Russian-American Packing Company v. United States

Court Documents

United States Supreme Court

199 U.S. 570

Russian-American Packing Company  v.  United States

 Argued: November 29, 1905. --- Decided: December 18, 1905

This is an appeal from a judgment of the court of claims, rejecting a claim of the Russian-American Packing Company for the value of certain improvements erected by it on the island of Afognak, off the coast of Alaska. The packing company was incorporated in 1889, under the laws of California, for the purpose of carrying on the business of packing salmon on the island of Afognak; and for that purpose purchased and shipped materials for a cannery and buildings to be used in canning salmon, and also, without authority or license from the United States, took possession of a tract of about 159.52 acres of land, and erected thereon buildings, machinery, etc., at a cost of about $45,000. Prior to this time no one had been in possession of this tract. Claimants remained in possession for four years, and until December 24, 1892, and carried on a canning business at a profit of about $100,000, about $35,000 of which was subsequent to the passage of the act of March 3, 1891 [26 Stat. at L. 1095, chap. 561, U.S.C.omp. Stat. 1901, p. 1535].

On April 1, 1892, claimant applied to the Surveyor General for a survey of the tract, under the act of 1891, and deposited in the subtreasury at San Francisco $433.80, as the estimated cost of such survey. The survey was made, was approved March 15, 1893, and forwarded to the Commissioner of the General Land Office. Prior to December 24, 1892, the tract so occupied had not been reserved by the United States for fish culture or any other purpose; nor had the same been purchased or applied for by any other person. On that day the President issued a proclamation [27 Stat. at L. 1052] declaring the whole island reserved for the purpose of establishing thereon a United States fish-culture station, and warned all persons to depart therefrom. In July, 1893, claimant was informed of this proclamation by agents of the government, and ordered to leave the island, which it did, and has not returned thereto. On January 15, 1895, the Commissioner of the General Land Office, in passing upon the survey transmitted to him, addressed a letter to the Surveyor General, calling attention to the President's proclamation, and rejected the survey on that ground, as well as upon the ground that the survey was not in square form, as required by statute. No appeal was taken from his decision.

The court found as a conclusion of law that claimant was not entitled to recompense for the value of the improvements, nor for the loss of profits arising from its removal from the island, but was entitled to recover the amount deposited for the expense of the survey.

Messrs. Alexander Britton and Aldis B. Browne for appellant.

[Argument of Counsel from pages 572-574 intentionally omitted]

Mr. Frederick DeCourcy Faust and Assistant Attorney General Pradt for appellee.

Statement by Mr. Justice Brown: Mr. Justice Brown delivered the opinion of the court:


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).