This pole was carved to commemorate a visit by William H. Seward to Fort Tongass in 1869. Seward was then US Secretary of State, and later was influential in the purchase of Alaska from Russia --- a deal critics referred to as “Seward’s folly.” During his visit, Seward sat on an elaborately carved and painted box while he was presented with gifts. The multi ringed spruce root hat he is wearing is the mark of an influential and wealthy person.
This pole may also be considered a ridicule pole because according to legend, Seward was an ungracious guest who did not return either the courtesty or generosity of his hosts. The original of the pole was carved in 1885 to remind the Tongass people of Seward’s ungracious visit. The pole pictured here is a replica.