Senator E. L.
"Bob" Bartlett:

Architect of Alaska Statehood


Author: Eric Gislason


Senator Edward Lewis "Bob" Bartlett served as Alaska's Territorial Delegate to Congress from 1945-59. Following Alaska's induction into the Union on January 3, 1959, Bartlett served as U. S. Senator until his death in 1968. The citizens of Alaska voted to commemorate Bartlett's efforts and commissioned Felix de Weldon to sculpt his likeness, which was then placed in the Capitol Building's Statuary Hall.

Senator Bartlett's statue is a useful gateway into an abridged account of the historical and political context of Alaska's long struggle from neglected colony to 49th state. Legislative and populist efforts eventually formed a critical mass for the statehood cause and brought about the 1955 Alaska Constitutional Convention, at which Senator Ernest Gruening gave his "Let Us End American Colonialism" address--a scathing indictment of Alaska's neglect by the federal government and subjugation to business interests in the contiguous states. The statehood movement achieved increased national visibility through the efforts of novelist Edna Ferber, whom one critic called the "Harriet Beecher Stowe of the twentieth century": Ferber's Ice Palace (1958) powerfully dramatized the Alaskan situation and spread a pro-statehood message among thousands of readers in the "lower 48" states.

The "Architect of Alaska Statehood": Senator E. L. "Bob" Bartlett
A Brief History of Alaska Statehood, 1867-1959
Senator Ernest Gruening's "Let Us End American Colonialism" Address
Edna Ferber's Ice Palace: The "Uncle Tom's Cabin" of Alaska Statehood
Further Reading