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F. A. Zeusler Photograph and Film Collection, ca. 1897-1950s

Identifier: PCA 412

Content Description

Zeusler collected photographs, films, and slides, many of which he may have photographed himself. The largest group consists of images (photographs, films, slides, and glass lantern slides) of Alaska, both the Southeast and Arctic. Many of the arctic images may have originated from his Coast Guard Ice Patrol voyages to that area in the 1930s. Zeusler also collected some Gold Rush Era photographs of Alaska from the late 1890s to early 1900s, including the Chilkoot Trail and Nome. In the mid-1950s, after he retired, Zuesler took many slides on two trips to Japan and the Far East. Of note among the papers in this collection is a booklet entitled "Eskimo Life Told by an Eskimo Artist."


  • ca. 1897-1950s

Conditions Governing Access

The photos may be viewed. However, the images may not be photocopied.

Biographical / Historical

Frederick A. Zeusler was born in Baltimore in 1890. He joined the Coast Guard as a cadet in 1908 and graduated in 1911, from what would later become known as the U. S. Coast Guard Academy. His was the first class to graduate from its New London, Connecticut home. He served on the vessels Onondoga, Unalga, Snohomish, Bear, McCulloch, Modoc, Tampa, Seneca, Monahan, Cassin, Chelan, Northland, and Spencer, and others, from 1911 until he retired finally from the Coast Guard, as an admiral, in 1947.

He spent his first two years on the East Coast, then moved to Bering Sea patrol on the Unalga in 1913. In 1914 he met Clarice in Port Angeles, where he was based on the Snohomish and she was a teacher. After explaining to her what kind of life she could expect married to a Coast Guard officer who spent significant time at sea, they became engaged. They married in April 1916.

In the meantime Zeusler had been assigned to the Bear on Bering Sea Patrol and Arctic Patrol. Then before World War I he was assigned to the McCulloch on Bering Sea Patrol, based in Sausalito. Zeusler’s first daughter was born in Sausalito in 1917. After the war he returned to duty on the Snohomish and again was based in Port Angeles. His second daughter, Jean, was born there.

In 1923 Zeusler was sent to Washington, D.C. as communications and ordinance officer. His family enjoyed living there, but he was anxious to get back to the sea. After receiving training for three months at Harvard in oceanography, Zeusler served as an oceanographer on ice patrol for several seasons, May to September, in the North Atlantic.

From 1926 Zeusler was sent on rum patrol in the Atlantic out of New York. As a result of volunteering as commanding officer of the second division of rum patrol, he served from June 1931 to January 1933 as commanding officer of the Coast Guard destroyer Abel P. Upshur. After a short tour of duty on the Hunt, he was placed in command of the cutter Chelan, which was on the Bering Sea Patrol. He was very happy to get back to the West Coast. He was appointed U.S. Commissioner, Third Judicial Division, District of Alaska in addition to his duties on the Chelan.

The Chelan was based in Alaska in the summer and in Seattle in the winter. In October 1934, he was designated chief of staff of the Seattle Division and while acting in this capacity was a special lecturer and later instructor in oceanography at the University of Washington.

To his dissatisfaction, he was transferred back to Coast Guard headquarters in Washington, D.C. in October 1935 where he acted as chief communications officer until April 1937 when he was placed in command of the Coast Guard cutter Northland. American journalist and war correspondent Ernie Pyle had occasion to visit aboard the cutter Northland during the 1937 season, and his column for September 14, 1937 gives us an idea of what type of commanding officer Captain Zeusler was:

Captain Zeusler is rather a young man, although he first came to the Arctic in 1913. This is his ninth cruise in the Bering Sea. He has a fine home in Seattle, and a daughter in college. He is a widely informed and studious man.

I am surprised at the discipline aboard ship. I had supposed that the Coast Guard, being an organization which actually does work, would have rather slipshod workaday discipline. But not so. It is just as strict as in the Navy.

I like the way Captain Zeusler runs this ship. Discipline is strict, but it is a discipline of reason. There is no overfamiliarity with the captain, and yet there isn’t a lot of false kow-towing like you see on many service ships. He treats his men as though they were humans.

Zeusler was assigned as commander, Juneau District, Alaska and in March 1942 was designated as captain of the port for the Territory of Alaska, and served on the staff of commander, Alaska Section as off shore patrol commander, and head of the Sitka subsection.

He was transferred to the Thirteenth Coast Guard District, Seattle, in April 1944 and served in that capacity until July 8, 1946, when he retired after 38 years in the Coast Guard.

Admiral Zeusler was recalled to active duty in November 1946 as a consultant to a congressional committee studying the shipping problems of Alaska. He served with the committee until March 1, 1947, when he was again released from active duty.

In addition to World War I and II campaign medals, Admiral Zeusler held the Bronze Star for his World War II service as commander of naval forces in the Sitka, Alaska area, and the Legion of Merit for service as district commander of the Seventeenth (Juneau) and Thirteenth (Seattle) Coast Guard Districts during the war.

After retiring from the Coast Guard, Zeusler wrote and spoke frequently on maritime topics. Admiral Zeusler was also known on the Seattle waterfront as a steamship executive, having served as executive assistant to the president of the Alaska Steamship Company from 1947 to 1954. He was also active in civic organizations related to the Port of Seattle.

In the 1960s Zeusler was active in the Pacific Northwest Maritime Historical Society. His wife, Clarice died in 1966, 15 days short of what would have been their 50th wedding anniversary.

After his retirement, he lived in the Seattle area for many years before moving to California in 1975. Admiral Zeusler died in Santa Barbara in December 14, 1981, at age 91.

Most of the information in this biography came from the following sources:

The Coast Guard career of Admiral Frederick A. Zeusler : a portrait of a career at sea as taken from the writings, diaries, and oral history of Admiral F. A. Zeusler. Compiled by Fred Olson, December 1990.

“Rear Admiral F. A. Zeusler,” Marine Digest, v. 60, no. 19, December 19, 1981, p. 6+.


13 Volumes (13 Boxes) : 35 Glass Lantern slides ; 216 Glass slides ; 231 Slides ; 462 Negatives; 7 nitrate negatives ; 21 - 16mm films; 3 – 32mm films; 35mm motion picture film cuts ; 2 b/w photo albums ; Approximately 1325 b/w photographs from album ; 127 Loose b/w photographs ; 1 Magazine article; 1 calendar; 1 booklet ; 6 matted photos

Language of Materials


Existence and Location of Copies

Photographs digitized and available for viewing via VILDA: (10-)0092, 0131, 0167, 0350, 0445; (11-)0640, 0650, 0660, 0797 1011; (12-)1013, 1042, 1044-1045, 1055, 1068, 1090, 1132, 1203-1205, 1216, 1221, 1226, 1313, 1320

Related Materials

Papers form a separate collection, MS 163.

Processing Information

A folder level inventory is available. Many of the images do not have any notes regarding the subject matter. No order was imposed other than large groupings by format, or, where existent, F. A. Zeusler’s personal numbering (slides, in particular).

Finding Aid for the F. A. Zeusler Photograph and Film Collection, ca. 1897-1950s
In Progress
Processed by: Ann Doyle, June 2000; Revised by: Olga Lijo Serans, 2010; Revised by: Sara Bornstein, 2015; ArchivesSpace Finding Aid by: Melissa Scriven, April 2019
2019 April
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Repository Details

Part of the Alaska State Library - Historical Collections Finding Aids Repository

PO Box 110571
Juneau AK 99811-0571 US
907-465-2151 (Fax)