BEYOND THE 1925 SERUM RUN TO NOME

Gunnar Kaasen and Balto on the Alaska Steamship Company liner Alameda upon arrival at Seattle on the evening of March 21, 1925.  This photo is the property of the Museum of History & Industry, Seattle Post-Intelligencer Collection, Seattle, Washington.

Gunnar Kaasen and Balto Nationwide Tour

By:  Lance Jensen  

In late January and early February of 1925, twenty dog drivers and their teams were used to deliver diphtheria antitoxin to the stricken town of Nome, Alaska.  This event is generally known as the first serum run.   Gunnar Kaasen and his team ran the last relay of the 674 mile trip from Nenana to Nome.  They arrived at Nome with the medicine early on the morning of February 2, 1925.  Much of the news coverage of this event was focused on the arrival of the life saving serum.  As a result, Kaasen and Balto became instant celebrities.

Within a week, Kaasen had received several commercial offers from various people in the Lower 48.  One of them was from Sol Lesser, who owned a motion picture company in Los Angeles.  Lesser wanted to make a reenactment movie of Kaasen's serum run relay using all of the actual participants.  The filming would take place at Mt. Rainier National Park, about 85 miles SE of Seattle, WA.  Gunnar Kaasen accepted this offer.

*Feb. 23, 1925:  Gunnar, his wife, Anna, and the dog team leave Nome, Alaska that morning enroute to Nenana.

*March 12:  Arrive Nenana and take the Alaska Railroad to Seward.

*March 14:  Arrive Seward with a reported total of 12 dogs.  Leave Seward later that evening for Seattle aboard the Alaska Steamship Company liner, Alameda.

*March 21:  Arrive Seattle, Washington @ 1930 with a reported total of 12 dogs.  Kaasen tells the news media that Balto is 6 years old and that he has known Balto since he was a pup.

*March 22:  Welcome ceremony and reception at Pier 2 (the dock for the Alaska Steamship Company in Seattle) @ 0930.  Gunnar and the dogs leave for Mt. Rainier National Park after the ceremony and also arrive at Mt. Rainier later that day.  Anna Kaasen stays with relatives in the Everett, WA area.

*March 23:  Start the filming of the movie Balto's Race to Nome.

*March 30:  Completed filming and left Mt. Rainier.  Sol Lesser's film production company announces that "the owner in the North" has sold the dog team to them.

*April 2:  Arrive Los Angeles, California by train in the morning.  One report says there is a total of 13 dogs.  Another report says 12 dogs.  Kaasen and Balto attend the welcome ceremony at City Hall @ noon.

During an interview at the Biltmore Hotel later that day, Gunnar Kaasen reveals that Balto was not the lead dog when the team started their serum run relay at Bluff.  A dog by the name of Silva started out as lead dog, but was replaced by Balto when Silva became frightened by the storm and ran the team into some open water at Spruce Creek.  This happened about 5 miles into the relay.  Balto remained as lead dog for the rest of the run into Nome.  Kaasen also confirms his earlier statement in Seattle that Balto is 6 years old.

Gunnar and the dogs stay in the Los Angeles area at least through April and May, working on further production and promotion of the movie, and making various public appearances. 

*April 17:  Sol Lesser makes arrangements with the Loew's Theatre chain for Balto to appear at their theatres all around the country.  Balto makes his first appearance on this circuit the next day at the Loew's State Theatre in Los Angeles.

*May 15:  Gunnar Kaasen had filed a wage dispute complaint with the California Labor Department against Sol Lesser's film company, claiming that he was owed back wages.  The hearing was on this date. Kaasen wins the suit, but it is revealed at the hearing that Lesser's company had sold the dogs "within the last few days." 

The article that covered the hearing does not say who the dogs were sold to.  The Loew's Theatre chain would be the most likely possibility.  The article also says that Kaasen was "disconsolate" when he learned about the most recent sale of the dogs.

*May 17:  The movie Balto's Race to Nome is released to the public.

