The book, based on the accounts of dozens of prospectors, follows the first gold-seekers from their arrival in 1873 until the stampede to the Klondike in 1896. Gates captures the essence of these early years of the gold rush, about which very little has been written. He chronicles the trials, hearbreaks, and successes of the unique and hardy individualists who searched for gold in the wilderness. With names like Swiftwater Bill, Crooked Leg Louie, Slobbery Tom, and Tin Kettle George, these men lived in total isolation beyond the borders of civilization. They were often eccentrics and outcasts, who shaped their own rules, their own justice, and their own social order.
Michael Gates is Curator of Collections for Klondike National Historic Sites in Dawson, Yukon.
This meticulous study ientifies the major implications of attempting to “MacDonalize” the delivery of social services.
Gates presents an especially vivid picture of the material and social lives of Yukon prospectors. Piecing together an array of primary sources, the author vividly describes how white miners endured the harsh and remote environment; the struggle to obtain food, heat and shelter; the problem of mining in frozen earth; and the danger of travel in northern winters. Maps and numerous photographs illustrate the anecdotes. Gates succeeds admirably in his goal of showing that “the life of the miners was very difficult indeed (p. xii).” Historians of material culture, especially, will welcome this addition to the growing literature on mining camp life.
A fine introduction to the pre-Klondike history of the Yukon River valley, and an excellent primer for historians interested in the years leading up to the great gold rush in the North.