Walking Tour: Alaskan Nebraskan


Not everyone in Hamilton County can remember Earl Hammond, Sr. in his perfect red Santa Suit and long white beard, in a sleigh with REAL reindeer. And those of us who did, probably did not realize that, prior to bringing us holiday cheer (and, we hoped, presents), this same man spent nearly two decades working with his sled dogs on expeditions in the Arctic in the 1920s and 1930s.

“‘I’d spent some 20 years in Alaska mining, prospecting, trapping, working on riverboats, and running dog teams for several Arctic expeditions. When I’d come back I’d bring my team and Eskimo artifacts. Well, I’d come back to visit my father and the folks over at Hastings asked me to come over with my stuff and play Santa Claus. I got reindeer and went over and got the bug. I went back and forth to Alaska and showed my dog team, polar bear and Eskimo stuff in travels all over the states until I started the Santa Claus business in earnest in 1941. Been at it ever since.” Earl Hammond, Sr.

Earl Hammond, Sr. was part of Sir George Hubert's Detroit Arctic Expedition

Click a photo to enlarge and view slideshow

Alaskan Photos - Earl Hammond, Sr. Collection. Developed courtesy of Renaissance Studio, Jana Van Housen

He was present at the final landing of the Norge Dirigible in Teller, Alaska in 1926. Artifacts from the Norge are on display at the Plainsman. The Norge, an airship for the 1926 expedition led by the legendary Arctic explorer Roald Amundsen, can be seen at the museum in the north corridor.

Sled used by Earl Hammond, Sr. on his trips in Alaska,

on display in the Plainsman Museum, north corridor

Earl Hammond, Jr. was four months old when he made his first public appearance in the Ice Capades, in a dogsled driven by his father.

Click a photo to enlarge and view slideshow

Great Blog Site for info on the Hammond family

Earl Hammond, Jr. was the owner and trainer of Sasha, a 360 pound Kodiak bear. Both man and bear seem right at home as “Hamm’s Man” Earl Hammond heads the canoe across Seagull Lake in northern Minnesota during filming of a Hamm’s Beer Commercial.

Earl Hammond, Jr. and Sasha

Lithograph sponsored by Theodore Hamm Company, St. Paul, MN (1974)

Earl Hammond, Sr. was born in Aurora, Nebraska November 17, 1893, and passed December 19, 1975 near his home near Tioga, Pennsylvania. He had lived in Aurora for most of his life, and had only recently moved to Tioga, Pennsylvania where he continued his work with animals and as Santa Claus. He was the son of Frank and May Sells Hammond who farmed near the Aurora Cemetery. He was a member of Aurora Lodge No. 68 F&AM, Aurora, Nebraska. When he passed, he had completed over 50 years as Santa Claus with his reindeer. He is buried in the Aurora, Nebraska cemetery with the image of Santa and his reindeer engraved on his headstone.

Sources:

Plainsman Museum exhibits and research files, Aurora News-Register, Omaha-World Herald

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The Plainsman Museum 2020   ~  210 16th Street ~ Aurora NE ~ 402-694-6531 ~ plainsman@hamilton.net

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