Tin Can Potpourri

Old tin cans have been a problem since the day the Lavelle Young tied up and dumped E. T. Barnette out on the riverbank that later became known as Fairbanks. The following series of newspaper articles give some entertaining insights to life among the piles of rusty old tin cans:

Alaska Citizen- July 21, 1913


I will leave it to any man in the camp if this place ain’t pretty nearly reached the limit. Ever since there has been a white man in this big country of ours, we’ve been eating out of tin cans, drinking out of tin cans, and hiding our dust in ‘em. We get our butter in cans, eggs in cans, spuds in cans, beer—well, anyway there is a limit…

Now that we understand the problem, what is the solution?

Fairbanks Daily News Miner- May 18, 1939

Speaking of tin cans, now conspicuously dumped along what might otherwise be attractive approaches to the city, why could they not be concentrated in one or a few hidden swamps, where they in time would fill up mosquito breeding pools and thus serve a useful purpose instead of being eyesores.

Fairbanks Daily News Miner – August 11, 1941


Many discussions arose after the local hotel-lobby miners read last week’s article on the substitution of silver for tin. The general bone of contention was the theory that tin could be recovered from so-called tin cans; those lowly objects now proving to be the very foundation of some of our best homes in Fairbanks. Try digging a cellar if you doubt this.

It was suggested that a de-tinning plant be set up in town, utilizing the bumper crop at the city dump. The problem of disposing of the scrap steel obtained in de-tinning was handled very nicely by one expert. Why not set up a foundry for casting small machine parts?

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner October 18, 1951


The Arctic Rippers Motorcycle club staged its first endurance tin can run Sunday afternoon over a nine-mile course starting at 16 Mile bluff on the Richardson.

Winner of the novel event was Bob Blackword and Ken Elsworth who collected 32 cans during the run. “The Duke” and Pete Allen teamed up to earn second place.

Six motorcycles were entered in the race, four of which were ridden double, two being solo entries.

Tin cans were scattered over the nine-mile course by non-participating club members. Contestants, equipped with wire, gathered the cans while racing from the 16 Mile bluff to Badger road.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner June 9, 1954


For years Mr. and Mrs. Carlisle collected empty tin cans with which he gradually built up the river bank in front of his home along First Avenue. He also sowed grass on the embankment.

And finally this tin can story is hard to beat!

Fairbanks Daily Times – September 3, 1908


During the heavy wind of last Monday which swept around the tall Barthel brewery with a force worthy of Chicago, and after it had accumulated a good gait by making the circuit of the brewery several times, the nebulae of it landed into a pile of old tin cans. The miniature cyclone gathered them up, mixed with sticks and dust, and for a full five minutes the typhoon of cans was a sight to see. They were sucked up to a height of fully twenty feet, then fired indiscriminately at everything in the neighborhood. It was fully ten minutes before the landscape resumed its wonted natural calm.

Note: By now you may be thinking “Boy, it is a good thing we don’t have all those rusty tin cans laying around anymore!” Before you pat yourself on the back for being one of the “canless” generation, consider what has replaced them. We have even more trash than ever before clearly marking the right of ways for every street, road, or highway around the Fairbanks area. However, progress does have some advantages. At least when a dust devil whips it up today, those plastic bags don’t hurt as much as the old tin cans did! This rusty, dusty, history nugget was brought to you by the Men’s Igloo No. 4 and Women’s Igloo No. 8 of the Pioneers of Alaska.

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