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  • The 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition

    by Lyndsey Blair, Curatororial Intern | Jun 03, 2015

    AYP Gold_bricks from Scandinavian American Bank,_A-Y-P,_1909
    Gold Bricks from Scandinavian American Bank inside A-Y-P’s Alaska Building

     In 1907, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Klondike Gold Rush, Seattle’s civic leaders decided to organize a world’s fair.  World’s fairs (or international expositions) played a prominent role in American and European society from the late nineteenth century until World War I.  These events provided fairgoers the chance to experience the latest cultural, educational, and technological trends from around the world.  Expos also offered host cities the opportunity to demonstrate their importance within the international community.  Seattle’s civic leaders used theirs to promote the city as a gateway to the resources of Alaska, the Yukon, and Asia. 

    AYP Aerial_view_of_the_Alaska-Yukon-Pacific_Exposition_-_1909
    Aerial View of A-Y-P Expo

    Seattle’s world’s fair, officially known as the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition (A-Y-P), opened on June 1, 1909.  Organizers rescheduled to avoid conflicting with the 1907 Jamestown Exposition in Norfolk, Virginia.   This decision proved advantageous as it gave developers two extra years to plan the expo, which was held on the University of Washington’s campus.

    A-Y-P was not only a celebration of Seattle’s recent growth but the development of the larger Pacific Northwest.  Several counties, territories, and states from this region had their own exhibits and/or buildings to educate three million fairgoers about their resources.  For example, the Alaska Building had information about the territory’s timber, whaling, and petroleum industries.  It also featured several gold displays, including a heavily fortified case with more than one million dollars in gold bricks, nuggets, and dust.

    AYP Official_guide_to_the_Alaska-Yukon-Pacific_Exposition_-_Seattle,_Washington,_June_1_to_October_16,_1909_-_Cover
    Official A-Y-P Guide Book with Logo

    AYP Klondyke_Dance_Hall_and_saloon on Pay Streak,_A-Y-P,_1909
    “Klondyke Dance Hall” on A-Y-P’s Pay Streak

    Gold played an important role throughout the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition.  For example, A-Y-P’s official logo featured a goddess holding gold nuggets.  Meanwhile, AYP Souvenir_Taft_Day_official_program_-_Front_cover
    the fair’s midway (or entertainment zone) was called “The Pay Streak.”  This term is a mining reference to the location in a stream where gold has deposited.  Even President Taft got into the spirit (Pictured: “Taft Day Official Program” from A-Y-P Expo). During his two-day expo visit, the president mined for gold in the Alaska Building and also received an honorary Arctic Brotherhood degree.  The Arctic Brotherhood, a fraternal organization of Klondike gold- stampeders formed in 1899, played a large role in organizing the fair.  

    A-Y-P officially ended on October 16, 1909.  While most of the expo’s buildings have since been demolished, the fair’s memory lives on. 

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  • No Place For A Lady? Think Again

    by Johanna M. Blume, Eiteljorg assistant curator of Western Art | Jun 01, 2015

    While men may have outnumbered women in gold camps throughout the West, women were very much a part of the fabric of community life. Some came to the gold regions with their husbands, fathers, sons, or brothers; some struck out on their own; some made their livings by doing tasks traditionally done by women at the time, such as cooking and laundry; others ran hotels or prospected for gold. Prostitutes plied their trade from the brothels and dancehalls that proliferated in gold rush towns. Middle- to upper-class women were often at the forefront of efforts to elevate the moral character of their communities, spearheading campaigns to build libraries, schools, and hospitals and to provide relief to those who had fallen on hard times. Women’s experiences in the gold rushes were nothing if not diverse.

    2009.0
    Barge on Yukon River, Klondike Gold Rush
    , 1898
    Image courtesy of the Washington State Historical Society; 2009.0.1900

    woman's outfit
    Woman’s Ensemble, ca. 1885
    Silk, lace
    Loan courtesy of Deadwood History, Inc., Days of ’76 Collection

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  • Forging Community | What life was like in Gold Rush towns

    by Johanna M. Blume, Eiteljorg assistant curator | May 29, 2015

    This is the only hotel in this vicinity, and as there is a really excellent bowling alley attached to it, and the barroom has a floor upon which the miners can dance, and, above all, a cook who can play the violin, it is very popular.
    —Louise Clappe, Indian Bar, California, October 7, 1851

    In California the richest diggings were isolated in the northern ranges of the Sierra Nevada. The gold camps were often temporary, as most gold seekers did not intend to stay in California after making their fortunes, and this in turn contributed to a rougher character overall. However, these communities were not without their luxuries. Most gold camps contained a sampling of shops and businesses, roadhouses, and drinking and gambling establishments. The camp at Rich Bar even had a bowling alley!

