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F. A. (Frederick A.) Zeusler papers, ca. 1900-1981

Identifier: MS 163

Content Description

The F. A. (Frederick A.) Zeusler papers, 1900-ca. 1981, contain materials written by and collected by Zeusler during his life. Most materials relate to his Coast Guard service and his subsequent roles as Alaska Steamship Company executive, maritime historian, and citizen active in various local governments, particularly those related to Puget Sound waterfront concerns, especially Seattle and King County, Washington.

Some of his papers were bound professionally, however, there was no particular order imposed upon many of them. For easier access the related correspondence for each subject has been extracted and put in the respective subject file. This collection contains some photographs when they form an integral part of the material. Most photographs, slides and films form a separate collection, PCA 412.

The subject files reflect Admiral Zeusler’s activities and interests. Among his Coast Guard papers, he had some of Paul Silook’s stories and diaries, records of changes in native marriage practices, reports on arctic flora and fauna, medical reports on natives, and geologic and oceanographic observations. His collection from his time at Alaska Steamship Company includes documents related to rate hearings, historical data and charts, and Alaska water transportation. His interests also spanned maritime labor issues, especially for the two decades following World War II. He had strong interests in maritime history and general maritime topics, especially the merchant marine. He acted on these interests by taking a role in the Seattle area maritime issues, including, Cold War civil defense, harbor patrol, port terminal operations and facilities, and water safety. He collected some information also on international law and the North Pacific fisheries. He collected information on and wrote about the maritime history of the Pacific Northwest, including marine disasters. Zeusler maintained a lifelong interest in Alaska and collected various papers and memorabilia about and from Alaska. Toward the end of his life, he collected many publications and clippings reflecting conservative politics.

Zeusler wrote a book and numerous articles and gave speeches, which covered all of the topics found in the subject files above. The dates of some of his speeches give evidence that he began these endeavors before retiring from the Coast Guard, but the vast majority came after that transition in his life. It seems that the acceleration of his speaking and writing activities were concurrent with his work with the Alaska Steamship Company. His writing and speaking activities greatly decreased shortly before his wife, Clarice, died. His final work, Sea Drift, was published the year he died, 1981.

The Personal Files in this collection contain personal correspondence, travel diaries, and mementos. These include a Christmas card from the territorial governor of Alaska, B. Frank Heintzleman and an invitation to the first inauguration (ultimately cancelled due to ill health) of Alaska State Governor William Allen Egan.

Zeusler collected many writings and publications, many of which were separated from the collection and placed into the Historical Collections of the Alaska State Library. The remainder covers the topics reflected in the subject files. The collection’s final series includes the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society newsletter, 1962-1967, which contain many articles written by Zeusler.


  • ca. 1900-1981

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is unrestricted.

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 and moved to Bering Sea patrol on the Unalga in 1913. In 1914, he met Clarice in Port Angeles, where he was stationed on the ship, Snohomish. She was a teacher. Zeusler explained to Clarice the life she could expect married to a Coast Guard officer who spent significant time at sea. They became engaged, then married, in April of 1916.

In the meantime, he was assigned to the ship, 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.

In 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 summer and Seattle in 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+.


6.92 Linear Feet (14 Boxes)

Language of Materials


Related Materials

Photographs, slides and films form a separate collection, PCA 412.

Processing Information

A folder level inventory is available. A few files are described at item-level, including some correspondence files, subject files, writings and speeches. Where possible, the documents have been arranged chronologically. Original order has been maintained where recognizable order appeared, otherwise, groupings were made, especially by subject areas. The entire collection has been reboxed and refoldered. Where possible, headings for file folders duplicate the file names given by Zeusler.

Finding Aid for the F. A. (Frederick A.) Zeusler papers, ca. 1900-1981
In Progress
Processed By: Ann Doyle, December 1999; Revised by: Anastasia Tarmann, November 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)