Why Take a Risk: The Dream of Finding Gold

On board S.S. Senator on last voyage from Nome to Seattle Season 1909, Pacific Ocean, November 5th. Simmer, photographer, William W. and Neeta Tobey Sale Collection.

     What makes something so valuable that people are willing to take a great risk to get it? What risks did people take to find gold?

     What does an adventurer look like? Pictures tell us an important part of a story, if you know how to read them. Luckily we have hundreds of pictures taken during the Alaska gold rush era that show us what life was like.

     Study the photograph. Examine the details you see in the photograph. What is your overall impression of the place, time and people? What people, objects and activities do you see? Based on your observations, list three things you might infer (conclude by reasoning) from this photograph.

     What questions does the picture raise in your mind? How will you answer your questions? Consider an Internet search or use a library.

What things inspired them?

     What was going on in the rest of the world during 1880-1914, the years of the Alaska gold rush era? Think about how people lived, how they traveled and what problems they may have been facing. Newspapers, magazines and even songs help tell the story about sudden riches and adventure. Music has the power to inspire people. It even had the power to inspire people all over the world to think about finding gold in Alaska.

     Here are three song sheets written about the Alaska gold rush during 1897-1899.

Music song sheet: With the Gold I'll Bring from the Klondike ca. 1898. 5 pages.
(audio file)

Music song sheet: Klondike Gold ca. 1898. 4 pages.

Music song sheet: To the Klondike We've Paid our Fare ca. 1898. 4 pages.

     Look at the covers of the song sheets. What do you see? What was the illustrator trying to show? Do you think the pictures are accurate? Compare all three covers. Which one do you like best? Why?

     Read the lyrics (the words) to the songs. What is the songwriter trying to say? Which particular words in the songs do you think inspired people the most? Do some words seem "old-fashioned"? What ideas about the past do these songs give you? Describe what you think America was like in 1898 based on things you found or can infer from the songs.

     Print out your favorite song sheet. Find someone who can read music. Have them play one of the pieces on a musical instrument. How does the music make you feel? What was the purpose of a song like this?

What risks did they take to find gold?

Death in Dyea: Newspaper clipping from Dayton Herald (Oregon), Oct. 1, 1897.

     It was difficult for people living in other parts of the world to really understand the dangers involved in finding gold. Newspapers, books, magazine and stories told about the dangers. But the gold seekers still came by the thousands. Maybe they didn't believe what they heard. What risks would you be willing to take to reach your dream?

     When you read information you must learn to evaluate the source. Read the following newspaper article published October 1, 1897: Death in Dyea.

     Judging from what you read, did the writer have firsthand knowledge of the event? Where did the writer get his information? What was the purpose of the news story? Is it believable? Why or why not?

Overview I Why Take a Risk? I Who Strikes it Rich? I Is it Fair?

Homepage I Alaska's Gold Lode I The Discovery of Gold I Traveling to the Gold Fields
Gold Mining I Daily Life Our Legacy I The Edgren Saga I Gold Rush Stories
Image Archives I Teacher's Guide I LinksI Contact Us

Alaska's Gold was developed through a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission by the Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums, the Alaska Dept. of Education and Early Development.  1999.  All rights reserved.   Alaska Gold Themes written by Cristine Crooks, Alaska Consultants in Education.  Alaska's Gold Themes website developed by WEBDesign.