Nome, Alaska

Nome, Alaska
Aerial view of the harbor in Nome
Aerial view of the harbor in Nome
Nome, Alaska (Alaska)
Nome, Alaska
Nome, Alaska
Location of Nome, Alaska
Country United States
State Alaska
Census Area Nome
 - Total 21.6 sq mi (55.9 km²)
 - Land 12.5 sq mi (32.5 km²)
 - Water 9.1 sq mi (23.5 km²)
Elevation 20 ft (6 m)
Population (2000)
 - Total 3,505
 - Density 279.7/sq mi (108.0/km²)
Time zone Alaska (AKST) (UTC-9)
 - Summer (DST) AKDT (UTC-8)
Area code(s) 907
FIPS code 02-54920
GNIS feature ID 1407125

Nome is a city located on the southern Seward Peninsula coast on Norton Sound of the Bering Sea. It is in the Nome Census Area of the U.S. state of Alaska. According to 2005 Census Bureau estimates, the city population was 3,590.[1] Nome was incorporated on April 9, 1901, and was once the most populous city in Alaska. Nome is in the unorganized borough (i.e., is not in any borough, the Alaska equivalent of counties) and lies within the region of the Bering Straits Native Corporation (BSNC). The Sitnasuak Village Corporation (a sort of subsidiary of BSNC) has its land holdings in and around Nome.

The city of Nome claims to be home to the world's largest gold pan, although this claim has been disputed by the Canadian city of Quesnel, British Columbia.

In the winter of 1925, a diphtheria epidemic raged among Eskimos in the Nome area. Fierce statewide blizzard conditions prevented delivery of a life-saving serum by airplane from Anchorage. A relay of dog sled teams was organized to deliver the serum. The annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race commemorates this historic event.

The sled driver of the final leg of the relay was Gunnar Kaasen; his lead sled dog was Balto. A statue of Balto by F.G. Roth stands near the zoo in Central Park, New York City. Leonhard Seppala ran the penultimate, and longest, leg of the 1925 serum run to Nome. One of his dogs, Togo, is considered the forgotten hero of the "Great Race of Mercy" [2], another of his dogs, Fritz, is preserved and on display at the Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum in Nome.


Nome's name

The origin of the city's name "Nome" is still under debate.

The city's name may come from a point of land located twelve miles (19 km) from the city. Cape Nome received its name from an error, when a British mapmaker copied a map annotation made by a British officer on a voyage up the Bering Strait. The officer had written "? Name" next to the unnamed cape. The mapmaker misread the annotation as "C. Nome", or Cape Nome, and used that name on his map.[2]

Other sources have noted that "Nome" is a place name in one or more Scandinavian countries, long pre-dating the use on the map in question, and it is possible that the town was named after Nome, Norway by a navigator or cartographer familiar with that place.

"Nome" also appears for reasons unexplained in central California, where a facility for displaced native Americans (near Marysville) which was called "The Nome Cult Farm". The name "Nome Cult" is an English naturalization coming from the Nomlaki (Central Wintun) words "nom q'el" meaning "Western House". The name refers to the Round Valley area in Mendocino County, California, west of the Nomlaki People's indigenous homeland (Tehama and Butte counties) to where they, along with five other tribes, were forcibly relocated in 1863.

In February 1899, some local miners and merchants voted to change the name from Nome to Anvil City, because of the confusion with Cape Nome, 12 miles south, and the Nome River, the mouth of which is four miles (6 km) south of Nome. The United States Post Office in Nome refused to accept the change. Fearing a move of the post office to Nome City, a mining camp on the Nome River, the merchants unhappily agreed to change the name of Anvil City back to Nome.

Geography and climate

Nome is located at (64.503877, -163.399409).[3] According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 21.6 square miles (55.0 km²), of which, 12.5 square miles (32.5 km²) of it is land and 9.1 square miles (23.5 km²) of it (41.99%) is water.

Monthly Normal and Record High and Low Temperatures
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Rec High °F 43 48 43 51 78 83 86 81 71 59 47 43
Norm High °F 13.4 13.6 17.7 26.8 43 53.9 58.6 56 48.6 34 23 15.8
Norm Low °F -1.8 -2.3 1 12.4 31.1 40.6 46.6 45.2 37.2 22.9 10.8 0.9
Rec Low °F -54 -42 -46 -30 -11 23 30 26 9 -10 -39 -41
Precip (in) 0.92 0.75 0.6 0.65 0.74 1.14 2.15 3.23 2.51 1.58 1.28 1.01
Source: [3]


Eskimo music and dance near Nome, 1900

As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 3,505 people, 1,184 households, and 749 families residing in the city. The population density was 279.7 people per square mile (108.0/km²). There were 1,356 housing units at an average density of 108.2/sq mi (41.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 51.04% Native American, 37.89% White, 1.54% Asian, 0.86% Black or African American, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.43% from other races, and 8.19% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.05% of the population.

There were 1,184 households out of which 38.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.7% were married couples living together, 12.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.7% were non-families. 27.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 3.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.79 and the average family size was 3.45.

