Sogn, Harold E., M.D.
1904-1954 | Physician and Real Estate Investor
Harold Elmo Sogn was an Anchorage physician and one of the original co-owners of the Loussac-Sogn Building (425 D Street) in downtown Anchorage. He became well known as “the baby doctor” because of the elevated birth rate during the “baby boom” in Anchorage and throughout the United States (1946-1964), a period of unprecedented population growth after World War II. When Sogn arrived in Anchorage in 1937, there were 69 births. In the immediate post-war years, the number of births jumped to 631 births in 1947, and 766 births in 1948.
Early Years and Family Background
Sogn was born to parents of Norwegian ancestry, Henry "Harry" Sogn and Elsie Davis Sogn, in Canton, South Dakota on January 15, 1904. His father, Henry, came to Alaska in March 1898 during the Valdez Gold Rush1 but failed to discover gold and left the following year. He returned to South Dakota and joined the Railway Mail Service. In 1920, gold fever struck again and the elder Sogn outlined plans to return to Alaska to prospect in the Broad Pass area. He and his family packed up and after a trip from South Dakota to Seattle, Alaska was only a voyage away. Ill luck altered Henry's plans. In posing for a snapshot on the Seattle docks, he stepped backwards into a thirty-foot tumble, suffering a serious leg injury. Henry resolved to come to Alaska to make a good life for his family, and they settled in Anchorage, which had a population of 1,200 people. Henry worked for a year for the Alaskan Engineering Commission (AEC) and then joined the U.S. Post Office Department as assistant postmaster, a position that he held for two years before becoming postmaster. He served as postmaster from 1924 to 1932, and then went into the real estate and insurance businesses.2
Medical Training and Career
Harold Sogn graduated from Anchorage High School in 1922, one of nine students.3As a young man, his ambition was to practice medicine, and he nurtured this interest by working for a short time at Loussac’s Drug Store and as a laboratory technician at the Alaska Railroad Hospital. Sogn received his undergraduate education at the University of Washington in 1929, where he took four years of pre-medical courses, and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in bacteriology. Returning to Alaska, he worked the next five years as a medical technician on the staff of the Alaska Railroad Hospital in Anchorage and Seward, under Dr. A.D. Haverstock.4
In February 1930, he married Ophelia M. Howard, daughter of Emma and Barltey Howard, of Anchorage. She was a graduate of Anchorage High School, Class of 1925, and attended the University of Washington.5
Sogn graduated from the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, receiving his medical degree in 1937. During the summers in New York, he took “special work” in cancer treatment at Dr. Ewing’s Memorial Cancer Hospital. He was also employed at Presbyterian Hospital and Bellevue Hospital.6 He then spent a year as an intern at Swedish Hospital in Seattle and, in October 1938, established the Doctors Clinic there.
In July 1940, Sogn could no longer resist the “Call of the North.” He disposed of his interest in the Doctors Clinic in Seattle. That same month, he moved to Anchorage on a permanent basis to practice medicine.7 During World War II, he was chairman of the Anchorage chapter of the American Red Cross.8
Although he was a general practitioner, he became well known as “the baby doctor” in the post-World War II “Baby Boom” era.9 There were big jumps in births in the immediate post-war period compared to the pre-war and World War II years. In 1937, there were 80 births; in 1940, 137; and in 1943, 242. In 1946, there were 242 births. In 1947, the total births, including those at the 183rd Hospital at Fort Richardson, were 631. For 1948, ending November 1, there were 766 births, including 288 at the post hospital.10
Sogn opened the New Doctor’s Clinic (the first clinic of medical specialists in Anchorage) in 1946. They occupied the first floor of the Loussac-Sogn Building when it was completed.11Working with him were Dr. George E. Hale, Dr. Vernon A. Cates, Dr. Tom Brandon, Dr. Ray D. Coffin, Dr. Russell Jackson, and Dr. William H. Ivey.12
Completed in 1946-1947, the Loussac-Sogn Building was the city’s largest commercial office building, at three stories in height. The building’s original owners, Z.J. "Zach" Loussac and Harold Sogn, directed the architect, William E. Manley, to design a simple, one-story medical clinic for Sogn, but office space was added to the design. They were positioned to take advantage of the population influx of the post-World War II period, an era of incredible growth for Anchorage.13 Between 1940 and 1950, Anchorage’s population grew from 4,299 to 11,254 people.14
During the fight for Alaska Statehood, Sogn was active in two organizations, Statehood for Alaska and Commonwealth for Alaska. He was one of the founders of Statehood for Alaska which immediately became inactive. In August 1954, the Commonwealth for Alaska filed articles of incorporation, and Sogn was one of five directors of the new corporation which was “to promote and officially sponsor commonwealth status for Alaska.”15 Supporters expected that commonwealth status for Alaska would give Alaska a status similar to Puerto Rico, which had gained commonwealth status that year, the elimination of federal income taxes. In fall 1954, the Commonwealth for Alaska invited Ingram Stainback, former Hawaiian governor and associate justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court, to address their banquet in Anchorage, attended by about 150 people. Stainback favored the commonwealth arrangement. The chief attraction, according to Stainback, was lower taxes.