*May 27:  Anna Kaasen leaves Everett, WA to rejoin Gunnar in Los Angeles.  It seems likely that the Kaasens stayed in the Los Angeles area until about mid-June.  There is further evidence to support this in another newspaper article dated almost two years later.

Checked with an old railroad historian in Kansas.  Going on the basis that Kaasen and the dogs were traveling by train from Los Angeles going east, he said the most likely train route would have been the one operated by the Santa Fe Railroad Company.  This route went from Los Angeles to Chicago.  The most well known train which traveled that route at the time was called the California Limited.  Multiple passenger and freight trains traveled along this route during the course of a day, going both east and west.

*June 23:  Gunnar and the dogs appear @ the Coronado Theatre in Las Vegas, New Mexico with a reported total of 9 dogs. 

A person described as a "lecturer", whose name is W. A. Howell, is traveling with the group.  He describes the events surrounding the serum run and then introduces Kaasen and the dogs.  In some cities, the movie Balto's Race to Nome is shown.

So what happened to the other dogs?  Please refer to the chart later in this story.

*June 24:  The team appears @ the Rourke Theatre in La Junta, Colorado.

There are so many people who want to see the team, that a second show has to be scheduled for later in the day.  Anna leaves the tour to go visit relatives in Bend, Oregon. 

*June 25:  The team appears @ the West Theatre in Trinidad, Colorado.  Again, with a total of 9 dogs.

*June 30:  Anna Kaasen arrives in Bend, Oregon.  When interviewed by the Bend paper, Anna also says there was a total of 9 dogs left on the tour team when she left La Junta, CO.  In another part of that article, Anna relates the same story that Gunnar did to the Los Angeles paper; that Balto was not the lead dog when the team started out from Bluff.

The train historian in Kansas noted that the stops in Las Vegas, NM - Trinidad, CO - and La Junta, CO provide further support that the tour team took the train route mentioned above.  All of the newspapers in the above towns say that the team stopped there to break up their eastward journey.

Checked with all of the towns in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and Illinois that are along this train route and have public libraries, museums and/or historical societies.  This process took several months.  The 3 towns mentioned above are the only ones found which have any record of Kaasen and the dogs making appearances along this route.  The trip from Los Angeles to the towns in Colorado would normally only take a couple of days.  This, along with a later news story about how long Gunnar Kaasen and the dogs stayed in Los Angeles, is what leads me to believe that the tour team didn't leave the Los Angeles area until around mid-June.

*July 6:  Kaasen and the dogs arrive in New York City.  A NYC paper takes a photo of the 9 remaining dogs.

*July 13 - 18:  The team is booked at the Loew's State Theatre on Broadway.  Balto also poses for sculptor Frederick Roth on a daily basis.


A July 12, 1925 theatre listing for the tour team.  The New York Herald Tribune.

*July 23:  Balto is the guest of honor at a party at the Bide-a-Wee home in Yonkers.  An estimated 600 people attend this party.

There is some solid evidence which indicates that Kaasen and the dogs remained in and around the NYC area for the rest of July, and well into August. They appeared at the Loew's Theatre in White Plains, NY.  Some of this evidence comes from a couple of undated and unnamed newspaper clippings in the Balto Scrapbook.  Checked with the library in White Plains, NY.  They in turn have checked with every other library in Westchester County, NY.  Also checked WorldCat.  No one has any microfilm for the White Plains newspapers during that time period.  The library historian remembers the Loew's Theatre in White Plains, but they don't have any other records to help with exact appearance dates.

*Aug. 3 - 9:  The team appears @ the Loew's Metropolitan Theatre in Brooklyn, NY.

*Aug. 20 - 23:  Gunnar and the dogs appear at the Loew's Gates Theatre in Brooklyn, NY.

*Sept. 13 - 18:  The team is booked @ the Strand Theatre in Washington, DC.

One of the Washington, DC papers says that the youngest dog on Kaasen's team at the time of the serum run was 19 months old.  The article doesn't name the dog.

