Parks and Recreation Image

Juneau-Douglas City Museum

Jaeger, Ernest R.

by Jane MacKinnon

Ernest R. Jaeger was born March 30, 1867, in Eureka, Wash., the youngest of 12 children of John and Mary. A graduate of a business college, he was the only child amongst his siblings to go beyond high school.

Jaeger was employed at his brother’s laundry in Tacoma for several years until he was able to strike out on his own. In the fall of 1894, he tossed a coin to decide whether to venture to Alaska or Hawaii - Alaska won. Jaeger arrived in Juneau, Jan. of 1895. In Nov. 1897, his business expansion began with the purchase of a failing laundry on Front Street. He moved his business to the new Front Street location on Feb. 1, 1898, and renamed the operation Alaska Steam Laundry. He soon began to outgrow the 1898 plant and in 1901, erected a new laundry building with living quarters and rental rooms above, at 171 Franklin Street. The plant was over twice the size of the previous one, with equipment on the upper floors and a water-powered elevator to carry the laundry between them. Steam was used to heat water, presses and to power the engine that drove all the equipment. Fine ironing was done with cast hand irons which were repeatedly warmed on a steam-heated stove. Acetylene gas lamps provided early artificial light; but by 1906, electric lights supplemented gas. Later, he was to expand to dyeing and cleaning.

December 19, 1905, the company was incorporated and authorized to issue 300 shares of $100 par value. E.R. Jaeger held 283 of those shares with W. H. Dickinson, Fletcher Larson, Alex Whyte and S. O. Mason holding the balance. The first deliveries were made using a wheelbarrow in summer and a Yukon sled in winter. The wheelbarrow was replaced by the first horse and wagon delivery truck in Juneau. The horse and wagon was then replaced in 1920, when a Ford Model T was purchased, valued at $1,232.45. This Model T also served as the city taxi to important people. It was frequently called upon to take Gov. and Mrs. Walter B. Clark to various social functions when the weather was bad. It had the daily job of taking Gen. Diston (for whom Diston Ave. is named), to and from work.

Ernest Jaeger was married to Anna M. Larson in Tacoma, Washington. They had one child, a daughter, Hazel Jaeger born March 12, 1897, who later married Simpson MacKinnon. They continued the business on into the fourth generation of the family.

The Jaegers were involved in backing many businesses in the Juneau area and built several of the downtown buildings. They restored the Emporium Building (now Emporium Mall) and the Cain Hotel which was opened Alaska Day 1913, and is now the Gastineau Hotel on Franklin Street.

When the Jaegers retired, they moved to Long Beach, California, where he died July 7, 1937. Anna M. Jaeger returned to Juneau and died in 1943.


Hazel Jaeger MacKinnon was born March 12, 1897, to Anna Larsen and Ernest R. Jaeger in Juneau. Attending school in Juneau, she graduated in 1916, and went on to graduate from Mills College in California. She returned to Juneau where she taught school in Thane for a year before marrying her friend from childhood, James Simpson “Sim” MacKinnon on December 5, 1923.

After their marriage, they lived in the Philippines and China where her husband served in the Navy. Their son, James Simpson “Skip” MacKinnon was born while they were there. Returning to Juneau, they joined her family’s laundry business, Alaska Laundry and Cleaners. They enjoyed traveling extensively, including trips on the Yukon and MacKenzie Rivers and several trips to Norway where her mother was born.

A charter member of the Pioneers of Alaska Auxiliary No. 6, she was also active in the first Campfire Girls organization in Juneau. She died at the Sitka Pioneers’ Home in January 1987.