Kennedy, James Frances

1883-1934 | Businessman

James Frances Kennedy was an Anchorage businessman who operated Kennedy Brothers (later Kennedy Clothing Company), a clothing and haberdashery store on the south side of Fourth Avenue, along with his brothers. Kennedy Clothing Company grew to be one of the largest clothing stores in Alaska. In 1934, the clothing store was relocated to 434 Fourth Avenue, several doors down from Kennedy Hardware Company.

Daniel Kennedy Sr. and the Kennedy Family

James Frances Kennedy's father, Daniel Kennedy Sr., was an Irish immigrant who arrived in the United States sometime between 1843 and 1851.[1] He was a prospector who had worked his way up the west coast of the United States and Canada, finally moving to Sitka, Alaska, in 1876,[2] after failing to strike it rich in Cassiar, in southern British Columbia, during the Cassiar gold rush (1873-1876). Beginning in 1853, Daniel O’Connell Kennedy prospected with indifferent success in California; Kootenai, British Columbia; Oregon; Idaho; and Washington. The Kennedys were an early pioneer family from Juneau, having arrived in the town within months of the discovery of placer gold deposits in the area. In 1880, news of the discovery of gold by two prospectors, Richard Harris and Joe Juneau, in the creeks above the Gastineau Channel between the mainland and Douglas Island, north of Stephens Passage, set off a rush of about 2,000 people.[3]

In 1883, the elder Kennedy became city night watchman and fire warden in Juneau, initially being compensated by a subscription raised voluntarily by the citizens. In 1902, the Kennedys moved to Kachemak Bay to homestead and work coal claims. In late summer 1904, the family returned to Juneau, where Daniel was again hired as night watchman. Kennedy then served the City of Juneau continuously until 1911 when he was retired with half pay. He was familiarly called “Uncle Dan,” and became one of the best known and most beloved of the original pioneers who settled in Juneau.[4]

His Alaskan-born wife, Ekaterina (later referred to as Katrina and Katherine) Kvasnikoff, born on the Kenai Peninsula in Ninilchik, Alaska, on May 17, 1853, was the daughter of Feodor Grigorich Kvasnikoff, a Russian Orthodox missionary who was sent to Alaska prior to the transfer of Alaska from Russian to the United States in 1867. Once in Alaska, Daniel married a local woman and moved to the farming community of Ninilchik on the Kenai Peninsula.[5] 

James Frances Kennedy

James Frances Kennedy was born in Juneau on January 26, 1883,[6] one of five sons born to Daniel O’Connell Kennedy and Ekaterina Kvasnikoff Kennedy. He grew up in Juneau except for a period when his family moved to Kachemak Bay.

In 1900, when James was seventeen, he was employed as a waiter in Juneau.  In 1905, he worked as a clerk for Charles Goldstein of Juneau and, apparently, was a middleman buying furs from trappers and fur farmers and then reselling them.[7] 

On February 14, 1904, James Frances Kennedy married Mary “May” or “Mamie” Vesta Greiser. Their daughter, Frances Louise, was born on August 29, 1905, in Skagway. By 1909, he was working as a clerk for William Clayson, a clothing merchant, at F.H. Clayson and Company, a risk-taking outfitter and dealer in Skagway owned by his brother, Fred. By 1911, James Kennedy was the store manager. He worked in this capacity until he left Skagway sometime in 1918 or 1919.[8]

In 1919, the Kennedy family was living in Portland, Oregon, where their second daughter, Kathryn Eleanor, was born on October 12, 1919.[9] Shortly after her birth, the Kennedy family moved to Anchorage, where they helped to establish two well-known businesses, the Kennedy Brothers clothing store, and Kennedy Hardware store.[10] 

It appears that three of four Kennedy brothers, Daniel, James, and George, opened Kennedy Brothers, which become the well-known Anchorage clothing and haberdashery firm, in about 1923. From about 1921 to 1923, James may have been the manager of William Clayson’s clothing store in Anchorage.[11] On April 1, 1921, an advertisement in the Anchorage Daily Times for William Clayson’s new clothing store in Anchorage listed him as the manager.

