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Klondike: The Last Great Gold Rush, 1896-1899 Paperback – Oct 9 2001

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Klondike: The Last Great Gold Rush, 1896-1899 + The Klondike Quest: A Photographic Essay 1897-1899 + The Arctic Grail: The Quest for the North West Passage and the North Pole, 1818-1909
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor Canada; 1 edition (Oct. 9 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385658443
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385658447
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.9 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 522 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #25,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

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After California, the Fraser River, and the Cariboo came the Klondike. In the winter of 1896-1897, when news leaked out that gold had been discovered in the tributaries of the Yukon River, a stampede was ignited that would draw thousands of men, women, and children from all over the continent on a frenzied, desperate quest for the yellow mother lode. Almost instantaneously, this mass movement of people, animals, and supplies to the arctic Eldorado led to the creation of towns and institutions in a boreal desert. Furthermore, it compelled the American and Canadian governments to define the borders between Alaska and the Yukon, and so heralded the building of a nation. In Klondike: The Last Great Gold Rush, 1896-1899, revised since its first publication in 1958, popular historian Pierre Berton tackles this momentous, topsy-turvy episode in Canadian and American history with a gusto that does his subject credit.

Berton introduces his readers to a cast of some pretty colourful characters, from all walks of life and of all dispositions. Among them are George Carmack and his Indian relatives, Skookum Jim and Tagish Charley, who first discovered gold in the Klondike. Father William Judge was a Jesuit missionary whose tireless efforts on behalf of those afflicted with typhoid, malaria, dysentery, and scurvy earned him the moniker of "The Saint of Dawson." "Soapy" Smith, the autocrat of Skagway, set up an extensive network of spies and confidence men throughout the north that prefigured the secret police systems established by the great dictators of the 20th century. "Swiftwater Bill" Gates was an abstainer who bathed in champagne, a bigamist who seduced his own teenage step-niece, and a lucky prospector who lost his fortunes even more quickly than he made them. Another prospector, "Big Alex" McDonald, the "King of the Klondike," acquired dozens of mining properties in his lust for land, but for him, gold was always just "trash." Silent Sam Bonnifield, the legendary gambler, opened the Bank Saloon. Belinda Mulroney, a coal-miner's daughter from Pennsylvania, made her fortune by her peerless and fearless entrepreneurial zest, and became the first woman mining manager in the North--and a countess to boot. And, of course, there's Sam Steele, the legendary superintendent of the Mounted Police, the "Lion of the Yukon," whose tight rein on the passes is credited with saving countless lives. But apart from the named dozens are the horrific yet inspiring stories of thousands of men and women who braved indescribable odds in their race to strike it rich, crossing glaciers, trudging through poisonous swamplands, climbing mountains, canoeing swirling rapids, succumbing to snow blindness, bitter cold, and starvation, falling into the snares of swindlers and the cheats, and facing their own greed and naïveté. The toll in human--and animal--life and limb was unprecedented in gold rush history.

This is great history told with unrestrained relish. Berton has written a valuable, comprehensive history of the last great gold rush, and added another important chapter to his series on nation-building, which includes The National Dream and The Last Spike. In addition to talking about the characters who made the Klondike and in turn were made or broken by it, he maps the perilous alternate routes: overland from Edmonton through the Peace River, the Ashcroft and Stikine Trails, the White and Chilkoot Passes, the "Rich Man's Route" along the Yukon River, and the "All-American Routes" over Alaska's Valdez and Malaspina Glaciers. He discusses the conflicts that arose between the Americans and Canadians, the distinct codes of ethics that prevailed on either side of the border, and how they influenced the atmosphere in the gold-rush cities. Berton sifts fact from fiction and mythmaking. He notes, for example, that Robert Service, the Yukon poet laureate, was never in the Klondike during the gold rush, as he was hobo-ing around Mexico at the time; he only came to the Yukon after it was all over. As an aid to the reader, Berton provides maps of the routes and discoveries, legends of the major characters, a chronology of significant events, and a comprehensive bibliography for those interested in studying the topic further. But even more than simply good history, Klondike is riveting storytelling. Berton's muscular prose is sure to keep the reader turning pages. --Diana Kuprel


