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Date of Award
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Thesis: EWU Only
Master of Arts (MA) in History
The Klondike Gold rush took place roughly 125 years ago, and much has been written about this event. I realize the challenge for me as a historian is to bring something new to the table that can add to this already well-researched and discussed topic. I am confident that this paper has done just that by telling the story of the Klondike Gold Rush in a unique way. This paper includes some of the most compelling firsthand accounts of the gold rush. These stories are then amplified by some of the best photographs ever taken of this event. Historical maps, illustrations, and newspaper articles are also included. As a result, this synthesis of materials gives us keen insight into the people who experienced the gold rush, and what they went through. This approach lends to a deeper overall understanding of the Klondike Gold Rush. I have come to understand that only by reading multiple accounts of certain aspects of the gold rush can we gain a deeper understanding of what took place. Similar to how a police officer may get multiple accounts and viewpoints from those who witnessed the same automobile accident, this same dynamic is present for those who witnessed events during the gold rush. Individual firsthand accounts, in and of themselves, cannot offer multiple perspectives on the gold rush. One of the most renowned writers during that time was a man by the name of Tappan Adney. Adney was a well-known journalist, photographer, and illustrator from New York who was sent north to the gold fields by his employer, Harpers Weekly, to cover the event. Adney’s keen observations and writing ability enabled him to write one of the best firsthand accounts of the gold rush. His book The Klondike Stampede is a must read for studying this event. Even still, Adney’s account is limited in the same way that other firsthand accounts are. Individually, these accounts are inherently lacking in their ability to give the reader a complete understanding of the gold rush from different perspectives. Only when they are taken in the aggregate can the historian shed an accurate light on events. This is something that this paper has attempted to do. There is a substantial number of secondary sources written by numerous historians about the Klondike Gold Rush. One such example is Pierre Berton’s four hundred- and-fifty-page book Klondike Fever: The Life and Death of the Last Great Gold Rush. Berton is arguably the most renowned author on the Klondike Gold Rush, and his book is perhaps the most extensive ever written on the subject. However, even in a book as extensive as his, Berton does not include a single photograph, sketch, newspaper article, or map to inform the reader. My interest has been to tell the complete story of the Klondike Gold Rush, making it as evocative as possible, while at the same time giving a deeper understanding of those who experienced it. It is my hope that some degree of latitude will be given for my liberal use of quotations, as my goal has been to let the stampeders tell as much of their stories as possible. The works by authors such as Pierre Burton and others have certainly added to this discussion. However, by taking the unique approach of combining some of the most gripping firsthand accounts with some of the best photographs, maps, sketches, and newspaper articles available from this time period, a better understanding of the Klondike gold rush emerges.
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 International License.
O'Riley, Brian M., "Stampede: the Klondike Gold Rush and the individuals who experienced it" (2021). EWU Masters Thesis Collection. 702.