Tag Archives: Alaska

Gold! (16 Aug 1896)

Seattle Post Intelligencer Announcing Arrival of Yukon Gold, 17 Jul 1897
Seattle Post Intelligencer
Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The Klondike Gold Rush would begin when George Carmack, fishing for salmon in the Klondike River in Canada, would spot gold nuggets in the creek bed. This would lead to the last gold rush of the American West. While stories differ as to whether he or his other two companions actually spotted the gold nuggets, word of the gold strike spread across Canada and United States. Carmack and his companions staked a claim to the creek bed thick with gold. Over 50,000 would rush to the area to mine for gold. “Klondike Fever” ran high in both countries.

The fever reached its highest pitch in mid-July 1897 when two steamships from the Yukon arrived in San Francisco and Seattle bringing two tons of gold with them. This would spark the imagination of many to head north to strike it rich. A mine-fitter industry boomed selling what was called “Yukon kits” to these prospectors. These contained food, clothing and tools for the Yukon bound miner. Few, however, would strike it rich. The famous novelist Jack London, a young man at the time, found nothing but wrote short stories later of his Klondike experience. Many found when they got to the Yukon that the most promising areas had already been claimed by earlier prospectors.

Carmack would become rich and had over a $1 million worth of gold when he left. Many would sell their profitable stakes to mining outfits or organize themselves into their own mining companies. The gold fever would fade but the large scale gold mining in the Yukon would continue until 1966. By that time some $250 million in gold had been taken out of the Yukon Territory. Small gold mines still operate in the region.


History Channel (www.history.com):

National Park Service (www.nps.gov)

Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org)


The Klondike Gold Rush

Remembering History: Napoleon Defeated and Seward’s Folly (March 30)

Napoleon Defeated (30 March 1814)

The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries, 1812
Jacques-Louis David (1748–1825)
Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

Napoleon Bonaparte, who rose to power during the French Revolution and became emperor of France, was defeated when allied troops entered Paris on 30 March 1814. Since 1803, the Napoleonic War had inflamed Europe. England and other powers had united against France during this period. France had expanded its power into the heart of Europe, Portugal, Spain and the Mediterranean. His failed foray into Russia and his forces being ejected from Portugal and Spain, weakened his once powerful forces allowing for the invasion of France and the taking of Paris.

Why this Is Important

Napoleon was a major figure in European and French history. He reformed the French state after French Revolution, established and streamlined the justice system under the Napoleonic Code, and sought better relations with the Catholic Church. His military tactics (wins and loses) are still studied today in military academies around the world. The Napoleonic Code laid the basis for legal administration in France today and many of its former colonies.



Seward’s Folly

William H. Seward, Secretary of State 1861-69
Date Unknown
Public Domain/U.S. Library of Congress, digital id cph.3a23003

In a purchase ridiculed at the time, U.S. Secretary of State William Seward purchased Alaska from Russia for $7 million. While it only cost 2 cents an acre, it was widely jeered in the press and politicians alike. It was nicknamed “Seward’s Folly” and other names as well. Russia had tried to sell it to the U.S. prior to the Civil War, but talks stopped when the war began. Seward believed the landmass was important for the country. Others were not so sure and took a lot of convincing to get the Senate to ratify the treaty. The U.S. Senate ratified the treaty on 9 April 1867 and the formal transfer was at Fort Sitka on October 18, 1867.

At first settlement was slow (getting there required taking a ship on the Pacific side and sailing up to a port) but in 1898 gold was discovered causing a rapid influx of prospectors and of course businesses to support them. Other resources were found in due course allowing Alaska to grow into a prosperous territory (albeit a cold one). Alaska would become the 49thstate when it was admitted to the union on 3 January 1959. The folly turned out to be golden instead.

Why this is Important
The purchase of Alaska expanded the territory of the United States substantially. The West Coast borders of the country were now forming up. California and Oregon were now states and Washington would soon follow in 1889. The rich resources of Alaska would also contribute as well. By the end of the 19th century, the United States had grown across a continent with cities and settlements on each end and within it.