History of the 1925 Nome Serum Run

Fritz - A Capsule History

Above: Fritz, half-brother of Togo.  This picture was probably taken
before the serum run, and shows the dog out on the tundra of the
 Seward Peninsula, near Nome.  It is likely that this was during the
season of gold mining work he and the other dogs were involved in,
pulling Leonhard Seppala's "pupmobile" (a small rail cart hooked up
to a gang line, leads and harnesses).

January 1st, 1915

Died: December 10th, 1932

Owner: Norwegian Leonhard Seppala (pronounced LEH-nerd SEP-luh), a breeder and racer of Siberian dogs from the Chukchi Inuit stock of Siberia.  He also trained dogs and mushers.  Was employed by Norwegian Jafet Lindeberg's (pronounced YAH-feht LIN-de-berg) Pioneer Gold Mining Company (Jafet Lindeberg was one of the "Three Lucky Swedes" who discovered gold at Anvil Creek in 1898, near Nome).

Sire (father): Sepp (a Siberian husky born in Nome, in the kennels of Leonhard Seppala, from an original stock of imports from Siberia)

Dam (mother): Dolly (a Siberian husky imported to Alaska, from Siberia, to Leonhard Seppala's of the original group.  Also Togo's mother)

Offspring: Harry (among others).  Fritz, a pure line-bred Siberian husky, his son Harry, and his granddaughter Kolyma (daughter of Harry), are considered to be the foundational forebears of the modern Siberian Husky breed, specifically those lines developed in New England and Canada.

Breed: Cream-colored Siberian husky (with mottled brown and gray saddle, neck and head markings) of the Chukchi Inuit Siberian tribe's stock.  Eyes appear to have been light blue, but this is speculative, and not easy to determine from black and white photographs taken while he was alive. 

Above: Fritz (a detail from a larger photograph),
taken at the time of the serum run.

Details of Death: After a lengthy period of his life was spent in the service of his breeder and owner, Leonhard Seppala - on the dogsled racing circuits, with the Pioneer Gold Mining Company (and later the Hammon Consolidated Gold Fields), and the part he heroically played in the serum run, Fritz was retired by Seppala in 1927 to live in Poland Spring, Maine with his friend Elizabeth Ricker.  After a couple more years of leading Ricker's team of racing Siberians (out of stock she acquired from Seppala), however, he was getting on in years.  Ricker and Seppala both decided it was time to give Fritz a much-needed rest.  And so they sold him in 1929 to Doctor Beverly Sproul, of Lake Placid, New York.  He spent the next three years in Lake Placid.  In December of 1932, under-weight and tired, Fritz was placed in a Christmas display, with several other dogs from Dr. Sproul's kennel, on the roof the Gimbels Brothers department store in New York City.  He was only thirty-five pounds in weight at the time (where his more normal weight would have been closer to between 55-60 pounds).  He passed away due to natural causes (old age) while on display with the other dogs.  Fritz was the only one of the three well-known serum run dogs (including Balto and Togo) who was not "put to sleep", but rather died on his own.

Above: Leonhard Seppala with Fritz (at left) and some of
his other dogs on board the S.S. Tanana.  Fritz and the dogs
appear to be absorbed in watching some ice fragments slide
across the pitching deck...

- Fritz is what would be considered, in modern parlance, as a "saddleback" Siberian husky (
and  His coat was a creamy white, with mottled gray and brown markings on his back, neck and head.

- Fritz was ten years old during the serum run, and ran co-lead on Leonhard Seppala's twenty-dog team during the run.  Accounts of Seppala's teams often indicate that he ran his leaders as single-position dogs.  Especially Togo, whom it is said he ran on an especially long lead in the last of the Alaska Sweepstakes Races (and other races), and during the serum run itself.  There is no photograph yet uncovered which shows the entire serum run team (of twenty dogs) lined up for a photograph at the time, so it is impossible to conclude this point beyond a reasonable doubt, beyond what has been inferred by Leonhard Seppala himself in his own writings and statements.  Only photos taken of the team some days after the conclusion of the serum run have surfaced, though those do show Togo in a single lead in front of the team.  Fritz, on the other hand, often appears as a swing dog (one of two behind Togo in that key position).

Above: Fritz at the head of one of Seppala's racing teams, on a frozen lake near Poland Spring, Maine.  Note the single lead.

- Fritz also lived the longest of the three famous serum run dogs.  Togo died at sixteen years of age; Balto's age, a source of some dispute from the historical record, was either eleven or fourteen years of age when he died (though he was the last to pass away, in 1933); Fritz died at eighteen years of age (and, unlike the previous two, was not "put to sleep", but rather died of his own accord).

- Fritz and Togo were half-brothers...sharing the same dam, but different sires.  Togo's father (Suggen) was also a mixed breed, with Alaskan Malamute blood in him, whereas Fritz's father (Sepp) was a pure line-bred Siberian husky.

Above: A photograph of Fritz taken by H. Armstrong Roberts
of Pennsylvania, probably during the 1926 U.S. tour.  On the back
of the original photograph is Fritz's name written in Constance
Seppala's handwriting (Leonhard Seppala's wife).

- Fritz's first participation as a racing dog was as a co-leader on the All-Alaska Sweepstakes team of Victor Anderson in 1917.  Anderson was another employee of the Pioneer Gold Mining Company and, at the time, Leonhard Seppala's immediate supervisor.  The dogs being kenneled by Seppala at the time were still also in the employ of the company, and so they were technically co-owned by it.  So it was not unusual to see them on racing teams backed by the company and its interests.  However, Fritz soon found his way onto Seppala's racing teams after the end of the All-Alaska Sweepstakes races.  In that last All-Alaska Sweepstakes race, in 1917, Anderson's team, co-led by Fritz, came in second behind Leonhard Seppala's team, led by Togo (his more famous half-brother).

- Fritz accompanied Leonhard Seppala along with kennel handler Kingeak (an Alaskan Native of Inupiat stock), and forty-seven other dogs (including Togo) on a cross-country tour of the United States.  Upon reaching New England, they became involved in several local dogsled races (including matching up against Maine racing legend Arthur Walden, a breeder of Chinook dogs).  Fritz led Seppala's team in the prestigious 133-mile New England "Point-to-Point" race in 1927, which the team won splendidly (and to great acclaim) on its third day.  He was also involved in races, during that time, across New England and in eastern Canada, during which he and Seppala's other Siberian huskies, who were a novelty and curiosity to Americans, won great reknown.

Above: Leonhard Seppala with some of his dogs during the
1926 U.S. tour.  At right is Fritz.