The Nature of Gold
An Environmental History of the Klondike Gold Rush
In this first environmental history of the gold rush, Kathryn Morse describes how the miners got to the Klondike, the mining technologies they employed, and the complex networks by which they obtained food, clothing, and tools. She looks at the political and economic debates surrounding the valuation of gold and the emerging industrial economy that exploited its extraction in Alaska, and explores the ways in which a web of connections among America's transportation, supply, and marketing industries linked miners to other industrial and agricultural laborers across the country. The profound economic and cultural transformations that supported the Alaska-Yukon gold rush ultimately reverberate to modern times.
The story Morse tells is often narrated through the diaries and letters of the miners themselves. The daunting challenges of traveling, working, and surviving in the raw wilderness are illustrated not only by the miners' compelling accounts but by newspaper reports and advertisements. Seattle played a key role as "gateway to the Klondike." A public relations campaign lured potential miners to the West and local businesses seized the opportunity to make large profits while thousands of gold seekers streamed through Seattle.
The drama of the miners' journeys north, their trials along the gold creeks, and their encounters with an extreme climate will appeal not only to scholars of the western environment and of late-19th-century industrialism, but to readers interested in reliving the vivid adventure of the West's last great gold rush.
About the Authors
"This environmental history of a gold rush is as surprising, revealing, and complicated as gold itself. I know of nothing quite like this wry and clever book."—Richard White
"If you're only allowed one book about the Klondike Gold Rush, I suppose it has to be Jack London. But this volume definitely comes next—-a wonderfully compelling account of what it actually felt like to pack up and head to the Yukon. Scholars will find it provocative and deep, but all readers will find it absorbing, touching, funny—-a truly revealing window on our national history and our national character."—William McKibben
"The Nature of Gold follows environmental history's prescription to examine how people know nature through labor. But this is no myopic study of gold seekers trudging up Chilkoot Pass and then lighting the fires that thawed the frozen earth for mining. Kathryn Morse recognizes how profoundly the economic and political culture of the 1890s shaped the rush for gold in Alaska and the Yukon. And she details the varieties of interconnected human and animal labor that sustained the Klondike rush, from the Native peoples who hauled supplies over the pass, to the woodcutters who provided the fuel for steamboats, to the packhorses and sled dogs who moved gods from place to place, to the local fishers and hunters and distant farmhands and meatpackers who kept the miners and their beasts fed. The Nature of Gold effectively and seamlessly blends both older and newer environmental history methodologies, and does so in an eminently accessible and compelling prose style."—Susan Lee Johnson, University of Wisconsin—Madison
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