Throwback Thursday: Klondike Gold Rush 1896

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Klondike Gold Rush Image
Photo Credit: history.com

Klondike Rush Routes Image
Photo Credit: wikimedia.org

GOLD! It’s in them, there hills! August 16, 1896, gold was discovered in Dawson City, Bonanza Creek, Klondike River, Yukon, Canada. George Carmack, his wife Kate, her brother ‘Skookum’ Jim Mason (Keish) and Dawson (Tagish) Charlie began looking for gold on one of the river’s tributaries. History is still unclear on ‘who’ actually made the discovery but, George Carmack is generally referred to as the claim maker.

After the panics of 1893 and 1896, economic depression, inflation and unemployment were rampant. The Coinage Act of 1873 had destroyed the use of silver dollar coins, dropping the price of silver and ending bi-metallism. This prompted many to dash to the area in search of gold, leaving behind other jobs in a quest for adventure and financial security. Even author Jack London headed north for his fair share and many of his novels were born out of his experiences. Pacific port towns reaped the benefits of the traders and travelers, desperate to survive the economic downturn.

Very few walked away from Dawson City rich. George and Kate split and, George remarried, living fairly well on his earnings. Skookum Jim, though wealthy, continued to prospect until his death. Dawson Charlie spent money and drank too much, dying in an alcohol related accident. Most of the businessmen and miners died penniless. The damage to the area from the mining was extensive and, the Native people suffered from contaminated water and disease.

Although this song is based on a John Wayne movie, and the George mentioned isn’t the same George in history, it’s still apropos…and, a great song. It’s sad, though, that Johnny Horton died shortly before its release.

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