Beginning in 1897 and continuing into the twentieth century, Seattle was in the golden grip of “Klondike Fever,” a hysteria promoted by the Chamber of Commerce and its agent Erastus Brainard, perhaps the highest of hucksters in our history. Through every publication he could charm, Brainerd linked the gold fields of the North, waiting to be gathered by shovel and/or pan, with Seattle. “To speak of one is to speak of the other.”
Here two teams and their drivers pose on the northbound tracks and cable slot of the Front Street Cable Railway. The equine posers are backed by an array of businesses with signs that are both freshly painted and ambitious. For instance, add a Thedinga Hardware to a
Columbia Grocery and you get an Alaska Outfitters. Business district streets were lined with similar opportunists. The likely date is 1898, a year after the instantly famous steamer Portland arrived on the waterfront with its “ton of gold.”
This plenitude of miners’ supplies filled many of the sidewalks on Front (First Avenue) and Commercial Streets (First Avenue S.): mostly bags stuffed, for example, with evaporated foods, boots, pots, picks, slabs of bacon, lentils, and several variations on corn (corn meal, pop corn and corn cob pipes at 35 cents a dozen). Some of this piling of sacks can be seen on the far left and also behind the wagons. Two blocks south at Columbia Street, the sidewalk in front of the Toklas Singerman Department Store was piled ten-feet high, eleven-feet wide, and eighty-feet long. Throughout the district many sidewalk trees were sacrificed for sacks.
Next door to the south (right) of the Alaska Outfitters, the Yukon Supply Company claims to “sell only the best goods manufactured.” H.H. Peterson, the manager, explained to a Seattle Times reporter, “The city is full of strangers intending on purchasing an outfit for the North, and supplying for a long journey and longer stay is something new to them.” Ready to enable, Peterson would know that by far most of those he outfitted would return from the Yukon, or the Klondike, not enriched but exhausted.
Far left in the featured photo at the top, a “Frederick, Nelson & Munro” sign tops the rear wall of that still fondly remembered department store, then at the northwest corner of Madison Street and Second Avenue. Silas Munro was the third partner, but not for long. Imagining that the gold fever would soon cool, Munro sold out to his partners and purchased this southeast corner of First Avenue and Madison Street. Both Thedinga Hardware and Columbia Grocery were evicted when their leases ran out at the end of June 1901, and Munro built in place of these single-story storefronts the five-story Palace Hotel.
Anything to add, lads? Ron Edge has two packed links to contributed directly below. Both are of the same east side of First Ave. between Madison and Marion. We encourage our readers to explore them and their own links – some which may be repeated – and so on (and on). We will also slip in some clips from past features having to do with outfitting for the “traveling men” or the neighborhood on Front Street (First Ave.) around Marion Street or near it.
One thought on “Seattle Now & Then: Klondike Fever on First”
I found your link while searching my ancestor George C Kinnear. Should you have any further information and pictures of him and family plus any significant buildings of his, I would be happy to receive.
Robert R Kinnnear, 69, Civil Engineer
Originally from Dundee, father James, surgeon, from Forfar whose own father also Robert Kinnear and CivilbEngineer, partner of Kinnear and Peddie or vice versa depending , on generation.