Unfortunately, getting there was half the battle. Prospectors came one of three ways: up the White Pass Trail or “Trail of the Dead Horses,” up the Chilkoot Trail or down the Yukon River from Alaska. Although it would probably be considered an extreme sport today, there was nothing fun and thrilling about the journey, which was fraught with dangerous weather, rugged terrain and almost impenetrable passes.
One of the worst impediments to the gold-rushers was the Northwest Mounted Police, who strictly enforced the rule requiring the “stampeders” to carry a year’s supply of goods — about a ton, more than half of it food — over the passes to be allowed to enter Canada.
Once on the other side, the only way to travel the 500 miles to Dawson City was by water – the cold, icy waters of Lakes Lindemann, Bennett and Tagish – forcing the stampeders to build their own boats and traverse many sets of dangerous rapids.
Those who survived the perilous journey mostly found disappointment once they reached Dawson City. Locals had already claimed all of the gold-bearing creeks, and claims of “gold for the taking” were grossly exaggerated. For many of them, this was the final blow; they sold their outfits and headed home. Those who stayed felt lucky to find jobs in the bustling town or work someone else’s claim.
Students participating in the second annual Junior Fellows Summer Intern Program discovered an item in the Library’s copyright deposits from the bygone era of the Klondike Gold Rush. A board game titled the “Post Klondike Game” was submitted for copyright in 1898 by The Boston Post Publishing Co. Players begin their journey from Boston, Mass., and experience many of the actual hardships awaiting prospectors on their way to Dawson City.
The interns found a gold mine of other treasures during their summer quest to sort these copyright deposits, including a series of photographs taken in 1894 by Veazie Wilson featuring actress Esther Lyons as “The Klondike Girl” on an expedition to the Yukon. According to the interns’ research, Lyons was touring the East and Midwest during that time and may not have been on the trip. The same photographs, without Lyons pictured, appeared in other publications later that decade, leading the interns to conclude, along with others, that her image had been superimposed on Wilson’s photographs.