Klondike Fever: The Life and Death of the Last Great Gold Rush

Klondike Fever: The Life and Death of the Last Great Gold Rush

by Pierre Berton


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In 1897 a grimy steamer docked in Seattle and set into epic motion the incredible succession of events that Pierre Berton's exhilarating, now classic The Klondike Fever chronicles in all its splendid and astonishing folly. For in its hold the steamer bore two tons of pure Klondike gold. Immediately, the stampede north to Alaska began, Easily as many as 100,000 adventurers, dreamers, and would-be miners from all over the world -- most of them in total ignorance of the territory's long, harsh winters and indomitable terrain -- struck out for the remote, isolated Klondike Valley gold fields. Not even a third of them would reach their destination. Some would strike gold. Berton's story belongs less to the few who made fabulous fortunes of Alaskan gold than to the many swept by gold mania to unfortunate, often tragic ends. It is a story of cold skies and avalanches, of con men and gamblers and dance-hall girls, of sunken ships, of suicides, of dead horses and desperate men, of grizzly old miners and millionaires. It is a story of the land, of its exploitation and revenge. It is a story of the human capacity to dream. And to endure.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781567318548
Publisher: MJF Books
Publication date: 03/15/2007
Pages: 457
Product dimensions: 5.66(w) x 8.48(h) x 1.63(d)

About the Author

Pierre Berton was one of Canada’s most popular and prolific authors. From narrative histories and popular culture, to picture and coffee table books to anthologies, to stories for children to readable, historical works for youth, many of his fifty books are now Canadian classics.

Born in 1920 and raised in the Yukon, Pierre Berton worked in Klondike mining camps during his university years. He spent four years in the army, rising from private to captain/instructor at the Royal Military College in Kingston. He spent his early newspaper career in Vancouver, where at 21 he was the youngest city editor on any Canadian daily. He wrote columns for and was editor of Maclean’s magazine, appeared on CBC’s public affairs program “Close-Up” and was a permanent fixture on “Front Page Challenge” for 39 years. He was a columnist and editor for the Toronto Star and was a writer and host of a series of CBC programs.

Pierre Berton received over 30 literary awards including the Governor-General’s Award for Creative Non-Fiction (three times), the Stephen Leacock Medal of Humour, and the Gabrielle Leger National Heritage Award. He received two Nellies for his work in broadcasting, two National Newspaper awards, and the National History Society’s first award for “distinguished achievement in popularizing Canadian history.” For his immense contribution to Canadian literature and history, he was awarded more than a dozen honourary degrees, is a member of the Newsman’s Hall of Fame, and is a Companion of the Order of Canada.

Pierre Berton passed away in Toronto on November 30, 2004.

Table of Contents

Prelude: "... beyond that last blue mountain barred with snow ..."3
Chapter 1Of a fateful encounter between a prospector and a squawman on the banks of a salmon stream called Thron-diuck, and what that led to34
Chapter 2How Dawson was born, Circle City died, legends were lived, and fortunes won without the world being the wiser65
Chapter 3Of treasure ships laden with gold by the ton and bearing the germs of an endemic disease called "Klondicitis," which drove a continent to madness96
Chapter 4Being the tale of the Dead Horse Trail, where, every beast being expendable, men themselves became beasts146
Chapter 5A chapter of paradoxes: of money that would buy nothing; of contestants who won a race, yet lost the prize; of a golden mountain that all could see but few could find; of a starvation winter when none needed relief save those who brought it171
Chapter 6A chapter of deceptions, in which the easiest ways to wealth turn out to be the weariest and survival becomes sweeter than any fortune201
Chapter 7An unbroken line of men, stretching into the cold skies, provides the stampede with its most memorable spectacle on the slopes of the Chilkoot Pass244
Chapter 8How thirty thousand souls, in seven thousand homemade craft, were convoyed safely down five hundred miles of uncharted water to the city of gold268
Chapter 9How Dawson City, flooded first by water, then by men, was transformed into a glittering metropolis of the north, where sounds of the human carnival were never stilled (except on the Sabbath)288
Chapter 10Being a faithful account of the rise, reign, and violent death of Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith, the dictator of Skagway333
Chapter 11Nourished by gold, the "San Francisco of the North" runs wild for a year, burns itself out, and enters its long decline366
Coda: "... the fault is not in the wealth, but in the mind ..."417
A Note on Sources439

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The Klondike Fever: The Life And Death Of The Last Great Gold Rush 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
mahallett on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
quite interesting but i couldn't remember much of it. so many characters, so many wild stories
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very thorough account of the Klondike Gold Rush. I knew very little about the events of this phenomenon. The book does a wonderful job of describing the discovery of gold and excitement the news produced around the world, followed by the trials and tribulations of the thousands who attempted to get there. It goes into detail describing the characters involved, the difficult environment they endured, their triumphs and downfalls. If you’re interested in history and adventure, this book will not disappoint.
ksmyth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pierre Berton was a magnificent writer. His narrative style was comparable to Bruce Catton, or David McCullough. It's a pity he is gone. Berton grew up in the Yukon, and this is his portrait of the gold rush of '98. He paints a magnificent picture of the trip in from Skagway and Dyea, the hazards of the trail and what the gold-seekers found when they got there. Berton also tells the tale of those who took alternative routes and the hazards they met.
resena More than 1 year ago
Working in western Canada in the '70s, I was very familiar with Pierre Berton and his writing....from watching Canadian TV. A very rough equivalent to Berton in that setting would be our senior journalist Tom Brokaw, who is appearing on USA TV now. This book is not just about the facts of the Klondike gold rush; it emphasizes the mindset of the "madness" that drove people to risk their lives for gold. Decades after I lived in Canada, I just now got around to reading this book by Berton. It has been very helpful to me in preparing for my first trip to the Yukon this spring. This large paperback book is literally heavy. So do not plan on taking it with you on your trip to the northwest. Read it first. Then travel.
Terrill_Langtree More than 1 year ago
This book is a hidden gem; it's one of the most entertaining books I've ever read. I originally picked up this book on the Klondike after reading Jack London's Call of the Wild. I had an interest in learning more about the '97 Gold Rush, saw this book at Barnes & Noble and decided to purchase it. Barton (the author) writes with flash and is able to create an absorbing "tale" about a historic event. Although it is essentially a collection of historic bits and pieces. Barton crafts the chronological sequences like a master story teller. Everyone from Jack London, the shister "Soapy Smith", and the indominable Canadian Mounted Police are active and alive in Barton's accounts. This is a wonderful read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a fascinating history of the rich and poor, scoundrels and hopefuls, avaricious and just plain misguided argonauts of the Alaska Gold Rush! Reading it before touring Alaska would have made our recent tour more interesting. However, I enjoyed the book tremendously upon returning home. In the 1890's Alaska was truely the WILD West, and this book captures the experience in an easy-to-read style.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A thorough well written history of the larger-than-life characters and wild events that culminated in an exciting yet bizarre moment in the far American north-west. The book provides historical background to the interesting people and circumstances that preceded the gold find, how the discovery changed many lives for better and worse, and how the gold find produced a shock wave of gold fever across the continent. The personalities, unbeleivable hardships and lifestyles and the fickleness of fate and fortune are captured in a wonderfully flowing narrative. One really begins to appreciate the sacrifices, hardiness and endurance of the largely eccentric prospectors. The flavor and excitement of the wild events are colorfully reported. The many memorable anecdotes really provide a clear flavor of the times. This is how history should be learned and appreciated.