Eiteljorg Musuem Blog
  • 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.



    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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  • Deadwood | Cooperation and Conflict

    by Johanna M. Blume, Eiteljorg assistant curator | May 04, 2015

     P_38839- deadwood south dakota
    Deadwood, South Dakota, ca. 1876
    Photographer: Howard
    Image courtesy of Braun Research Library Collection, Autry National Center, Los Angeles; P.38839
    Chinamen had no rights in the Hills that the whites were bound to respect, but it is different now. The celestials receive the same protection in our courts of law that white men are favored with.
    Black Hills Daily Times, October 23, 1877

    The white man is in the Black Hills like maggots, and I want you to get them out as quick as you can. The chief of all thieves (General Custer) made a road into the Black Hills last summer, and I want the Great Father to pay the damages for what Custer has done.
    —Baptiste Good, 1875

    Like many gold rush communities, Deadwood was a hub of human activity. Its population was diverse, composed of immigrants drawn by the gold discovery from far and wide to a region that had already been home to the Lakota for generations.

    In some cases, people from different backgrounds found ways to cooperate with one another. For example, the Chinese population of Deadwood found an ally in Jewish businessman Solomon Star. During his twenty-two years as mayor, Star did much to protect the interests and traditions of the Chinese community. In other cases, people could not surmount their differences and conflict ensued. Deadwood was illegally located on Lakota land, and hostilities between the town’s new residents and the Lakota persisted for many years.02678u- the race

      The Race. The Great Hub-and-Hub Race at Deadwood, Dak., July 4, 1888, Between the Only Two Chinese Hose Teams in the United States, 1888
    Photgrapher: John C. H. Grabill
    Image courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division; LC-DIG-ppmsc-02678

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  • Eiteljorg Insider | Meet Curatorial Intern Lyndsey Blair

    by Lyndsey Blair, Eiteljorg curatorial intern | Apr 22, 2015

    Lyndsey Blair
    Howdy! My name is Lyndsey Blair, and I am a second-year graduate student in the Public History Master’s program at IUPUI.  For the past nine months, I have served as the Eiteljorg’s curatorial intern.  Much of this time has been spent researching information related to the museum’s latest exhibit, Gold! Riches and Ruin.

    For this exhibit, I read numerous articles and books by respected historians, examinedlyndsey blair - WP_20150225_003 first-hand accounts in newspapers, letters, and journals, and viewed thousands of historic photographs.  These resources have given me a greater understanding of the California, Black Hills, and Yukon-Klondike gold rushes.  The most important point I learned was that these rushes not only affected the miners (who were from a variety of backgrounds) but American society as a whole. Some of these changes were beneficial, while others were not.   For example, this phenomenon turned fledging western towns like San Francisco into bustling cities, led to advances in railroad transportation and mail delivery, and inspired new works of art, music, literature, and fashion.  But this event also exposed racial and ethnic tensions in mining camps and nearby cities with diverse populations and resulted in the genocide of thousands of Native Americans. 

    Lyndsey blair 2 - WP_20150225_007Beyond the academic knowledge I have gained from this internship, I have also learned a lot about the museum world.  Much of the work that occurs in museums is a collaborative process, and the same can be said for the Eiteljorg.  With this latest exhibit, staff members spent hundreds (and possibly thousands) of hours planning, researching, and installing the show.  Of course there are the curators, whose work has already been addressed.  But it is also important to recognize the contributions of the designers, the education department, the marketing team, and the maintenance and security staff.  All of these people played important roles in this exhibit.  In the end, I am very grateful to have been part of Gold! and hope visitors enjoy seeing all our hard work!

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  • Pay Dirt

    by Johanna M. Blume, Eiteljorg assistant curator of Western art | Apr 16, 2015
    I maintain that science is the blindest guide that one could have on a gold-finding expedition. Those men who judge by the appearance of the soil, and depend upon geological calculations, are invariably disappointed, while the ignorant adventurer, who digs just for the sake of digging, is almost sure to be successful.

    —Miner quoted by Louise Clappe, April 10, 1852

    Dutch Flat was a very prosperous mining town years ago, but now, with many other towns that have engaged in mining, it is rapidly on the decline. The cause of this is that hydraulic mining, which was the mode of mining here in the mountains, has been stopped by order of court. The complaint being that the tailings, or debris, from the mines was washed into the lands of the farmers in the valleys below.
    —Frank Liebling, Dutch Flat, California; The Sabbath Visitor, November, 1887

    During the California gold rush, placer mining—sifting through loose deposits of dirt, sand, and/or gravel, usually in or along stream beds—was the most common practice. Miners used a variety of tools to extract any gold that might be found, including hand tools such as gold pans; shovels; pick axes; larger equipment like rockers, sluice boxes, and “long toms”; and heavy machinery like stamp mills. Rockers, sluices, and long toms all used water, gravity, and the weight of the gold to separate the ore from the sediment. Stamp mills were used to crush larger rocks into finer particles, releasing the gold for further processing.

    Another method of gold mining that developed in California was hydraulic mining, a fast and effective means of loosening gold-bearing dirt through the use of highly pressurized water. After years of conflict between miners and farmers over its detrimental effect on the surrounding landscape and its impact on agriculture, the practice was banned in California in 1879.
    dag-0100b-spanish flat
    Spanish Flat, ca. 1852
    Photographer:  Joseph B. Starkweather
    Image courtesy of the California State Library, California History Room

    Hydraulic Mining near French Corral, Nevada County,
    Hydraulic Mining near French Corral, Nevada County, 1866
    Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division; LC-USZ62-9889

     Miner’s Coat of Arms, 1856
    Britton & Rey (lithographer and publisher)
    Courtesy of the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley
    BANC PIC 1963.002:0086—A

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  • Ship of Gold

    by James H. Nottage, Eiteljorg vice president and chief curatorial officer | Apr 16, 2015

                After it became apparent that the ship must, sooner or later, surrender to the angry elements, the scene among the passengers on deck, and throughout the vessel was one of the most indescribable confusion and alarm.
    Detroit Free Press, September 23, 1857

    New York Times, September 19, 1857

    The Greatest Treasure Ever Found
    LIFE, March 1992

    The SS Central America (earlier named the SS George Law) was a 280-foot sidewheel steamer that transported passengers and freight from the West coast to the East. In September of 1857 it sank in a hurricane off the coast of North Carolina, killing 425 of the nearly 580 passengers and crew. Until the 1980s it rested at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, 8,000 feet below the surface, with more than 30,000 pounds of California gold on board. Loss of the treasure contributed to the worldwide financial panic of 1857, from which the United States would not recover until after the Civil War.

    The coin and gold bars in this case are from among the hundreds of bars and thousands of coins recovered using a deep-water submarine.

    Gold bars recovered from the wreck of the SS Central America
    Gold bars recovered from the wreck of the SS Central America
    Loan courtesy of CPB
    Photography by Hadley Fruits

    Wreck of the Steamship Central America
    Wreck of the Steamship Central America
    J. Childs
    Image courtesy of the Mariners’ Museum, Newport News, VA; LP2438

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