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Alaska history from the days before statehood is rich in stories of colorful characters—prospectors, settlers, heroes, and criminals. And right alongside them were judges and lawyers, working first to establish the rule of law in the territory, then, later, laying the groundwork for statehood.
The Biggest Damned Hat presents a fascinating collection of stories ranging from the gold rush to the 1950s. Built on interviews and oral histories from more than fifty lawyers who worked in Alaska before 1959, and buttressed by research into legal history, the book offers a brilliantly multifaceted portrait of law in the territory—from laying the groundwork for strong civil and criminal law to helping to secure mining and fishing rights to the Alaska Court-Bar fight, which pitted Alaska’s community of lawyers against its nascent Supreme Court. Bringing to life a time long past—when some of the best lawyers had little formal legal education—The Biggest Damned Hat fills in a crucial part of the story of Alaska’s history.
About the Author
Pamela Cravez is a senior research official at the Institute of Social and Economic Research, University of Alaska Anchorage.
“[A] breezy, light-hearted and thoroughly entertaining account of how the legal profession evolved in Alaska during the territorial and early statehood periods, and of how Alaska evolved in part as a result of its lawyers.”
— Alaska Dispatch
“Readers can expect to come for the characters but stay for this story, which is truly unique. If any Alaska history book before this has touched on the state’s legal culture, it was only in passing or mired in such deep jargon that the human interest got lost. This, again, is where the skill of the writer and the extent of her research, particularly in the pursuit of personal interviews, shines through.”
— Fairbanks News-Miner
“In the best Alaskan tradition, these tales are colorful and amusing and provide intimate detail about many of the people who helped from the 49th state’s modern legal practice. . . . The Biggest Damned Hat is very entertaining.”
— Pacific Northwest Quarterly