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Collection Meeting of Frontiers

Popular Culture

This essay was published in 2000 as part of the original Meeting of Frontiers website.

Most Americans discovered Alaska through popular culture, first with the reporting and sensationalizing of the gold rush and then with the memorialization of the gold rush in fiction and film. Jack London, an unsuccessful Klondike prospector, wrote stories of his Alaska experiences for various magazines, and then collected them in his first book, The Son of the Wolf (1900). London's heroes are often supermen, and sometimes superdogs, fighting for justice in a frozen North.

Another popular writer of Alaskan fiction was Rex Beach. Beach also joined the Alaskan gold rush and then wrote about it in magazine articles and novels such as The Spoilers (1905). The latter told the story of one mine owner's resistance to a conspiracy to defraud him of his claim. The Spoilers remained Beach's most popular novel and was filmed five times between 1914 and 1955; the 1942 version starred John Wayne and Marlene Dietrich.