If you’ve ever flown on an Alaska Airlines plane, you may have noticed the person on the tail and found yourself wondering who that person is. Well, wonder no more. We’ve got the answer you’ve been looking for, but it’s not as simple or straightforward as it probably should be.
History of Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines began in 1932, when Linious “Mac” McGee flew his three-passenger Stinson plane from Anchorage to Bristol Bay. Known as McGee Airways in 1934, he merged with Star Air Service and became the largest airline in the state. They had 22 airplanes. In another 10 years, after several other mergers, the airline would finally become known as Alaska Airlines.
The Eskimo on the tail made his first appearance in 1972. The company had adopted a four-logo paint scheme that included the following:
- Totem pole – represented the native culture of Southeast Alaska
- Gold miner – represented the gold rush heyday in Alaska
- Russian spires – represented the Russian heritage that was present in Alaska
- Native Alaskan – wearing a traditional parka with ruff that represented the Arctic region and the people who inhabited it
All of these logos were on Alaska’s jets from 1972 to 1976. At this time, the airline decided to add the Eskimo to the entire fleet, changing the face of the original person so it didn’t look so stern. Since then, the image has remained largely unchanged, with the exception of a few color tweaks here and there.
In 2016, the image was changed to make the Eskimo more modern and smoother for the digital age. Pops of color were added around his ruff, and he is larger than previous versions. The changes are small, but they are meant to make a huge impact.
Who Is the Person on the Alaska Airlines Logo?
Despite the popularity and highly recognizable symbol, it’s unclear exactly who the person on the tail is modeled after. There have been such theories that it is Abraham Lincoln, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, or Johnny Cash. However, the most popular guesses include native Alaskans Oliver Amouak and Chester Seveck.
Seveck was a reindeer herder and Eskimo dancer from Kotzebue. He and his wife used to greet incoming flights. Amouak was an Inupiat Eskimo who had been hired by the airline in the late 1950s for a traveling stage show. Depending on where a person is from will determine who they think the Eskimo is.
Back in the day when the airline’s marketing department developed the gold miner and the Eskimo, the goal was for them to be generic representations of those specific people. Of course, whether or not the artists were actually inspired by real people can be debated, but it’s a debate no one has a concrete answer to. There has been no documentation found that ties either the miner or the Eskimo to real people.
Despite the debate and mystery, pretty much everyone can agree that the symbol is recognizable as the airline’s logo and encompasses the airline’s interesting history and their bright future.
How is your airline knowledge? Test your trivia skills in the fun quiz below!