1897 Gold Rush Archive

Value (2006) | $3,000 Auction$5,000 Auction

My grandfather decided to go to Alaska to look for gold. And he wanted to show his wife how he lived and where he lived, so he drew these pen-and-ink drawings, and also... he gathered things from his environment and just built this diorama.

Well, I've got to tell you that these represent to me an incredible rarity in American history. When gold was discovered in the Canadian Yukon in 1896, it set off one of the great, last gold rushes of the 19th century. By 1897, 30,000 miners had started out from Seattle and had landed in little towns like Skagway and were going up over the mountains 600 miles into the interior.


They had to carry all their supplies for an entire year. By the next summer, in 1898, the whole thing was over. Gold had been discovered again in Nome, and all the miners left to go to Nome. So for your grandfather to have drawn these pictures of his adventures in Alaska, including his cabin here,


showing the miners going up over the passes with their mules... I love the one with the horseshoe sort of signifying, "Oh, boy, good luck." The fact that these made it back to the States is absolutely staggering, that he had the presence of mind to bring these back over 600 miles with him.

Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

There are lots of photographs of the Gold Rush that were taken of miners going up over the Chilkoot Pass and the White Pass. I have never seen any drawings done by miners from the Gold Rush. That doesn't mean they don't exist-- I just haven't seen any in 20 years. Uh, the diorama that he put together with the lichens and the moss and his little cabin there is unique. But the drawings are wonderful. There are two drawings of his log cabin, and this one here... I think it's so interesting he decided he wanted to show the latch to the cabin, so there's a detail of the actual, the cabin latch.


Well, it's hard to put a value on these because they're so rare, but I would guess that the whole collection might bring $3,000 to $5,000. That's how rare they are.

Oh, my.

It's a great little time capsule of an important period in American history, and I was thrilled to see them.

Thank you. He never found any gold.

Appraisal Details

Cowan's Auctions, Inc.
Cincinnati, OH
Appraised value (2006)
$3,000 Auction$5,000 Auction
Mobile, AL (July 08, 2006)

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