In the city, the population was spread out with 31.9% under the age of 18, 8.0% from 18 to 24, 32.1% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 6.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 115.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 117.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $59,402, and the median income for a family was $68,804. Males had a median income of $50,521 versus $35,804 for females. The per capita income for the city is $23,402. About 5.4% of families and 6.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.3% under the age of 18 and 6.9% ages 65 or older.

Population of Nome[5]
Year Population
1900 12,500
1920 900
1930 1,200
1940 1,600
1950 1,900
1960 2,300
1970 2,500
1980 2,300
1990 3,500


Nome, 1900
7 years later (1907) houses have replaced the tents.

Inupiat hunted for game on the west coast of Alaska from prehistoric times. However, there was no Eskimo or European settlement at Nome before the discovery of gold there. In the summer of 1898, the "Three Lucky Swedes": Norwegian Jafet Lindeberg, and two naturalized American citizens of Swedish birth, Erik Lindblom and John Brynteson, discovered gold on Anvil Creek. News of the discovery reached the outside world that winter. By 1899, Nome had a population of 10,000 and the area was organized as the Nome mining district. In that year, gold was found in the beach sands for dozens of miles along the coast at Nome, which spurred the stampede to new heights. Thousands more people poured into Nome during the spring of 1900 aboard steamships from the ports of Seattle and San Francisco. By 1900, a tent city on the beaches and on the treeless coast reached 48 km (30 miles), from Cape Rodney to Cape Nome.

During the period from 1900 – 1909, estimates of Nome's population reached as high as 20,000. The highest recorded population of Nome, in the 1900 United States census, was 12,488. At this time, Nome was the largest city in the Alaska Territory. Early in this period, the U.S. Army policed the area, and expelled any inhabitant each autumn who did not have shelter (or the resources to pay for shelter) for the harsh winter.

Many late-comers were jealous of the original discoverers, and tried to “jump” the original claims by filing mining claims covering the same ground. The federal judge for the area ruled the original claims valid, but some of the claim jumpers agreed to share their invalid claims with influential Washington politicians. Alexander McKenzie, a Republican party higher-up from North Dakota, took a partial interest in the jumper mining claims, secured the appointment of his obedient crony Arthur Noyes as the federal judge for the Nome region, and the two went together to Alaska to steal the richest gold mines in Nome. The bald-faced theft using the federal judiciary was eventually stopped, but provided the plot for Rex Beach’s best-selling novel The Spoilers, which was made into a stage play, then five times into movies, including one version starring John Wayne and Marlene Dietrich. [4] John Wayne also starred in the movie North to Alaska, the theme of which mentions Nome.

Fires in 1905 and 1934 and violent storms in 1900, 1913, 1945 and 1974 destroyed much of Nome's gold rush era architecture. The pre-fire "Discovery Saloon" is now a private residence and is being slowly restored as a landmark.

In 1925, Nome was the destination of the famous "Great Race of Mercy", where dog sleds played a large part in transporting diphtheria serum through harsh conditions. In 1973, Nome became the ending point of the 1,049+ mi (1,600+ km) Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race held in honor of the serum run.

During World War II, Nome was the last stop on the ferry system for planes flying from the United States to the Soviet Union for the Lend-lease program. The airstrip currently in use was built and troops were stationed there. One "Birchwood" hangar remains and has been transferred to a local group with hopes to restore it. It is not located on the former Marks AFB (now the primary Nome Airport); rather it is a remnant of an auxiliary landing field a mile or so away: "Satellite Field". In the hills north of the city, there were auxiliary facilities associated with the Distant Early Warning system that are visible from the city but are no longer in use.

Total gold production for the Nome district has been at least 3.6 million ounces.[6]


Higher education
Northwest Campus sign

The University of Alaska Fairbanks operates a regional satellite facility in Nome called the Northwest Campus (formerly known as Northwest Community College).

Public schools

Nome is served by the Nome City School District and the following public schools:

Private schools


Nome's airwaves are filled by the radio stations KNOM (780 AM, 96.1 FM) and KICY (850 AM, 100.3 FM), plus a repeater of Anchorage's KSKA, K216BN, on 91.3 FM.

Cable television and broadband in Nome is serviced by GCI, which offer all popular cable channels, plus most of Anchorage's television stations. Nome also has three local low-powered stations, K09OW channel 9 and K13UG channel 13 (both carrying programming from ARCS), plus K11TH channel 11 (a 3ABN owned and operated translator).

Nome also is home to Alaska's oldest newspaper, the Nome Nugget.


Statue of Balto, the lead dog on the last relay team of the 1925 diphtheria serum run.

The Nome Airport services Nome. There are small roads to communities up to 87 miles from Nome.[7] There is no road connection to the major cities of Alaska.

See also


  1. "Annual Estimates of the Population for All Incorporated Places in Alaska" (CSV). 2005 Population Estimates. U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division (June 21 2006). Retrieved on November 9, 2006.
  2. "Nome Convention and Visitor Bureau". Retrieved on 2008-01-17.
  3. "US Gazetteer files: 2000 and 1990". United States Census Bureau (2005-05-03). Retrieved on 2008-01-31.
  4. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved on 2008-01-31.
  5. [1]
  6. A.H Koschman and M.H. Bergendahl (1968) Principal Gold-Producing Districts of the United States, US Geological Survey, Professional Paper 610, p.18.

External links