Many people came to Alaska to find gold. But many other people saw the gold rush as way to earn a living by selling services to the gold-seekers.
We have evidence that people planned ahead and knew before they came to Alaska that they would be something other than a miner. Read the letters sent by the Governor.
Can you figure out what questions people asked him by reading his responses?
Many towns in strategic locations became supply centers. What made a town have a strategic location? What types of supplies did the miners need?
Look at the photo taken in front of Reed's Store in Juneau.
What do you see in the picture? How would you describe the atmosphere while the picture was taken? Photographers, like writers, have a point of view. What do you think the view of this photographer was about mining and camp living?
Photographs show us what life was like in the mining camps and boom towns. What information about Valdez in 1907 can you learn from the picture "Goddess of Liberty"?
What was happening when this photograph was taken? Judging from this picture, do you think Valdez was an important town? What evidence do you have for your opinions?
If you were a miner physically working hard in the freezing outdoors, what things would you want from a town? One thing that towns provided was warm food. Look at the photograph of a dining room in Copper Center.
What objects do you see? Would you want to eat here? What does this picture tell you about life in a mining camp?
If you were in the restaurant business during the gold rush how would you make a profit? What kind of food would you provide? Would it be simple or fancy? How would you figure out the prices to charge? Look at the two menus from 1906 and the prices.
Were these prices fair? How could you find out?
We can piece together the stories of the Alaska gold rush partly because we have letters that miners wrote to their families. One of the early demands on a town was for communication with the outside world. Creating a post office was one of the solutions.
Look at the photograph "Arrival of the first mail in Nome".
What things to you see? What questions does the picture raise in your mind? What can we infer (conclude by reasoning) from this photograph about the importance of mail?
In addition to miners needing to communicate with their families, businesses needed a fast and reliable way to send and receive orders and information. Try to piece together the story of the fight for mail service on the Seward Peninsula. It is told through a series of documents by a group of businessmen in Seattle, Governor Clark of Alaska, and the Chamber of Commerce in Nome.
Can you tell who gets the mail service? Use the map to help identify the situation discussed in the documents. What do you think may have caused this flurry of messages back and forth? How common a problem do you think this was? Do people still fight to get improved communications?
Mining gold was hard work. Miners needed to entertain themselves and boom towns provided the ideal place. Boom towns became famous for providing a wide variety of cultural activities.
Gold discoveries on the Fortymile River in 1886 helped the town of Circle City become the supply point for the upper Yukon River area. The trading store owned by Napoleon "Jack" McQuesten and associates was a common meeting place for miners.
Look at the McQuesten and Co. store in 1894.
What things do you see in the picture? What can you infer about life in Circle City from the picture?
Look at the photograph of the Yukon Order of Pioneers 40-mile 1895(?).
Describe the men you see in the picture. What type of men do you think they are? Predict what type of entertainment and cultural activities they will establish in the coming years?
Another form of town government was the Miners Association.
Read the Preamble and first page of the Constitution of the Miners Association of Circle City. What was the purpose of the association? What types of power did this association give itself?
Many people think of wild saloons, gambling and carousing when they think of a boom town. Were other things important? The following documents provide an another look at the life of the miners in Circle City.