Saturday, August 6, 2011
Time to head back to the wild days of the Klondike Gold Rush. And wild days they were.
Gold Mountain is on schedule for a May 2012 release and I am sitting down this morning to begin plotting out the next Klondike Gold Rush book. No title as of yet, but ideas are simmering. Last night when I pulled out my history books to start getting back into the sense of the time period, I thought it might be fun over the next year to post things of interest on this blog, for anyone wanting to know more about the background to the books. I’ll try to keep to a regular schedule of Klondike Fridays. Yes, yes, today is Saturday, but I only thought of the idea last night.
One of the reasons the Klondike Gold Rush is so well known (and so darned easy to research) is that it was not only the last great gold rush, but it was also the only one to be captured extensively on film.
You all know those iconic images of the lines of packers trudging up a 45 degree slope in the snow.
In the 1890s, the camera and all necessary supplies for it had become small enough that photographers were able to get out of their studios and stiffly posed portraits and take their camera not only into the streets but also the mountains and the gold fields and peoples’ homes. Thus we have a fully documented photographic record of the period.
Some were professional photographers, perhaps the best known of which was Eric A Hegg, who opened a studio in Dawson City and made a living taking photographs of Klondike scenes to sell in an early version of the postcard. There were many amateurs as well, people who loved their cameras and the new art of photographer such as George Hicks. The White Pass & Yukon Route company employed a full time photographer, Harry Barley, to keep company owners and shareholders informed about the progress of the railway.
One of the books I rely most on for my research is The Klondike Quest: A Photographic Essay 1897-1899 by Pierre Berton. It’s a big beautiful book packed with wonderful photos of the amazing people who made the great journey to the promised land.
That the promised land didn’t turn out to be quite so promising will be the subject of my next posting.