Martin Itjen (January 24, 1870 - December 3, 1942)

"Martin with his streetcar for a fifty cent fare
Will show you when and show you where
The High Spots were, for he was there.
He'll start at nine and takes till noon
To show you Skagway in the Klondike boom.
If you miss this, you have missed it all
And have not seen Alaska at all.
Take a bite if you can't take it all."
-Martin Itjen

Martin Itjen is most famous for being the unofficial premier tour director of Skagway, Alaska in the early 1900s. He held many distinct titles, including that of miner, railroad employee, hotel operator, hack service, the town's undertaker, Ford motor car dealer, and a tour guide. Much of Skagway's early history was saved from destruction because of his interest in the city.

Two-door Ford ad from Martin's Dealership

Four-door Ford ad from Martin's Dealership

Hassler shock abs advertisement from Martin's  Ford Dealership

Martin's father hails from Dorum, Germany (pictured at right). Martin was born in nearby Sievern, Germany. He arrived in the United States on February 5, 1891 in Charleston, South Carolina. Relatives say Martin denied his German citizenship, claiming he was from Austria, possibly to evade the German draft of the era. From Charleston, Martin went to Jacksonville, Florida and set up shop as a storekeeper. It is assumed by Martin's descendants, that Martin met his wife, Lucille Petitclare here, as Lucy's death certificate also notes that she had several cousins in Florida.

Martin Itjen came to Skagway, Alaska from Jacksonville, Florida, as a stampeder, in the spring of 1898, at the height of the Klondike gold rush. He later sent for his wife, Lucy, to join him in Skagway. He tried his luck at prospecting. Martin took up employment working for the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad, while seeking his fortune in gold prospecting. Becoming overly successful at neither, he went into the undertaking business. Between 1915 and 1917 He ran a hack service. It was a wagon that he used as a tour taxi and a coal hauling business.

When business was slow Martin Itjen built a tour bus from an old Ford bus. Read about the "Skagway Streetcar" here.

In 1938 Martin published a book and an LP (long playing) record, entitled, The Story of the Tour on the Skagway, Alaska Street Car. Martin's tours were theatrical productions, complete with motorized mechanical actors, poetry and humorous anecdotes, all relating to the colorful history of Skagway and its inhabitants.

Martin Itjen died on December 3, 1942, and Lucy died December 27, 1946. Their death notices are pictured here.They are buried very near Martin's "world's largest nugget". Their home has been restored by the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, and is used as a Trail Center for those wishing to hike the gold trails.

Watch Martin in this rare video footage. Click on any image to launch the video in Quicktime.

Moving images of the University of Alaska, Fairbanks archive

Martin had a way with words, that is certain. But he also had an engineering bent to his thinking. Martin filed three patents during his life. Click on the images below to see a .PDF file of the complete patent documentation.

Patent for a Beer Dispenser

Patent for a Snap Hook

Patent for a Spark Plug Cleaner

2011 Bob Wieking. All rights reserved