What do I need for a trip to the gold fields?

Guidebook entitled "To the Klondike and Alaska Gold Fields" published by the Alaska Commercial Company, San Francisco, 1898.

      Before 1900 there were several gold discoveries throughout Alaska: Juneau in 1880, Forty-mile in 1886, and Circle City in 1893. But the 1896 discovery on Rabbit Creek in the Canadian Yukon started the great stampede that brought over 60,000 people north. Everyone had different reasons for going to the gold fields. But they all had a similar problem: getting there as quickly as possible. They needed the fastest, safest, and most affordable travel possible.

Where can you get reliable information?

     Today we have information at our fingertips about almost everything with the Internet, libraries, television and videos. In the 1890's there were also several ways to get information: books, newspapers, magazines, and letters. It was important for the gold-seekers to choose the most accurate and credible (believable) information, and that still is an important skill today.

How do you judge the reliability & accuracy of information?

   What makes a source reliable? Every source is biased in some way. What was the writer's point of view? Why did he or she provide the information? Will someone profit if you follow the advice or information? How do you think travelers in the last century judged the reliability of information? What factors might have influenced travelers to ignore the risks?

     Let's compare a few different types of information sources used by gold-seekers.


Letter sent by Governor recommending what to bring to Alaska. April 25,1886. 4 pages

Some people wrote to the Territorial Governor asking for information. How reliable and accurate do you think his information was?


From the Land of Gold: Newspaper clipping from Dayton Herald (Oregon) Feb. 25, 1898.
Many newspapers printed stories about going to Alaska and the Klondike. Do you think a newspaper would be a good source for information? Read the account by J.C. Nichols, writing for the Dayton Oregon Herald in February 25, 1898.


Cost for a miner's outfit. Miners'manual, United States, Alaska, the Klondike by Horace Fletcher Clark, 1898.
Handbooks, guidebooks and maps were quickly prepared, printed and sold to would-be prospectors. Many authors claimed to have actually made the journey themselves. What was the purpose of this type of miner's manual?

What should I take?

     The picture of the miners climbing over the Chilkoot Pass with 100 lbs. on their backs is a vivid image of the gold rush. The Canadian Mounted Police wanted to avoid the starvation problems faced by early prospectors.

Summit of Chilkoot Pass. Winters and Pond Collection.

A Gloomy Tale: Newspaper clipping from Dayton Herald (Oregon) Oct. 27, 1897.

Certificate of Exportation and Manifest of Merchandise from Chilkoot Summit, 1898.

     Entry into Canada required that you bring enough food and equipment to survive for one year or about 1,000 lbs. total. How do we know that the miners really took the 1000 lbs. required? Look at the Manifest of Merchandise and the Certificate of Exportation documents.

     What information and evidence do you see that would make you think that a miner took what was required?

     If at some point in your trip you had to carry everything you needed on your back, what would you bring?

     What would you leave behind? Study the picture of the travelers during the gold rush. Where do you think they are? What does it look like they are taking? Think about the difficulties of traveling. What do you predict will happen to these travelers?

     Gold-seekers were anxious to know what specific items they should bring. Let's look at the list of what was recommended for a prospector traveling to the Klondike. Read the article, "When and How to Outfit".

Newspaper: Skaguay News, December 31, 1897 page 6, left column.

Dyea Valley, Alaska, c. 1897.

     Which things would still be needed today to live and work outdoors in Alaska or the Klondike? What items have been replaced with more modern materials?

     What bias or personal interest might a newspaper have when it publishes a list? Read the advertisements. Which ones do you like? Why? Which advertisements seem most reliable? What information about a store influences your decision to shop there?

     Look at the list of what was recommended for a woman making the same trip to the Klondike.

     Who was the intended audience for the article "From Woman's Standpoint"? What significance could be inferred that one article has a writer's name and the other does not? How are the lists different? By comparing the recommended lists for men and women, what does it tell us about the beliefs and attitudes at that time?

Newspaper: Skaguay News, December 31, 1897 page 6, right column.

Newspaper: Skaguay News, December 31, 1897.

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What do I need for a trip to the gold fields? I Which way to the gold? I What will it be like on the way?
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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.