Stampede Gold fever and disaster in the Klondike

Brian Castner

Book - 2021

"A gripping and wholly original account of the epic human tragedy that was the great Klondike Gold Rush of 1897-1898"--

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New York : Doubleday [2021]
Main Author
Brian Castner (author)
First edition
Physical Description
269 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
Includes bibliographical references.
Contents unavailable.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Journalist Castner (Disappointment River) paints a dramatic and frequently gruesome portrait of the Klondike gold rush. In July 1896, prospector George Carmack discovered in a Yukon River tributary "so much gold layered in the slabs of bedrock, he thought they looked like cheese sandwiches." He staked two claims for himself and his brother-in-law, and rushed to the settlement of Fortymile to file legal paperwork, setting off the largest gold stampede in U.S. history. In 1897, more than 100,000 people set out for the Klondike, most of them woefully ill-prepared for the harsh conditions. According to Castner, 75% of the would-be prospectors "were shipwrecked, shot, suffocated, frozen, starved, drowned, or gave up and went home." Castner brings the survivors to vivid life, including Arthur Arnold Dietz, who set out with 18 men across the Malaspina Glacier in Alaska to reach the gold strike. Only four survived; the rest fell in crevices, died of scurvy, suffocated in avalanches, or starved to death during their two-year ordeal. Castner also profiles Jack London, who came down with scurvy in the Klondike, and hotelier Belinda Mulrooney, who lost her fortune when Dawson City was destroyed by fire in 1899. Packed with evocative details and colorful personalities, this immersive history captures the tragic consequences of "gold fever." (Apr.)

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Review by Library Journal Review

In his latest history, Castner (Disappointment River) shows how the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897--98 quickly turned to dross. During a terrible economic depression, tens of thousands of Americans swarmed to the Klondike River region of Canada's Yukon when they learned about the discovery of gold, landing in a harsh environment during a harsh winter and soon facing avalanches, starvation, robbery, murder, and death by frostbite.

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A tangy tale of the 19th century's last, storied gold rush, timed for its 125th anniversary. Journalist and Iraq War veteran Castner, who chronicled a comrade's battlefield death in the excellent All the Ways We Kill and Die (2016), has a fine time depicting the salty, seldom virtuous figures who drifted north to Alaska following the acquisition of the Russian territory in the purchase known as "Seward's Folly." There was no folly in it, for the deal opened up a vast new land to economic exploitation, as manifested by the mass arrival of gold-seekers in 1896. Invoking the rational actor theory of economics, the author observes that the boom served the interests of only a very few people in a whirl of pyramid schemes and other scams: "Perhaps 'Klondicitis' was the best term for the infectious cloudiness of reason that ran amok," he writes, also chronicling the racism and contempt for Native peoples that characterized the era. Soon every loose hand in the world, it seemed, was on the way to Dawson City, Juneau, and points north, looking to get rich. Castner's dramatis personae includes the best known of them all, Jack London, who arrived poor and left pretty much that same way--but with a trove of stories that he would turn into bestsellers. Others are less well known, including a star-crossed band of New Yorkers who were caught by "avalanches, driving winds, plunging temperatures that broke their thermometers" and were reduced to eating their dogs. There's a lot of swagger and a lot of swishing skirts in Castner's pages, rife with entertaining accounts of all seven deadly sins, but many of his unfortunates bow in and disappear, even as "the circus left almost as soon as it arrived." A vigorous historical page-turner packed with a cast of decidedly colorful (and off-color) actors. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.