*Sept. 21 - 25:  Gunnar and the dogs appear @ Loew's Grand Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia.

*Sept. 28 - Oct. 2:  The tour team is booked @ Loew's Temple Theatre in Birmingham, Alabama.

*Oct. 5 - 9:  Kaasen and the dogs appear @ the Loew's State Theatre in Memphis, TN.

*Oct. 11 - 17:  Gunnar and his team appear @ the Loew's Crescent Theatre in New Orleans, LA.

*Oct. 23 - 24:  The team makes an appearance @ Saxe's Grand Theatre in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

*Oct. 25 - 30:  The team is booked @ the Miller Theatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

According to a later news report, Kaasen was injured in Milwaukee when the car he was riding in collided with another car.  "Gunnar went through the windshield, but he made his appearance at the theater just the same."

*Nov. 1 - 8:  Gunnar and the dogs make appearances @ the Rialto Theatre in Chicago, Illinois.

In a book about the life of Balto, the author writes about the supposed Chicago story - the one where the famous explorer, Roald Amundsen, tells Gunnar Kaasen to return to Alaska.  Further, that Kaasen leaves the next day, essentially abandoning the remaining dogs.  The resources section of this book lists a Northern Dog News article as the source.  This article is likely the one dated 9/1967, written by Frances Sinrud with Constance Seppala.  In reading this article, it is pretty obvious that Mrs. Sinrud and Mrs. Seppala had at least one agenda - they were trying to diminish and even discredit Gunnar Kaasen and Balto's role in the serum run.

Checked 3 major Chicago papers from late October through mid-November, 1925.  There were no articles at all in any of those papers about Roald Amundsen being in Chicago at the same time as Gunnar Kaasen and the dogs were.  It seems likely that if Amundsen was in Chicago at that time, there would have been something in the papers, as he was most definitely a newsworthy person then.

Checked the same Chicago papers for the time period from late June to early July, thinking there might be some mention of the team stopping there at the end of their west-to-east train trip.  But there was not.  The only thing found of interest were some articles about Roald Amundsen being in Norway during that time.

*Nov. 12:  Gunnar and Balto are buying tickets in Cleveland, Ohio reportedly to go back to Alaska. 

The article says in part that "Kassen and his dog team.....will soon be on their way to the frozen north again......"  Another article in the same paper says that Roald Amundsen is also in Cleveland that same day.  He stopped at a hotel there just long enough to disclose his plans for another transpolar flight the following year.

If there's any truth to the Sinrud - Seppala story about Roald Amundsen telling Kaasen to go back to Alaska, Cleveland could be a possible place for that to have happened.  The Sinrud - Seppala article also says that Kaasen left the next day.  But that's not what happened here.

*Nov. 15 - 20:  The team is booked @ the Loew's State Theatre in Cleveland.

*Nov. 23 - 29:  Gunnar and the dogs appear @ the Loew's State Theatre in Buffalo, NY.

*Nov. 30 - Dec. 4:  The team is booked @ Loew's Theatre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

*Dec. 5:  Montreal, Quebec.  There's an article in this Saturday edition of the French newspaper, "La Presse."  It says that Gunnar and Balto will be appearing at the Loew's Theatre there "next week."  And that's all it says with regards to appearance information.

Based on the scheduling of other Loew's Theatres in the USA, it seems likely that the team was booked at Montreal starting on either December 6 or 7.  The bookings at the Loew's Theatres in the USA usually started on either a Sunday or a Monday, and ran through most, or all, of that week.  This is the only article the Montreal National Library could find on Gunnar and Balto for that time period.  The Montreal library does not loan out their newspaper  microfilm.

The Balto-Kaasen Scrapbook indicates the next stop could have been in Boston.  The Boston Public Library does not loan out their newspaper microfilm either, but they will do some research.  The BPL informed me that they checked several major Boston papers for the time period Dec. 8 - 14, 1925, but there is no mention of Kaasen and the dogs appearing in Boston.

