Nome.

Among Dr. Whitehead's duties as chief assayer was the supervising, assaying and testing of all coins issued by the mints of the United States Government. The first coins made were used for this purpose. The requirements of this work not only ne- cessitated a comprehensive knowledge of metallurgy, but proficiency in chemistry. In both of these branches Dr. Whitehead has a thorough technical knowledge and a wide practical experience. The wisdom that he gained in order to become master of his profession has been valuable to him in his experience as a practical miner. He is a member of the American Institute of Mining Engineers, of the American Chemical Society and the Society of Chemical Industry of England. During his career at the mint he made a specialty of electro-metallurgy, and has contributed Iiberally to the literature of chemistry and metallurgy. While Dr. Whitehead was chief assayer of the mint he trained a number of young men for positions in mint and assay offices of the United States, and many of these young men are now holding responsible Government positions. He visited Seattle in 1898 and established the Seattle Assay Office.

Dr. Whitehead was married October I, 1889. Mrs. Whitehead was formerly Miss Bena Ayres, daughter of Colonel E. W. Ayres, a well-known newspaper correspondent of Washington. Dr. Whitehead is a student and a thinker; a man of accurate observation, broad comprehension and generous impulses. He has a theoretical and practical knowledge of minerals and mining that few men have acquired. As manager of the Alaska Banking and Safe Deposit Company in Nome he has aided many miners in the work of developing their properties. Recognizing ethics as a most valuable religion, he has the honesty of purpose, the courage of conviction and the strong individuality that are character qualities of every successful and useful man.

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

 

 

 



 


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