KLONDIKE GOLD RUSH

Boom Town of Skagway, Alaska

Boom Town of Skagway, Alaska

Within weeks after news of the Klondike gold discovery reached Seattle, Washington in the summer of 1897, Skagway, Alaska was transformed into a frontier boom town with saloons, cheap hotels, bawdy houses and supply stores. Skagway and nearby Dyea both served as the major jumping off points for the overland routes that led to the gold fields in Canada's Yukon Territory.

Miners climbing to Chilkoot Pass

Miners climbing to Chilkoot Pass

A line of prospectors begin their ascent toward the Chilkoot Pass that will take them over the border into Canada. Heavy snows in the fall of 1897 did little to stem the tide of fortune-seekers. Most of the arrivals were ill-prepared for what lay ahead as suggested by the fellow carrying a canoe on his back. Another carries a cumbersome crate labeled "Dyea" for the Alaskan town where many picked up supplies before heading out. Few of the thousands who set out had any skill at gold prospecting. Likewise, hardly any carried sufficient supplies so that over the next months the greatest danger facing the Klondike miners was famine.

Miners panning for gold

Miners panning for gold

Most of the first prospectors had little to work with other than mining pans and shovels. After the easy finds quickly played out, the more industrious crews set up larger operations that involved the massive processing of river bed material. In the end, as many as half of those who made it to the Klondike gold fields never did any prospecting; these men either found other work or turned around and walked back.

Hard Work and Horses

Hard Work and Horses

Prospectors in the Klondike gold fields use a team of horses to drag out river rock carried by a sluice from a nearby creek. With no powered machinery, all the heavy lifting was done largely by hand and the final stage always required manual panning.

Actresses cross Dyea River in Alaska

Actresses cross Dyea River in Alaska

A group of actresses crosses the Dyea River in Alaska heading for one of the new boom towns. The larger settlements featured theaters that usually played to large male audiences hungry for entertainment.

Showing Off Their Gold

Showing Off Their Gold

A mining crew displays a large gold nugget recovered from one of their sluices. Such finds were extremely rare and most miners were lucky to find a few ounces of hard-won dust.

Edible Pack Animals

Edible Pack Animals

Gold prospectors use a team of goats to haul supplies to the gold fields. Once the animals had delivered their loads, they were fattened, slaughtered and eaten. Pack animals were sometimes chosen as much for their meat quality as for their hauling capacity.

Tailings Pile

Tailings Pile

Miners stand next to a massive tailings pile in the heart of the Klondike gold fields. Moving and disposing of massive spoil piles demanded considerable time and labor.

Wives Pay A Visit

Wives Pay A Visit

Wives pay a visit to their husbands at a gold mine in the Klondike. As the gold rush dragged on, many miners brought their families along largely out of economic necessity. Although few struck it rich, the gold rush brought in thousands who ultimately help stimulate the development of Alaska and western Canada.

Group of Miners

Group of Miners

A group of miners employed by one of the Klondike's major claim holders pose with a young girl and a dog. Several years after the beginning of the gold rush, thousands of small claims were consolidated into fewer larger claims that could marshal the resources for mass processing and have some hope of turning a profit.

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