*Dec. 14:  An article in a NYC paper reports that Gunnar Kaasen and Balto left Montreal, Quebec that evening.  They were scheduled to arrive in NYC the next morning in order to attend the Balto statue dedication ceremony at 2:30 PM that day.

*Dec. 15:  Gunnar and Balto attend the statue dedication ceremony of Balto @ Central Park in NYC.

In the Balto book mentioned earlier, the author says that Kaasen and the dogs made an appearance in Kansas City with Santa Claus "In December", and that some of the dogs were sold to the building superintendent of the Kansas City Star newspaper at that time.

Based on what is known about the tour dates, the part about Kaasen and the dogs going to Kansas City sometime later in December seems possible.  Checked the entire month of December, 1925 of the Kansas City Star newspaper.

Santa Claus arrived in Kansas City on Dec. 11.  He left on Dec. 25.  His headquarters was at the Kansas City Star newspaper building.  The newspaper ran daily articles about Santa, and most of them started on the front page.  They included a detailed account of his activities while in Kansas City and the surrounding areas.

There was only one article about Gunnar Kaasen and Balto in the Kansas City Star paper during the entire month of December, 1925.  This article was in the December 18th edition, and it was a photo and caption of them being at the Balto statue dedication ceremony in NYC on December 15th.

To cover as many bases as possible regarding the Sinrud - Seppala story, also checked microfilm for 2 major Chicago newspapers for the period December 15, 1925 to January 12, 1926.  There was nothing in either of those papers about Kaasen, Balto or Roald Amundsen being in Chicago at that time.  And that includes all of the theatre listings in the entertainment section of the papers.  In all the other cities where the tour team stopped, there was at least a listing for them in the theatre section of the papers.  I've found the same thing to be true about news coverage of Roald Amundsen.  If he was in any town, for whatever reason, there was usually a news article about him in the local paper.

Based on the evidence, there seems to be little doubt that Kaasen still had at least 8 dogs with him at the time of the Balto statue ceremony in NYC on Dec. 15, 1925.   As far as I'm concerned, the latter part of December, 1925 and early January of 1926 is a crucial time in Kaasen's tour - in that something had to have happened to cause Gunnar and the dogs to part company.  But what exactly?  There's some clues, but no smoking gun evidence yet.  Here's the rest of the tour itinerary and the clues.

*Dec. 21:  Roald Amundsen attends a dinner at the Army and Navy Club of New York in NYC.

This could be another possibility as far as the Sinrud-Seppala account about Amundsen telling Kaasen to go back to Alaska.

*Christmas, 1925:  Gunnar and Anna are staying with one of Anna's sisters in Snohomish, WA.  They leave for Seattle on Dec. 28th.  There is no mention of the dogs.

*Jan. 13, 1926:  Gunnar Kaasen is in Seattle.  He is going back to Alaska.  Again, there is no specific mention of Balto or the other serum run dogs.

Kaasen and Alexander Malcolm Smith are staying at the same hotel in Seattle.  An article in one of the Seattle papers says that Smith, who is the leader of the advance party for the Detroit-Wilkins Arctic Expedition, and is a long-time friend of Gunnar Kaasen, is shipping "seven husky dogs" from Seattle to a relative in Sausalito, CA.  An article in a NYC paper says that Smith left New York on January 9th to go to Seattle.

In 2001 a great-nephew of Gunnar Kaasen told a reporter for the Everett Herald (WA) newspaper:

"The 1925 serum run "was a big deal."  "My mother was in school in Snohomish, and he (Kaasen) came to Snohomish the next year. He brought the dogs down, and they had a sled-dog ride.  He liked to show them off."

(Note:  Everett is about 25 miles N of Seattle, and Snohomish is about 8 miles E of Everett.)

The great-nephew also told me the same story in March, 2010.  This was a story his mom had passed along to him years later.   But he is sure his mom said that Kaasen and the dogs visited the year after the serum run.  His mother would have been 12 years old at the time.

