The story of the Norwegian-American Leonhard Seppala (1877–1967) addresses such topics as: Norwegian emigration, polar exploration, gold mining, and dog sledding. In 1900, the young Seppala emigrated from Nord-Troms to Alaska in order to be a gold millionaire.
While the big gold find did not pan out, Seppala was eventually hired to train Roald Amundsen’s dog sled team and ended up as the best musher the world had ever seen. He is still remembered for The Great Race of Mercy in 1925, when life-saving medicine was transported by dog sled across Alaska to the diphtheria-ridden children in Nome. And because you cannot control your own legacy, his memory is still tied to the lead dog Balto, even though Seppala himself preferred the dog Togo.
In a time when it was normal to enforce obedience with a whip, Seppala was known for his humane treatment of dogs. In one of the longest dog races, the Iditarod in Alaska, The Seppala Humanitarian Award is the next best prize, after first place.
Who was Seppala? What drove him? And why was Balto commemorated with his own statue in New York City, while Togo was forgotten? The answers to these questions, and much more, can be found at the display «Seppala and Togo» at the Norwegian Emigrant Museum.
Nina Kristin Nilsen, author of the biography “Sepp – a biography of Leonhard Seppala”
The exhibit is a cooperative project with Nina Kristin Nilsen. During her work with the biography, Nilsen interviewed Seppala’s family in Canada, USA, Sweden, and Norway. She also got access to Seppala’s own autobiography and an archive of newspaper clippings. She has shared her knowledge and given us access to a diverse archive.
At the opening of the exhibit, we were glad to have Nina Kristin Nilsen at the museum. She talked about Seppala and read from the book she had written.
The book is for sale at the museum.