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 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.
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
gold rush. He later sent for his wife, Lucy, to join him in Skagway. He
his luck at prospecting. Martin took up employment working for the
& Yukon Route railroad, while seeking his fortune in gold
Becoming overly successful at neither, he went into the undertaking
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
Martin's tours were theatrical productions, complete with motorized
actors, poetry and humorous anecdotes, all relating to the colorful
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