Klondikers Bound North, BC, 1898

Photograph Information

Source: Vancouver Archives
Source Link: AM1376-: CVA 137-95
Photographer: SJ Thompson
Date: 1898

Colourization notes

There was a little clean up to do on this image before colourization. The lower left of the image was damaged and needed some repair. Once that was done the main problem was the sheer number of people in the image. I automated some of the steps to colour each person and I need to ensure that everyone didn’t look the same – varying the skin tones, the colour of the clothes etc. But … 103 men, 4 women and 19 pipes it was done!

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About Klondikers

On August 16, 1896 Yukon-area Indians Skookum Jim Mason and Tagish Charlie, along with Seattleite George Carmack found gold in Rabbit Creek, near Dawson, in the Yukon region of Canada. The creek was promptly renamed Bonanza Creek, and many of the locals started staking claims. Gold was literally found all over the place, and most of these early stakeholders (who became known as the “Klondike Kings”) became wealthy.

Since the Yukon was so remote, word of this find spread relatively slowly for almost a year. On July 17, 1897, eleven months after the initial discovery of gold, the steamship Portland arrived in Seattle from Dawson with “more than a ton of gold”, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. With that pronouncement, the Klondike Gold Rush was on!

Within six months, approximately 100,000 gold-seekers set off for the Yukon. Only 30,000 completed the trip. Many Klondikers died, or lost enthusiasm and either stopped where they were, or turned back along the way. The trip was long, arduous, and cold. Klondikers had to walk most of the way, using either pack animals or sleds to carry hundreds of pounds of supplies. The Northwest Mounted Police in Canada required that all Klondikers bring a year’s worth of supplies with them. Even so, starvation and malnutrition were serious problems along the trail. The story of the Klondiker who boiled his boots to drink the broth was widely reported, and may well have been true. Cold was another serious problem along the trail. Winter temperatures in the mountains of northern British Columbia and the Yukon were normally -20 degrees F., and temperatures of -50 degrees F. were not unheard of. Tents were usually the warmest shelter a Klondiker could hope for.

An even larger problem was the trails themselves. Klondikers had two choices: the Chilkoot Trail or the White Pass Trail. The White Pass Trail originated in Skagway, Alaska, where Jefferson “Soapy” Smith, a con-man from Denver, had taken over the town. Smith had set up operations in a saloon/casino called Jeff’s Place and led a gang of 300 men, whom he referred to as his “lambs” to fleece Klondikers arriving to take part in the gold rush. He also perpetrated the first telegraph scam in Alaska. Smith put up poles and wires, but they weren’t actually connected to anything. Nevertheless, he took cash from Klondikers eager to wire home. The Chilkoot Trail, on the other hand, wasn’t a better option, although it had fewer outlaws. It was steeper than the White Pass Trail, and few were fully prepared for how difficult it was. Many suffered malnutrition and/or died along the trails. Some Klondikers became sick or died from eating the meat of the dead horses found on the White Pass Trail, and it soon became known as the “Dead Horse Trail”. Men reportedly went insane on the trail. It is possible that this diet (or lack thereof) contributed to the reports of insanity.

With the influx of the 30,000 who did make it over the trails, Dawson temporarily became the largest city north of San Francisco. It was no longer a tent city, but a bona-fide city, with more amenities than one might imagine. Dawson had fire hydrants on the streets, and was the first city in western Canada to have electric lights. People also felt safe in Dawson. The Northwest Mounted Police kept order in Canada, and nefarious characters such as Soapy Smith were not allowed entry. The growth of Dawson was largely responsible for the creation of the Yukon Territory as a new Canadian Province on June 13, 1898.

Nor was Dawson the only Canadian city to have dramatic growth due to the Klondike Gold Rush. Vancouver, British Columbia saw its population double, and in Alberta, Edmonton’s population tripled.

Description from https://content.lib.washington.edu/extras/goldrush.html