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.