Woman standing with hand on her hat.

NPS, Klondike Gold Rush NHP, KLGO 1306. Gift of Cyril A. (Cy) Coyne. KLGO Library SP-256-8465.

Quick Facts

Significance:
Arrived during the gold rush, became an early tourism promoter
Place of Death:
Skagway, Alaska
Date of Death:
1947

Harriet Pullen is a great example of women who honed their business skills to succeed during the Klondike gold rush and seized opportunities that came along with the chaos. Harriet arrived in Skagway with early fortune seekers in the fall of 1897, and started out like many others, broke, but optimistic and ambitious. Of her arrival, she said

"I only had seven dollars to my name. I didn't know a soul in Alaska. I had no place to go. So I stood on the beach in the rain, while tented Skagway of 1897 shouted, cursed, and surged about me."

She gained employment working for Captain William Moore, a man of means and wealth, and supplemented her income by selling her apple pies. Harriet's successful pie business led quickly to bigger enterprises. She sent for her horses from Washington state and geared up to haul freight for miners over the rugged White Pass Trail, also known as the Dead Horse Trail. She made enough to support herself and her children. Profits from this venture helped her make a smooth yet big transition in her life; when the White Pass & Yukon route railroad was completed, this closed down freight lines.

Harriet joined the thriving business of tourism. She purchased a grand home from Captain Moore, which she then converted into one of Alaska's most luxurious hotels. Harriet gained a hospitable reputation for her accommodations which boasted hot baths and soft beds. Guests staying at her Pullen House mansion enjoyed fresh vegetables picked from her gardens along with milk and cream from her farm in Dyea. Harriet also provided dramatic presentations in the parlor of Pullen House, drawing on her personal stories and experiences with Skagway's colorful cast of gold rush characters and events

Harriet became affectionately known as "Ma Pullen" with respectful notoriety, sharing her hospitality with visitors in her vibrant hotel until she died in 1947.