"A fascinating book of permanent value." —The Globe and Mail

"A comprehensive and absolutely first-rate history." —The New Yorker

"An epic account … fascinating and exciting." —The Observer, London

"Pierre Berton writes 24-carat gold." —The Edmonton Journal

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The Russians were the first on the river, in 1834, but they cared not a hoot for gold; no more than the natives who had given the river its name of Yukon, meaning "The Greatest." Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By bensmomma on May 10 2004
Format: Paperback
This is the best-written, most entertaining history book I've read in ages. What an amazing story! In January 1897, a message went out from Dawson City in the isolated Yukon Territory of Canada: gold had been discovered! It took until July for anyone to notice, but then it seemed like the whole world stampeded toward the Klondike. Most did not make it over the mountains before winter, but were stuck in lawless Skagway, Alaska, enduring frostbite, graft, and privation, until arriving in Dawson in June of 1898. Suddenly, Dawson went from a few tents to as many as 10,000 people; then, in August of 1899, a rumor of gold in Nome, Alaska emptied the town as quickly as a fire: 8,000 people left in the course of a week.
Berton spins a might good yarn: careless prospectors paying for drinks with gold dust; dance-hall girls; wiley villains like the infamous Soapy Smith, boss of Skagway's underworld; heroic Mounties keeping order over treacherous mountain passes. All of this is the result of an enormous amount of primary research: in the 1950's Berton personally interviewed a large number of the last survivors of the stampede, and appears to have memorized every printed word, published and unpublished, ever written on the subject.
Berton caps off his expert handling of the narrative with a wonderful chapter reflecting on the meaning of the Klondike rush for the American and Canadian national characters. I was charmed to discover, at the very end, that Berton's parents were prospectors and that he himself grew up in Dawson, almost a ghost town, playing among the abandoned gold dredges and cast-off dance slippers.
This 2001 version of "Klondike" is significantly updated from the 1958 original; it's considerably longer and reflects many new primary sources. "Klondike Fever" still available via Amazon (ISBN 0786713178), is the older and less up-to-date book. This 2001 edition is the one you want!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rodge TOP 50 REVIEWER on July 16 2011
Format: Paperback
Pierre Berton has written a number of truly great works of Canadian history, at least if you consider history as written for a wide audience. Almost singlehandedly, he rescues Canadian history from the grave of boredom with numerous thrilling tours of mind-boggling times. The Klondike gold rush was certainly one of those. Berton gets at the various angles of this rush, the different ways people got to the Klondike, the scoundrels in Skagway who fleeced them on the way, and ultimately Dawson City itself, crazy and unrivalled for one mad year. 20,000 greenhorns braved the ice, the mountains, the privations and it makes for one unforgettable tale.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on Nov. 28 1998
Format: Paperback
Berton is by far the best historical author of our times. The characters that make up our history come alive with every page that is read. For anyone that has felt the lure of gold, this is a book is a must have.
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Format: Paperback
This forgotten piece of Canadian and American history is brought back to life. Berton vividly describes the characters and treats each one with care. His enthusiasm is easy to catch and the stories of hardship, greed, friendship and fun describe the atmosphere well. Crooks, lawmen and fortune seekers come together to weave incredible tales that fiction could never touch. Although I was not particularly interested in this era of history, I must admit this is one of the best histories I have read. I would have preferred some pictures to link with the stories and perhaps some better maps. Otherwise, a strong recommendation.
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Format: Paperback
If all history books were like this one, we would have a lot more History Majors. Berton has taken a time in the past and written a wonderful book. The trouble and hardship that these people of a by-gone era are willing to endure and die for is unbelievable. Fiction can't touch what actually happened in the late 1800's as thousands headed North for what was to be the last great gold rush.
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