Mystery of the 120-year-old biscuit

The Mountaineer archives contain a very old cookie, dating all the way back to 1897. The artifact is nine years older than The Mountaineers club.
Lowell Skoog Lowell Skoog
November 10, 2014
Mystery of the 120-year-old biscuit

Some of you may have seen a little fruit cake tin in the Mountaineer Archives which contains a very old cookie or biscuit. I've seen this before and have always set it aside for another time (after scratching my head over why it was even there).

The inscription on this artifact is just intriguing enough to save it from the trash bin. It says: "Gelett** Italian Mt S** Expidition June 6 - August 30 1897" (Asterisks indicate an unknown number of missing letters).

So this weekend I took the tin home with a few other artifacts for closer inspection and documentation. I had my suspicions about the biscuit, and two minutes searching on google appears to have confirmed them. 

The biscuit is apparently a memento of the first ascent of Mt St. Elias, the second highest mountain in Canada, which was made by an Italian party led by the Duke of the Abruzzi on July 31, 1897

This artifact is nine years older than the Mountaineers club. I'm confident it is the oldest artifact in the Mountaineers collection anywhere.

How did the biscuit end up with the Mountaineers?

Mt St. Elias was attempted in 1890 and 1891 by Professor Israel C. Russell. That's the same geologist for whom Russell Glacier on Mt Rainier was named. My guess is that the Duke or somebody else from the 1897 Italian expedition gave the biscuit to Russell in acknowledgement of his attempted climbs, and Russell eventually gave it to the Mountaineers.

Does anybody know whether Russell was an early member of the club? Was he a charter member?

Anyway, I thought you'd enjoy this very strange discovery. View this and all of our other artifacts here.

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Mike Cutcliff
Mike Cutcliff says:
Nov 12, 2014 10:14 PM

Probably the last confirmed non-GMO biscuit left on Earth. If you don't eat it, I will!

Karen Portzer
Karen Portzer says:
Nov 20, 2014 07:00 PM

According to: Friday, June 18, 1897 Paper: Caledonian (St. Johnsbury, VT) Page: 4 Professor IC Russell was on the Prince Luigi expedition. Those from Seattle on the expedition included Professor Davidson and Ingraham, so i would guess that they are the ones who donated the cookie or biscuit.

Karen Portzer
Karen Portzer says:
Nov 20, 2014 07:10 PM

I found an obit for him in 1906 and he was teaching at the university of michigan and he was there prior to 1901, so i would stick with professor Davidson and Ingrahm

Karen Portzer
Karen Portzer says:
Nov 20, 2014 07:33 PM

galette in french means cake....i am wondering if that's what they wrote at the top....

Karen Portzer
Karen Portzer says:
Nov 20, 2014 08:25 PM

So Professor Davidson was with the geodetic survey and was in charge of the west coast and named a lot of mountains including naming mount ellinor after his wife, but it appears from the 190 and 1910 census that he lived in san francisco....therefore i would conclude that Ingrahm donated the cookie thing as he was on the expedition and resided in Seattle at the time the mountaineers was founded, and was a well-known mountaineer