The Nature of Gold: An Environmental History of the Klondike Gold Rush

Paperback | February 11, 2010

byKathryn MorseForeword byWilliam Cronon

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In 1896, a small group of prospectors discovered a stunningly rich pocket of gold at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon rivers, and in the following two years thousands of individuals traveled to the area, hoping to find wealth in a rugged and challenging setting. Ever since that time, the Klondike Gold Rush - especially as portrayed in photographs of long lines of gold seekers marching up Chilkoot Pass - has had a hold on the popular imagination.

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.

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From the Publisher

In 1896, a small group of prospectors discovered a stunningly rich pocket of gold at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon rivers, and in the following two years thousands of individuals traveled to the area, hoping to find wealth in a rugged and challenging setting. Ever since that time, the Klondike Gold Rush - especially as portr...

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NEW IN PAPER-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 emergi...

Kathryn Morse is assistant professor of history at Middlebury College in Vermont.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.78 inPublished:February 11, 2010Publisher:University of Washington PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0295983302

ISBN - 13:9780295983301

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Table of Contents

Foreword by William CrononAcknowledgmentsIntroduction: On the Chilkoot1/The Culture of Gold2/The Nature of the Journey3/The Culture of the Journey4/The Nature of Gold Mining5/The Culture of Gold Mining6/The Nature & Culture of Food7/The Nature & Culture of SeattleConclusion: Nature, Culture, and ValueNotesSelected BibliographyIndex

Editorial Reviews

In 1896, a small group of prospectors discovered a stunningly rich pocket of gold at the confluence of the Klondike and Yukon rivers, and in the following two years thousands of individuals traveled to the area, hoping to find wealth in a rugged and challenging setting. Ever since that time, the Klondike Gold Rush - especially as portrayed in photographs of long lines of gold seekers marching up Chilkoot Pass - has had a hold on the popular imagination.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.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