Photo Credit: Frank Kovalchek

LESSON 7: Hope, Alaska: A Tale of One City, Part Two


This lesson focuses on the town of Hope, Alaska. Hope, like Sunrise, experienced a decline when gold operations in the area ceased. However, even as Hope was declining in numbers, the community itself was being transformed from a raucous gold camp into a community. Students will use demographic information (age, gender, occupation) to quantify how Hope evolved as a community.




Other Resources (Optional but Helpful)


Alaska Content Standards:


A-4  Use graphic tools to interpret human and physical systems.

D-1  Know the need for people to exchange goods, services, and create population centers and transportation/communication links.


History Standards:

A-4  History relies on the interpretation of evidence.

C-2  Use historical data from a variety of primary resources

C-4  Use historical perspective to solve problems.


Inquiry-Based Thinking Strategies Utilized:

Comparing:       Students will compare age, gender, and occupational data over time.

Interpreting:     Students will explain the cause and effect of changing demographics.



Communities change over time. This is especially true of gold rush towns if they are able to convince people to stay or to bring more people into their community after the gold has been played out.

In this lesson, students will utilize demographic data from the census and Polk Business Directory to look for emerging trends in gender ratio, age, and occupational diversity. This data will be graphed and students will provide their interpretation of what the data tells us about Hope during this time of transformation.



1) Graph and Analyze Gender Demographics

Resource: Census Data from 1900, 1910, 1920.

In a spreadsheet chart, tally gender according to year.  From this data create a stacked bar graph comparing gender percentages.


Gender Trend:

Within 20 years females grew to represent nearly 35% of the population. This is nearly a 15 point increase. Over the course of the 20 years of data this trend has been consistent.


2) Graph and Analyze Age Demographics

Resource:  Census Data from 1900, 1910, 1920

In a spreadsheet chart, tally age according to year. `Break age into 10 year groupings, i.e. 0-9, 10-19, 20– 29, etc.

Again, create stacked bar graph to compare percentages.


There are many striking trends to this demographic. Note how the young adults (particularly the ones in their 20s) have nearly disappeared from Hope by 1920. Conversely, note how the children (age 0 to19) and the older age bracket have grown. What could be the reason for this change in age demographics?

In addition, what could be the correlation to this graph of age to that of women?

An extension would be to analyze specific names and families over time.


3) Occupational Demographics

Resource:  Polk Business Directory for Hope 1910, 1915, 1934


This time, use the Polk Business Directory (Hope) for the years 1910, 1915, 1934 (the data seems to be cleaner with less gaps). Tally the types of occupations. (Miners and owners of mines would both be in mining industry. “LAB” stands for “laborer” which is separate from mining but could be combined with carpenters. If a person lists two occupations, list both separately.


Again, this data was derived from handwritten ledgers. Although accuracy is diminished because of the transient nature of the town, it still shows valuable trends. When students are done the chart should look something like the chart to the right:

Now graphically illustrate the occupational demographic trends.  This time we’ll use 3 pie graphs that better illustrate the percentages within the workforce.

From these pie graphs we can determine that, during this time period, mining is still the focus of the community.  However, the town’s work force is becoming increasingly diversified – a critical feature in order to sustain a community.

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Follow Up Activity:  Obtain and examine demographic data from your hometown.  Students  can use the conclusions drawn from this lesson to better understand how their town has developed to what it is today.