Sogn was a member of the Eastern Star, Elks, Masons, and the Pioneers of Alaska. He was an active member of the First Presbyterian Church, which his father helped to organize. He served as clerk of the Anchorage School Board in 1945-1946, but resigned due to the demands of his medical practice. In 1947, he was president of the Anchorage Rotary Club.16 He was a founder of the Pacific Northwest Obstetrical and Gynecological Association.
Sogn died in Anchorage November 5, 1954 of a heart ailment.17 He was interred at Angelus Memorial Park in Anchorage. His widow, Ophelia H. Sogn, died in 1982 in Edmonds, Washington, and is also buried at Angelus Memorial Park.
- Membership application for Henry S. Sogn, March 31, 1922, File: Membership Applications, Box 4, Folder 19, Part 1, Administrative Records, 1916-1988, Series 1, General Records, 1917-1987, Pioneers of Alaska, Igloo No. 15 Records (HMC-0202), 1916-1988, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage.
- “”Henry Sogn Missed Gold 50 Years Ago – But Discovered Alaska in the Quest,” Forty-Ninth Star (Anchorage), August 22, 1948, 1 and 4; John P. Bagoy, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage: Publications Consultants, 2001), 176; and Entry for Henry S. Sogn, U.S., Appointments of U.S. Postmasters, 1832-1971 [database on-line], http://Ancestry.com (accessed July 3, 2015).
- John P. Bagoy, Legends & Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935, 221.
- “Alaska Notes,” Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, February 25, 1930, 2, http://Newspapers.com (accessed July 3, 2015).
- “Dr. Harold Sogn Returning North to Open Office,” Alaska Miner (Fairbanks), July 2, 1940, 5, http://Newspapers.com (accessed July 3, 2015).
- “Northern Nuggets: News of Here and There in Alaska,” Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, March 12, 1942, 4, http://Newspapers.com (accessed July 3, 2015).
- Michael Carberry and Donna Lane, “Loussac-Sogn Building,” in Patterns of the Past: An Inventory of Anchorage’s Historic Properties (Anchorage: Community Planning Department, Municipality of Anchorage, 1986): 98.
- C.C. Caldwell, “School Bond Issue,” Forty-Ninth Star (Anchorage), June 23, 1949, 6.
- Michael Carberry and Donna Lane, Patterns of the Past: An Inventory of Anchorage’s Historic Properties: 98.
- Over time, the names of the Anchorage physicians associated with the New Doctor’s Clinic changed. In 1950, his partnership with four physicians was dissolved. See “Seek to Dissolve Doctors Clinic, Accounting Asked,” Anchorage Daily Times, July 27, 1950, 6.
- John Strohmeyer, Historic Anchorage: An Illustrated History (San Antonio, TX: Historical Publishing Company Network for the Anchorage Museum Association, 2001), 16.
- National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form, "Loussac-Sogn Building,” AHRS Site No. ANC-359, April 14, 1998, pp. 9-10, National Register of Historic Places, http:// pdfhost.focus.nps.gov/docs/NRHP/Text/98000567.pdf (accessed June 24, 2015).
- Claus-M. Naske, 49 at Last! The Battle for Alaska Statehood, 3rd edition (revised) (Fairbanks, AK: Epicenter Press, 2009), 209; and “Governor Ducks,” Daily Sitka Sentinel (Alaska), August 18, 1954, 4, http://Newspapers.com (accessed July 3, 2015).
- “Past Presidents,” Anchorage Rotary Club, Records, 1941-2009 (HMC-11), Box 7, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage; and "Helve Enatti, "Anchorage Public Schools, 1915-1951: A Thirty-Six Year School District Development Study," M.A. thesis, University of Alaska, May 1967, 356.
- “Dr. Harold Sogn Succumbs at 50,” Anchorage Daily Times, November 6, 1954, 1; and “Hold Services for Dr. Sogn,” Anchorage Daily Times, November 8, 1954, 1.
No entry for Harold Sogn was published in John Bagoy’s Legends and Legacies, Anchorage, 1910-1935 (Anchorage: Publications Consultants, 2001). See also the H.S. Sogn file, Bagoy Family Pioneer Files (2004.11), Box 7, Atwood Resource Center, Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, Anchorage, AK. By Bruce Parham, July 15, 2015.
Preferred citation: Bruce Parham, “Sogn, Harold E.,” 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.