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“Bethel – The First 100 Years” reprint proposal approved


A resolution to support the preparation and submission of a grant to reprint the book “Bethel – The First 100 Years” was approved unanimously by the Bethel City Council. This book, authored by Mary Lenz and James M. Barker, chronicles the history of Bethel from 1885 to 1985 including photographs.

According to Resolution 11-11, which is sponsored by City Manager Lee Foley, the City of Bethel will propose a grant application from the Bethel Community Services Foundation (BCSF) to cover the costs associated with pre-production and printing of 1,000 new books.

The authors have given their consent to the City of Bethel to reprint their book. Republishing the book will require it to be digitally rebuilt, which includes high-resolution scanning of the original photos archived in the Barker collection.

The City’s application to BCSF will propose a grant in the amount of $27,760. A portion of the proceeds received from the sale of the books will be used to pay for another production run, when appropriate.

Peggy Panlener Graphic Design & Publication Services prepared the proposal for the reprinting.

In 1985, Bethel – The First 100 Years was published as a “City of Bethel Centennial History Project”, copyrighted by Lenz and Barker. The photographs were researched and collected by Barker and Lentz was the writer. Also assisting with the book were Robin Bailey Barker and Peter Twitchell of KYUK who aided in interviews. Panlener helped with the layout and the maps.

The original layout was pre-digital and was glued to paste-up boards and sent to the printer, photographed, transferred to metal plates, and offset printed. The first printing was contracted to the Tundra Press in Bethel, owned by Rosemary Porter.

The originals have been lost and no longer exist.

The first printing with the maroon cover sold out immediately, said Panlener in her proposal. The second printing with the bright red cover and whiter text paper which resulted in slightly better print quality also sold out. The only copies left of this book are now those that exist in private collections.

“Those few copies are coveted and slowly disappearing,” said Panlener.

It is the City’s intent to keep the original book intact with minor edits, corrections, and improvements.

For example the words “On The Kuskokwim” and “1885-1985” would be added to the front cover. Inside a new introduction by Porter would be added as well as a map of Alaska along with a community description taken from the City of Bethel website. The pages would be enlarged from 8.5x11” to 9x12” with 50 new pages added to allow for enlarging some photographs.

“The reprint quality will be superior,” said Panlener. “The new book will be printed on a whiter satin-coated stock, resulting in a crisp print finish.”

Digitally rebuilding the book will create an archive that will allow for future reprintings and other electronic uses, Panlener added.

Writing in support of the project is Diane Carpenter. Carpenter and her husband Robert lived in Bethel and the area for over 50 years.

“I was the mayor of Bethel when the original project was funded,” wrote Carpenter. “It was not easy getting the project approved; my council was very reluctant to fund it. They did not think the idea had much merit and were sure the books would languish for years on storeroom shelves.”

However, as we all know, that was not the case. Carpenter praised the confluence of talent - Porter, Barker, and Lenz - that was present at the specific point in time when the project was getting underway that gave support to the project.

“This is a very important book,” she said. “It does an excellent job of portraying an unusual multi-ethnic community that worked, a town that enabled new citizens from both city and village to move there and make a satisfying life for themselves. It showed how and why the town developed as it did, and it brought to life the people who populated it. Alaska has too little of this kind of history.”

Rosemary Porter also expressed her support in a letter that was also used as the new introduction for the book.

“Written histories impact generations of residents in many ways,” she wrote. “It is the story of where we came from and how generations before us lived on the land and created our cities and culture. It is imperative that history, presented in a contemporary manner, be preserved and available for distribution on a wide and on-going basis to acknowledge Bethel and its past and present population as a vital part of this country and identify its residents worthy of that story.”

Assistant Professor Donna Hanley of Kentucky Wesleyan College teaches a class entitled “Alaskan Eskimos, Past and Present” and uses The First 100 Years as a key research and reference tool. She too wrote a letter in support of the reprinting project.

“There is no other comparable, concise, pictorial, and historical compendium of the history of this time period,” she said. “I am so grateful that it has been published, and I would sincerely hope it will be available for generations to come.”

Mayor Eric Middlebrook remembers the time when the book was first being published.

“Several community members were involved,” said Middlebrook. “They formed a historical society and they worked on it for several months to put it together. There was a lot of community effort. I even remember finding some old film that I gave to the historical society at the time that they were putting this together. It was a major project.”

The resolution was passed by unanimous consent during the April 26th, 2011 regular city council meeting.

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Reader Comments

JSP123 writes:

I own a copy of Bethel, the First 100 Years and cherish it. I bought it in Bethel 17 or 18 years ago while I was managing editor of The Tundra Drums. I look through it from time to time. It brings back memories of a place I enjoyed living in. I was there from 1994-97. I'm glad to see that there is a newspaper that is reported and published locally. John Plestina

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