Harlacher, Emil

1894-1987 | Machinist and Manager, Henry J. Emard Packing Company

Emil Harlacher was born in Urdorf, Switzerland on April 21, 1894, to Ernst and Bertha Harlacher. His father was a cheesemaker who owned a factory processing plant where local farmers delivered and sold their milk. Harlacher immigrated to the United States in his late teens and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1918. He arrived in Alaska in 1922 to work seasonally in the fish canneries of southeast Alaska.

In 1918, Harlacher met Margaret Elliott in Portland, Oregon and corresponded with her for two years prior to their marriage in July 1920. Born in Detroit, Michigan on April 21, 1903, Margaret Elliott was the daughter of Martha and Andrew Elliott, a brew master in Detroit. Margaret and their infant daughter, Betty Ann, who had been living in Oregon, joined him in Alaska sometime around 1923.[1] They first lived in Edaleen Island, off Clarence Strait, between Wrangell and Ketchikan. There was no communication or medical assistance available for his family and the sixty cannery workers, as supply ships called only twice annually.

In 1924, Harlacher and his family moved to Anchorage,[2] where he was employed by the Henry J. Emard Packing Company as a machinist and manager of the cannery and later General Fish Company where the Port of Anchorage is now located. The cannery processed fish for seven months of the year and when the packing season was over, he was caretaker-watchman of the plant and overhauled equipment for the coming season. In 1941 he retired from the cannery business and took a government job as a foreman of what became Elmendorf Air Force Base (now Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson). During World War II, he worked seven days a week for a three-year period with a perfect attendance record. When he retired at the age of seventy, he was foreman of the general mechanic’s shop.[3]

During World War II, Margaret Harlacher was hired as a teletype operator for the Alaska Communications System (ACS). Although most civilian employees were replaced by military personnel, due to her typing speed of 130 words per minute and other skills, she was retained during the war as ACS’s sole civilian operator. In 1965, she retired from her job as a work order specialist at Elmendorf Air Force Base.[4]

Margaret Harlacher died on May 3, 1985, at the age of eighty-two, at the Palmer Pioneer Home. Her husband, Emil Harlacher, died on March 2, 1987. Their remains are buried in the Masonic Tract of the Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery. The couple had two daughters, Betty Ann Harlacher Kampfer (1924-1983), and Dorothy Jean Harlacher Larsen (1931-1983).



[1] John P. Bagoy, in Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage: Publications Consultants, 2001), 261, gives 1922-1923 as the dates of arrival for the Harlacher family in Alaska. The obituaries for Emil and his wife, Margaret Harlacher, give the years as 1924 and 1926. See, Obituary, Emil Harlacher, Anchorage Times, March 6, 1987, B-2, and “Harlacher’s skill served her after war,” Anchorage Times, May 7, 1985, B-8.

[2] The Harlacher’s dates of arrival in Anchorage vary. John Bagoy, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935, 261, gives the year 1924. Emil Harlacher’s obituary uses the year, 1925, and Margaret Harlacher’s obituary gives the year as 1929.

[3] Obituary, Emil Harlacher, Anchorage Times, March 6, 1987, B-2.

[4] “Harlacher’s skill served her after war,” Anchorage Times, May 7, 1985, B-8.


This biographical sketch of Emil Harlacher is based on an essay which originally appeared in John Bagoy’s Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage, AK: Publications Consultants, 2001), 260-261. See also the Emil Harlacher file, Bagoy Family Pioneer Files (2004.11), Box 3, Atwood Resource Center, Anchorage, AK. Photographs courtesy of the Harlacher family.  Edited by Mina Jacobs, 2012.  Note:  edited and revised by Bruce Parham, July 31, 2016.

Preferred citation: Mina Jacobs and Bruce Parham, eds., “Harlacher, Emil,” Cook Inlet Historical Society, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940, http://www.alaskahistory.org.

Major support for Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940, provided by: Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Atwood Foundation, Cook Inlet Historical Society, and the Rasmuson Foundation. This educational resource is provided by the Cook Inlet Historical Society, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt association. Contact us at the Cook Inlet Historical Society, by mail at Cook Inlet Historical Society, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, 625 C Street, Anchorage, AK 99501 or through the Cook Inlet Historical Society website, www.cookinlethistory.org.