Two years later, an advertisement in the Anchorage Daily Times on June 23, 1923 showed that he and one of his brothers, almost certainly Daniel O’Connell Kennedy Jr., had opened a clothing and haberdashery store in Anchorage under the name of Kennedy Brothers.[12] Daniel and James were associated for years as proprietors of the store, which grew to be one of the largest and most up-to-date in Alaska. In addition to this business, James Kennedy was also associated with his brothers, George and John, in running the Kennedy Hardware store.

James Kennedy was a prominent member of the Anchorage community and was active in civic affairs. In April 1925, he was elected to a three-year term on the Anchorage School Board and by the following year had been appointed as clerk, and reporting on school board matters to the Anchorage city council at their regularly scheduled meetings.[13] He was an outdoor enthusiast, and spent his leisure time at trout streams and hunting ducks.

James Frances Kennedy died in Seattle, Washington, where he had gone for treatment of an illness, on May 2, 1934. His obituary in the May 2, 1934 Anchorage Daily Times read that he was “. . . one of the leading merchants of this city and one of the best known pioneer residents of Alaska.”[14] He was survived by his widow, May Kennedy, and their two daughters: Frances Kennedy Truitt of Seattle, and Kathryn Kennedy, of Anchorage. Other survivors were his three brothers, Daniel O., George, and John Kennedy, and his mother, Katherine Kennedy, all of Anchorage.


After James Kennedy’s death in 1934, his partner and brother, Daniel O’Connell Kennedy Jr., moved their men’s clothing business across Fourth Avenue. The new location was several doors down the street from Kennedy Hardware. Daniel Kennedy Jr. continued to operate the clothing store until it closed in 1942.  After 1934, the name of the business was changed to Hub Clothing.

After her husband’s death, May Kennedy, moved to Palmer, Alaska, where she remarried. She served as the U.S. postmaster for Palmer, Alaska from January 1936 to about April 1941 with the U.S. Post Office Department.[15] She died on January 9, 1978 at the Palmer Pioneer Home.



[1] According to the 1900 U.S. Census, Daniel O’Connell Kennedy Sr. arrived in the United States in 1851. The brief biography of Kennedy by historian Robert DeArmond has Kennedy jumping ship in Philadelphia as early as 1843. See, Daniel O’Connell Kennedy Sr., 1900 U.S. Census, Juneau, Southern Supervisor’s District, Alaska, ED 5, page 41A, National Archives Microfilm Publication T623, Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900, Roll 1830, 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line], (accessed January 11, 2014); and Robert DeArmond, The Founding of Juneau (Juneau, AK: Gastineau Channel Centennial Association , 1967), 167-168.

[2] Captain L.A. Beardslee, “Report of [the] Commander of [the] Navy Ship Stationed at Sitka, 1879-1880 on Affairs in Alaska” (Senate Executive Document 71, 47th U.S. Congress, 1st Session, Volume 4, Serial 1959): 34.

[3] “Daniel Kennedy,” in Ed Ferrell, compiler and editor, Biographies of Alaska-Yukon Pioneers, 1850-1950, Volume 2 (Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, Inc., 1995; reprinted from the Daily Alaska Dispatch, January 29, 1913), 168-169.

[4] “Old Pioneer is Reported Ill,” Alaska Daily Empire (Juneau), January 7, 1913, 1; and “Funeral of the Late Daniel Kennedy,” Alaska Daily Empire (Juneau), January 30, 1913, 1.

[5] Wayne Leman, editor, Agrafena’s Children: The Old Families of Ninilchik, Alaska, Second Edition (Raleigh, NC: Lulu Press, 2006), 117; U.S., Library of Congress, Index to Baptisms, Marriages, and Deaths in the Archives of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in Alaska, 1867-1889, Part 1 (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1973), 159; and death notice for Katherine Kennedy, Anchorage Daily Times, September 21, 1935, 1.

