The popular image of the Klondike is of a rush of white, male adventurers who overcame great physical and geographical obstacles in their quest for gold. Young, white, single American men carried forward the ideals and structures of the western frontier. It was a man's world made respectable only after the turn of the century with the arrival of white, middle class women who miraculously swept out the corners of dirt and vice and 'civilized' the society. These impressions endure despite recent attempts to correct them.
Gamblers and Dreamers tackles some of the myths about the history of the North in the era of the gold rush. Though many inhabitants came and went, Charlene Porsild focuses on the concept of community commitment to show that many put down roots. This in-depth study of Dawson City at the turn of the century reveals that the city had a cosmopolitan character, a stratified society, and a definite permanence. It examines the lives of First Nations peoples, miners and other labourers, professionals, merchants, dance hall performers and sex trade workers, providing fascinating detail about those who left homes and jobs to strike it rich in the last great gold rush of the nineteenth century. In the process, Gamblers and Dreamers puts a human face on this compelling period of history.
Charlene Porsild was born in the Yukon and raised in northern Alberta. She teaches Canadian and American History at the University of Nebraska and is the editor of the Great Plains Quarterly journal. She is a well known expert on the Klondike and has appeared on PBS for the "Gold Fever" episode of The American Experience (aired in Canada on May 12, 1997).
Porsild's pioneering work is the first social history of the Klondike gold rush based on primary and archival research. ... Until now, no one has tackled the tremendous wealth of diaries and private papers housed in the various provincial and territorial archives to give a fully rounded picture of life in Dawson City and the gold fields at the beginning of the 20th century ... Excellent illustrations. All levels.
Charlene Porsild could walk the Chilkoot Trail blindfolded. She knows every rock and stone along the way, every acre of fire-scarred earth ... the information she uncovered ... Has challenged myths about the Yukon at the turn of the last century.
Porsild ... Exhaustively examined Dawson census records and carefully considered hundreds of goldrush diaries and personal memoirs. Her conclusions, published in Gamblers and Dreamers: Women, Men, and Community in the Klondike, may force a revision of the popular images ... The inclusion of many fine old photographs make this an especially worthwhile work.