A great-niece of Gunnar Kaasen, who also lives in the Everett area, said that her aunt told her the same story.  If this story is accurate, about the only time this event could have taken place was in late December of 1925 or early January of 1926. The most likely place where Gunnar Kaasen and his dog team would have stayed while in Snohomish was a farm owned by one of Anna Kaasen's sisters and her husband.  The property was approximately 10 acres in size and was located near Blackmans Lake.  There were two barns on the property where the dogs could have been quartered.

*Jan. 16:  The Kaasens leave Seattle for Alaska aboard the Alaska Steamship Company freighter, Northwestern.  The advance party for the Detroit-Wilkins Arctic Expedition is also on board.

*Jan. 23:  The Northwestern arrives @ Seward, Alaska.

*Feb. 17:  Gunnar and Anna arrive back @ Nome that evening carrying a load of freight using a borrowed dog team.

PART II - Who Were Balto's Teammates, and What Happened to Them?


There are at least two group photos of Kaasen's remaining serum run dogs taken when Sam Houston owned them.  We now know that Kaasen had 9 dogs during most of his nationwide tour.  We also know that 7 dogs were purchased by the Cleveland Balto Committee from Sam Houston in early March, 1927.  Another thing that has been found is the actual sales contract for the dogs between Houston and the Balto Committee.

The two Sam Houston-owned team photos clearly show eight dogs in both of them, which brings up a couple of questions.  What happened to the 8th and 9th dogs on the tour team?

As to the 9th dog.  This is quite likely the one who was acquired from Kaasen's tour team by William H. Abbot of Wilton, NH sometime near the end of Kaasen's tour.  This dog ended up at the kennel of Oliver Shattuck of Alton, NH in early 1927.  At that time the dog was known as Tex.  But according to Gunnar Kaasen's initial report on the names of his dogs, there wasn't a dog named Tex on his team (see the chart below).  Could this dog have been renamed by either William Abbot or Oliver Shattuck, or could one of them have gotten the original name wrong?  The information about Tex being part of Kaasen's tour team comes from a reliable source - Oliver Shattuck's widow, Anna.   An article about the Shattuck kennel was published in a 1978 Siberian Husky Club of America Newsletter.

The first of these group photos shows 8 dogs in a grassy area with a bunch of people around them.  Nine adult ladies, a man, and 6 children to be exact.  An article in the March 9, 1927 edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer paper names 9 adult ladies (such as Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Jones, etc.) and 5 of their children, who were all from Cleveland and were vacationing in the Los Angeles area at the time.  This group went to a ranch near that city to visit the dogs, where they were being kept after their release from Sam Houston's museum.  The article also names a local vet. who had charge of the dogs.

There is some writing on the back of this photo, but it's kind of in pieces and some of it is a little hard to make out.  One piece says ".....sold to Cleveland."  All of this evidence indicates that this photo was taken just before the dogs were shipped to Cleveland in March of 1927, and that the group of people shown in it are the same ones mentioned in the Cleveland paper.  But the question remains - what's the story with that 8th dog in the photos?

Sam Houston owned some type of a Mastiff looking dog in the mid-1920's.  His name was Bud.  In comparing a photo of Bud (taken with Sam Houston) to one of the dogs in both group photos, it appears that the 8th dog in these photos could have been Bud.  So what happened to the 8th dog on the Kaasen tour team?  Unknown at this time.

One source says that Adonna Houston (Sam Houston's daughter) met Gunnar and Anna Kaasen when Gunnar still had the dogs.  Furthermore, that Sam Houston hired a lady by the name of Mary Rogers to show the dogs after the Kaasens left to go back to Alaska.  So when and where were Gunnar and Anna together with the dogs so that Adonna Houston could have met them?  A possibility might be in the Seattle area in late December, 1925 or early January, 1926.

The second Houston-owned team photo shows Mary Rogers behind Gunnar Kaasen's sled.  She is wearing a fur parka.  Balto and another dog are laying down in the basket of the sled.  There are 6 other dogs in this photo; 3 on each side of the sled.  This is a good, close-up photo of them.  It allows you to see many of the dogs' features, and especially when you use a magnifying glass.  The exact when and where information about this photo is unknown.