[6] Draft registration card, James Frances Kennedy, Local Board No. 7, Skagway, Alaska, October 15, 1918, National Archives Microfilm Publication M1509, World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918, Roll AK3, U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line], (accessed January 11, 2014).

[7] James Kennedy, 1900 U.S. Census, Juneau, Southern Supervisor’s District, Alaska, ED 5, page 42B, National Archives Microfilm Publication, T623, Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900, Roll 1830, 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line], (accessed January 11, 2014); and David A. Hales, Margaret N. Heath, and Gretchen L. Lake, An index to Dawson City, Yukon Territory and Alaska Directory and Gazetteer, Alaska-Yukon Directory and Gazetteer, and Polk's Alaska-Yukon Gazetteer and Business and Directory, 1901-1912, Volume III, H-K (Fairbanks, AK: Alaska & Polar Regions Department, Elmer E. Rasmuson Library, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 1995), 25.

[8] David A. Hales, Margaret N. Heath, and Gretchen L. Lake, An index to Dawson City, Yukon Territory and Alaska Directory and Gazetteer, Alaska-Yukon Directory and Gazetteer, and Polk's Alaska-Yukon Gazetteer and Business and Directory, 1901-1912, Volume III, H-K, 26; and R.L. Polk and Company, R.L. Polk’s 1915-1916 Alaska-Yukon Gazetteer and Business Directory (Seattle, WA: R.L. Polk and Company, 1916), 492.

[9] Kathryn E. Kay” Kennedy grew up in Anchorage but spent much of her adult life in Kodiak. She served as an Alaska state senator from the Kodiak-Aleutian District from 1969 to 1978. See, Obituary, Kathryn E. “Kay” (Kennedy) Poland Sildes, Alaska, Find a Grave Index, 1841-2012,, from Anchorage Daily News, September 12, 2010 (accessed August 6, 2016).

[10] Frances Louise Bergdahl, U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line], (accessed August 5, 2016); and James F. Kennedy, U.S. 1920 Census, Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon, ED 92, page 8B, National Archives Microfilm Publication T625, Fourteenth Census of the United States, 1920, Roll 1501, 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line], (accessed January 11, 2014).

[11] William Clayson later served as mayor of Anchorage from 1927 to 1928.

[12] Advertisement, Kennedy Brothers, Anchorage Daily Times, June 23, 1923, 2.

[13] Minutes, Anchorage City Council Meeting, June 2, 1926, in Anchorage City Council Minutes, Volumes 1 and 2, November 26, 1920-May 27, 1933 (microfilm edition), Alaska Collection, Z.J. Loussac Library, Anchorage Public Library, Anchorage, AK.

[14] Obituary, “James Kennedy of Anchorage Called to Long Last Rest,” Anchorage Daily Times, May 2, 1934, 8.

[15] May V. Kennedy, 1940 U.S. Census, Alaska Rural Rehabilitation Corporation Center (ARRC), Palmer, Third Judicial Division, Alaska, ED 3-27, stamped page 363, National Archives Microfilm Publication, T627, Sixteenth Census of the United States, 1940, Roll 4580, 1940 United States Federal Census [database on-line], (accessed August 5, 2016); and Mrs. May Kennedy, National Archives Microfilm Publication M841, Record of Appointment of Postmasters 1832-1971, Roll 4, Appointments of U.S. Postmasters, 1832-1971 [database on-line], (accessed August 6, 2016).


This biographical sketch for James Frances Kennedy originally appeared in John P. Bagoy, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage:  Publication Consultants, 2001), 170-171.  It was expanded, edited, and revised by Walter Van Horn and Bruce Parham, August 6, 2016.

Preferred citation: Walter Van Horn and Bruce Parham, “Kennedy, James Frances,” Cook Inlet Historical Society, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1940,

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,