    San Francisco served as a hub of social and business activity for the thousands of people coming in to and going out of California during the gold rush. Many who made their fortunes, whether through mining for gold or “mining the miners,” settled in the city and became part of the city’s elite class.

     eliza jane steen johnson-for blog
     Untitled (Eliza Jane Steen-Johnson), ca. 1852
    Image courtesy of the Collection of the Oakland Museum of California. Gift of Barbara Smith; H96.44.1

    Eliza Steen-Johnson and her husband settled in San Francisco after emigrating from Ireland in 1850. They owned and operated a dry goods store and hat shop in the city.

    On Saturday May 30 at 2 p.m., join Gold! curator, Johanna Blume, for a gallery talk that explores what life was like in gold rush communities, with a special focus on the stories of women in the California, Black Hills, and Yukon-Klondike gold rushes.

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  • Gold Quartz Jewelry

    by James H. Nottage, Eiteljorg chief curatorial officer | May 13, 2015
    _MG_5865
    Brooch, 1860s

    Loan courtesy of Greg and Petra Martin
    Photography by Hadley Fruits

    Fine jewelers, along with gold- and silversmiths, were among the citizens who made up the new populations of gold rush California. Many of those who found wealth showed it off with watch chains, brooches, and other jewelry made with sections of gold-rich quartz. A number of firms rose to prominence by making this unique form of jewelry in San Francisco. They included J. W. Tucker & Co.; George Shreve & Co.; Barrett & Sherwood; and Braverman & Levy. Supposedly, even President Abraham Lincoln had an example of gold quartz jewelry. An elegant purse made of panels of gold and gold quartz, remarkable boxes, and even a model of the Parthenon were created for the wealthiest of clients. Watch fobs and brooches were often designed to hold loved ones’ pictures or locks of hair.

    _MG_5896

    Watch and Chain, 1860s
    Watch by American Waltham
    Gold quartz, gold, enameled face
    Loan courtesy of Greg and Petra Martin
    Photography by Hadley Fruits

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  • On the Banks of the Yukon Far Away

    by Johanna M. Blume, Eiteljorg assistant curator | May 11, 2015


    On my log cabin home beside the Yukon / Old aurora throws her bright and brilliant ray. / Thro’ her beams I see the snow clad mountains gleaming, / On the banks of the Yukon far away.

    —Lyrics from On the Banks of the Yukon Far Away, 1910, words and music by Martin T. Chester

    To Klondyke we’ve paid our fare / Our golden slippers we soon will wear / We’ll live on pig and polar bear /  And gather the nuggets we know are there.

    —Lyrics from To Klondyke We’ve Paid Our Fare, 1897, words and music by H. J. Dunham

    The allure of gold has captured the imagination of dreamers and adventurers throughout time. Gold rushes like the Klondike not only drew prospectors and speculators to the goldfields, they also inspired many creative works that influenced popular culture at the time, including novels, plays, songs, and even board games. Some of these works were created by people with firsthand knowledge of the gold rush, others by people who had never set foot in the Klondike region. The gold fields of the Far North figured prominently in the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, the 1909 World’s Fair held in Seattle, Washington. These creative endeavors allowed people from all over the world to vicariously experience the excitement and adventure of life in the Klondike.
    Klondike March of the Gold MinersThe Chilkoot March
     











    Sheet Music Covers
    Loan courtesy of Greg and Petra Martin.

    The Klondike Gold Rush inspired many composers. Alfred Roncovieri, who wrote The Chilkoot March, actually spent time in the Klondike gold camps.

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    _MG_6022

    The Klondike Game, 1896–1902
    Parker Bros.
    Loan courtesy of the University of Alaska Museum of the North
    Photography by Hadley Fruits

    The famous game company Parker Brothers created and marketed this board game during the peak years of the Yukon-Klondike gold rush. The game play mimicked the actual journey to and from Dawson City, and the player who collected the most gold nuggets by the end of the game won.

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