Between 1896 and 1899, thousands of people lured by gold braved a grueling journey into the remote wilderness of North America. Within two years, Dawson City, in the Canadian Yukon, grew from a mining camp of four hundred to a raucous town of over thirty thousand people. The stampede to the Klondike was the last great gold rush in history.
Drawing on letters, memoirs, newspaper articles, and stories, Charlotte Gray delivers an enthralling tale of the gold madness that swept through a continent and changed a landscape and its people forever. In Gold Diggers, she follows six stampeders—Bill Haskell, a farm boy who hungered for striking gold; Father Judge, a Jesuit priest who aimed to save souls and lives; Belinda Mulrooney, a twenty-four-year-old who became the richest businesswoman in town; Flora Shaw, a journalist who transformed the towns governance; Sam Steele, the officer who finally established order in the lawless town; and most famously Jack London, who left without gold, but with the stories that would make him a legend.
“Gray has hit pay dirt with this hardscrabble history, a vibrant, detailed recreation of the frenzied boomtown of Dawson City.” —Publishers Weekly
“A fascinating, rich account . . . Readers can only be grateful to such a skilled writer and historian as Charlotte Gray to let us go to, feel, smell and wonder at such an astonishing place as Dawson City during the ephemeral gold rush.” —The Globe and Mail
The inspiration for the TV miniseries, Klondike.
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About the Author
CHARLOTTE GRAY is one of Canada’s best-known writers and the author of ten acclaimed books of literary non-fiction. Her most recent bestseller is The Promise of Canada: People and Ideas That Have Shaped Our Country. Her bestseller The Massey Murder: A Maid, Her Master and the Trial That Shocked a Country won the Toronto Book Award, the Heritage Toronto Book Award, the Canadian Authors Association Lela Common Award for Canadian History and the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Nonfiction Crime Book. It was shortlisted for the RBC Taylor Prize, the Ottawa Book Award for Non-Fiction and the Evergreen Award, and longlisted for the BC National Book Award for Non-Fiction. An adaptation of her bestseller Gold Diggers: Striking It Rich in the Klondike was broadcast as a television miniseries in 2014 on the US Discovery Channel.
An adjunct research professor in the department of history at Carleton University, Gray is the recipient of the Pierre Berton Award for distinguished achievement in popularizing Canadian history. She has chaired the boards of both Canada’s National History Society and the Art Canada Institute, and has served on the boards of PEN Canada and the Ottawa International Writers Festival. She has frequently served on Writers’ Trust committees and been a juror for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the RBC Taylor Prize, the City of Ottawa Book Prize and the Kobzar Literary Award. Charlotte Gray is a Member of the Order of Canada and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
Read an Excerpt
The gold dust weighed them down, it was so heavy, but they just grinned at each other as they shouldered the clumsy canvas backpacks and took the track to Dawson City. They soon found themselves in a crowd of grinning miners, heading towards Dawson’s saloons. Bill reckoned there were four hundred valuable claims stretched along Bonanza and Eldorado, and every digging was a fabulous mine of gold . . . Men who had stumbled over the rough trail in September, poor and disheartened, disgusted with their condition and sick of the country, came down in the spring as millionaires and threw their gold dust about like so much grass seed.” The men greeted each other as sourdoughs,” the nickname for those who had survived at least one brutal northern winter, living on bread made with wild yeast. Like Bill, these tough, emaciated men were clad in the prospectors’ uniform of thick wool pants held up with suspenders, heavy boots, worn flannel shirts and misshapen felt hats. Their eyes, like Bill’s, were bloodshot from wood smoke and bouts of snow-blindness, and the prevalence of tangled beards and unkempt moustaches made the crowd look like an assembly of Old Testament prophets. And like Bill, they poured into Dawson City, eager to put the bitter winter behind them.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A good thorough history of Dawson City and the Yukon Gold rush along the Trondike river, with a special focus on several of the city's characters: the old priest, the young Irish businesswoman, Jack London, and a royal mountie. She does have an annoying habit of throwing in little lecturettes about the Indians and the socialists though (At one point she actually insists that the gold rush would have been more efficient if it was run collectively.)
Via a review in my local newspaper, the non-fiction book, Gold Diggers: Striking it Rich in the Klondike caught my attention. I had never read a book about the Klondike Gold Rush, and through this book I learned so much.Despite being a non-fiction book- index, bibliography, sources and all ¿this book reads like an enthralling novel. Author Charlotte Gray draws on personal letters, diaries, books and poems written by both the well known and the lesser known people that populated the Klondike at that time in history.So many intriguing characters populate the book, to say nothing of the varied and fascinating events that unfold in the Klondike. Among the first to make the difficult journey to the Klondike is Bill Haskell, a rough and tumble character seeking fortune and adventure. Father William Judge, a Jesuit priest goes about his business of attempting to save souls, as well as building a hospital for this rough and ready town and helping others in a practical manner as he is able. Initially he is as close to the areas doctor as they have available. Father Judge is anything but judgmental, and is immune to gold fever or riches. He is well loved and celebrated by his fellow Klondikers. Belinda Mulrooney is an astute, prim young businesswoman far ahead of her time, building a small empire of hotels and businesses in the Yukon town. Author Charlotte Gray tells the story of the celebrated Klondike author Jack London with the ability that only the passage of time, access to his diaries and research can bring. Likewise I got to know the stern Mountie, Sam Steele in an intimate look into letters written to his wife, as well as through his diaries and the actions of the Canadian Government at the time. The stories of each of the main characters are both separate and interwoven along together with many other lesser characters that make up the Klondike. Charlotte Gray has thoroughly researched the characters and events both before and after the Gold Rush to create a wonderful, detailed overview. She touches on so many historical details and physical details of the area that I feel like I have experienced the Klondike Gold Rush personally.This non ¿fiction book reads like an exciting novel, and I truly hope others will be encouraged to read this lively, colourful and informative piece of Canadian history.