The owner of the group photos said that Sam Houston had a professional working relationship with Sol Lesser in 1929.  Sam and Adonna Houston reportedly attended the first academy award ceremony in 1929 with Sol Lesser.  It is not known whether or not that relationship went back to 1925 or 1926.

Column 1 of the following chart lists the names of the 12 original Kaasen tour team dogs, as reported by Gunnar Kaasen in Los Angeles on April 3, 1925.  Column 2 shows the names that are written on the back of a photo of Kaasen and the 9 dogs he had with him during most of his nationwide tour, taken in NYC on July 6.  Column 3 are the names reported by the Cleveland newspapers when the 7 remaining dogs arrived in Cleveland in mid-March of 1927.

(1)                       (2)                   (3)

Balto                   Balto               Balto
Mactuck              Mucktack         Moctoc
Cella                   Cella               -----
Tilly                     Tillie               Tillie
You                      -----               -----
Dick                     Dick                -----
Dodge                 -----               -----
June                     -----              -----
Blackie                 -----              -----
Bill                       Bill                 Billie
Fox                      Fox                Fox
Silva                    -----               -----
-----                    Sye                 Sye
-----                    Joe                 -----
-----                    -----               Alaska Slim

Going on the basis that Gunnar Kaasen's first report in Column 1 is correct, notice how the names changed over a two year period.  The ownership of the dogs changed hands at least twice during this time, and quite possibly three times.  It doesn't seem likely that Sam Houston or Cleveland would have had any independent knowledge of the identity of the dogs, other than Balto.

There doesn't seem to be any doubt that Gunnar Kaasen arrived in Seattle in March of 1925 with a total of twelve dogs.  There doesn't seem to be any reason to doubt the account by Anna Shattuck about their kennel acquiring one of the Kaasen tour team dogs, whose name in early 1927 was Tex.  Again, going on the basis that the names in Column 1 are correct, the only mystery is - which dog later became known as Tex?  We also know that seven dogs ended up at the Cleveland Zoo.  At this point, I have not been able to find out what happened to the other four dogs, and especially since the names were distorted or differed so much as time went by and the ownership of the dogs changed hands several times.

The other unanswered question is - how, where, when, and why did Gunnar Kaasen part company with his remaining tour team dogs?  I have two theories about this.

(1)  Roald Amundsen was in NYC on December 21, 1925, and possibly before that.  After the Balto statue dedication in NYC on December 15th, Amundsen approached Gunnar Kaasen and told him to hit the road back to Alaska.  Kaasen was in the Seattle area 10 days later.  The Frances Sinrud and Constance Seppala article said all of this happened in Chicago.  The evidence mentioned earlier indicates otherwise.

There is some circumstantial evidence which suggests that Sol Lesser still had some financial interest in the team while they were on tour.  If the dogs were in fact owned by the Loew's Theatre chain, that company shipped them back to Sol Lesser in California.  From there, Lesser sold the dogs to Sam Houston.  There is concrete evidence that Houston owned the team as early as mid-June of 1926.

(2)  Alexander Malcolm Smith was in NYC at the time of the Balto statue dedication ceremony.  He and Gunnar Kaasen had been friends for many years.  Kaasen and Smith met in NYC and discussed the disposition of the team, as the nationwide tour had run itself out.  Smith agreed to take the dogs, and Kaasen transported them to Seattle.  Upon arrival in Seattle, Smith shipped the dogs to his relative in Sausalito, California, as the Detroit-Wilkins party was unable to take any dogs with them to Alaska.  They would use large snow machines instead.  Somehow, the dogs were later acquired by Sam Houston.

In any event, I haven't been able to find any reliable accounts about what really happened.  Checked three NYC papers, and a total of four Seattle, Everett, and Snohomish area papers from the time of the Balto statue ceremony until the Kaasens left Seattle to go back to Alaska.

One obvious question comes to mind.  When Kaasen arrived back in the Seattle area, why didn't any of the newspaper reporters ask him about or print anything about Balto and the other dogs?  Then there's the story by the great-nephew and niece about the team being in Snohomish, WA.  And the one about Alexander Smith shipping "seven husky dogs" to Sausalito, but with no specific mention of Balto or the other dogs.

Same thing with the Los Angeles papers.   It's as if Balto and the other dogs vanished for about 6 months - until an article in a Los Angeles paper in mid-June of 1926 which says the team was now owned by Sam Houston and they were appearing at a local event.

One of Gunnar Kaasen's grandnieces told me that in the 1950's, she sensed there was an element of sadness, or maybe regret, surrounding her Uncle Gunnar.  She suspected that it may have had something to do with Balto.  During that time period, this grandniece was in her late teens and early 20's.

All of the relatives and friends contacted in the Everett area said that Gunnar rarely spoke about his role in the serum run or about Balto.  Gunnar acquired a theatre marquee poster of him and Balto from a theatre in NYC when they appeared there in the summer of 1925.  For many years, he had this poster hanging on the wall of his homes in both Nome and Everett, right behind his favorite chair.

Another grandniece told me that on one of the rare occasions when Gunnar spoke about Balto, he said to her "If it wasn't for Balto I wouldn't be alive today."

As noted earlier in this story, Sam Houston sold Balto and his six remaining serum run teammates to the Cleveland Balto Committee.  Many books, websites and other publications report that Houston sold the team for $2,000 and that he gave Cleveland two weeks to come up with the money.  However, the actual sales contract (dated February 28, 1927), says that a deposit of $100 was made to Houston on that date, and that the total sale price was $1,500.  Furthermore, the Cleveland Balto Committee had "ten days" to come up with the additional $1,400.  If not, the $100 deposit would be forfeited.  Houston also informed Cleveland that other groups were waiting in line to purchase the team.  First in line was the Los Angeles Alaskan Society.

The Cleveland Balto Committee established a fund raising goal of $2,000.  The additional $600 would be needed for costs related to shipping the dogs from Los Angeles to Cleveland.  This was an all or nothing deal.  Raising the funds to satisfy the purchase price was not enough.  The Balto Committee had to have enough money to cover the transportation costs as well.  The last day of the sales contract was March 9.  Tallies of the donations received were made every evening by the Balto Committee.

On the evening of March 7 the total was $1,382.83.  On the evening of March 8 the total amount donated was $1,517.18.  An urgent request was published on the front page of the March 9 morning edition of The Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper.  If an additional $500 was not received that day, Cleveland would lose their option to purchase the dogs.  The $2,000 goal was met at 11 AM that morning.  The funds needed to buy the dogs were immediately transmitted to Sam Houston in Los Angeles "through the Federal Reserve bank system".  Additional funds continued to come in.  The total on the evening of March 9 was $2,245.88.  More donations were anticipated.

The Cleveland Balto Committee made transportation arrangements through the American Express Company.  The team left Los Angeles by train on the evening of March 12, 1927, and arrived at the Cleveland train station on the morning of March 16.  These seven members of Gunnar Kaasen's serum run team would spend the rest of their lives at the Brookside Zoo.

Bill was the first dog to pass away at the zoo.  Sye was the last.  Balto died on March 14, 1933 at the age of 14.  An autopsy revealed that he had a greatly enlarged bladder.  Balto's mount has been on display at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History since shortly after his death.

Gunnar Kaasen passed away at his home in Everett, WA on Nov. 27, 1960 due to prostate cancer.  He was 78.  Anna died three years later.  Gunnar and Anna are buried next to each other at the Cypress Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Everett.

©2011 Lance Jensen

Source Note:  A total of more than 250 news articles, theatre listings and photos were found in the dozens of 1925 and 1926 newspapers that were used to reconstruct just the nationwide tour section alone.  These papers were from all over the Lower 48 states, the Alaska Territory at that time, and parts of Canada.  Additional old news stories, documents, interviews and photos were used for Part II of this article.

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