Seattle Now & Then: Klondike Fever on First

(click to enlarge photos)

THEN: During the few years of the Klondike Gold Rush, the streets of Seattle’s business district were crowded with outfitters selling well-packed foods and gear to thousands of traveling men heading north to strike it rich – they imagined.  (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
THEN: During the few years of the Klondike Gold Rush, the streets of Seattle’s business district were crowded with outfitters selling well-packed foods and gear to thousands of traveling men heading north to strike it rich – they imagined. (Courtesy, Museum of History and Industry)
NOW: The Henry M. Jackson Federal Building filled the block in 1974
NOW: The Henry M. Jackson Federal Building filled the block in 1974

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.”

A Rainier Club portrait of Erastus
A Rainier Club portrait of Erastus Brainerd by Ed. Curtis.  (Courtesy, Rainier Club)

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

Clipped from The Times for Sept. 16, 1897.
Clipped from The Times for Sept. 16, 1897.

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.” 

The Portland in port in 1897, having returned with its "ton of gold" to the Schwabacher Wharf
The Portland in port in 1897, having returned with its “ton of gold” to the Schwabacker Wharf with the Pike Street dock to the far (north) side.

 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.

TIMES clip from March 9, 1998
TIMES clip from March 9, 1998

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.

One of the early trials of the Klondike rush was the need to build a boat on south shore of Lake Bennett before continuing on to the Klondike River.
One of the early trials of the Klondike rush was the need to build a boat on the south shore of Lake Bennett before continuing on to the Klondike River.

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.

Silas Munro confirms his ownership of the storefronts shown in the featured photo at the top.  The new brevity is clipped from The Times July 4, 1901.
Silas Munro confirms his ownership of the storefronts shown in the featured photo at the top. This news brevity is clipped from The Times July 4, 1901.   The business news  at the bottom about the Pacific Meat Co. and the Kellogg Mill Co. is a bonus.

WEB EXTRAS

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.

THEN: Looking south on First Avenue from its northwest corner with Madison Street, circa 1905.  (Courtesy Museum of History and Industry)

THEN:  Lawton Gowey’s afternoon look south on the east side of First Avenue from Madison Street during the “spring of love” in 1967.  All three structures – notably the Rivoli Theatre at Madison St. on the left and the Stevens Hotel at Marion – were then slated for destruction.

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SOME CLIPS of OTHER FEATURES

Appeared first  in Pacific, Feb. 10, 1991.
Appeared first in Pacific, Feb. 10, 1991.

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Fast service, and some of it light.  Note the offered Aluminum   .  First appeared in Pacific, July 30, 2005.
Fast service, and some of it light. Note the sign advertising “Portable Aluminum  Houses.” . First appeared in Pacific, July 30, 2005.

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The S.S. Ohio at the Schwabacher Wharf preparing to steam off to Nome, Alaska.   (Courtesy, Jim Faber)
The S.S. Ohio at the Schwabacker Wharf preparing to steam off to Nome, Alaska. (Courtesy, Jim Faber)
First appeared in Pacific on August 29, 2004 and soon after in Jean and my book, Washington Then and Now, of which, please note, we still have a few hardbound copies.
First appeared in Pacific on August 29, 2004 and soon after in Jean’s and my book, Washington Then and Now, of which, please note, we still have a few hardbound copies.

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First appeared in Pacific, July 1, 1990.  CLICK to ENLARGE
First appeared in Pacific, July 1, 1990. CLICK to ENLARGE

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Yesler-Klondike-OUtfits-Yesler-and-3-WEB

There is a journalism convention embraced in larger pulps that the authors of features do not title them.  The title is the most commercial part, an alarm for the consumer, and so requires a special marketing sensitivity, which the author cannot be trusted to have or care about.
There is a journalism convention embraced by larger and more professional  pulps that the authors of features do not title them. The title is the most commercial part, a sensational cue for the consumer, and so requires a special marketing sensitivity, which the author cannot be trusted to have or care for.  First appeared in Pacific, Jan. 22, 1989.

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Marc Cutler poses in front of the Richards Building in Bellingham, 2004, and as he confides, he "aint dead yet."
Marc Cutler poses in front of the Richards Building in Bellingham, 2004, and as he confides, 11 year later he still  “aint dead yet.”

RICHARDS-BLDG-sign

The earliest gold rush hereabouts was to the Fraser River in British Columbia.  Many of the argonauts trekked thru Whatcom (Bellingham) on their way to the gold fields, which were a spectacular failure except for the merchants of Bellingham.
The earliest gold rush hereabouts was to the Fraser River in British Columbia. Many of the argonauts trekked thru Whatcom (Bellingham) on their way to the gold fields, which were a spectacular failure except for the merchants of Whatcom/Bellingham.

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Frye Opera House, ca. 1887.   At the northeast corner of Marion and Front (First Ave.) it was one of the grander victims of the city's Great Fire of June 6, 1889.
Frye Opera House, ca. 1887. At the northeast corner of Marion and Front (First Ave.) it was one of the grander victims of the city’s Great Fire of June 6, 1889.
Lawton Gowey record of the same corner (at First and Marion) during the 1967/8 construction of the SeaFirst Tower and before the razing of the Hotels Stevens for construction of the Federal Building.
Lawton Gowey’s record of the same corner (at First and Marion) during the 1967/8 construction of the SeaFirst Tower and before the razing of the Hotels Stevens for construction of the Federal Building.

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Alaskan Painter Sydney Lawrence's landscape of his home territory - one of many hundreds.
Alaskan Painter Sydney Laurence’s landscape of some unidentified part of Alaska – one of many hundreds.  Born in Brooklyn in 1865, Laurence settled with his first wife in the artists’ colony of St. Ives, Cornwall form 1889 to 1898.  He won an award in the Paris Salon in 1904, about the time he left his family for Alaska.  He died in Anchorage in 1940.   His work is still popular and dear.  Sydney struck it rich in Alaska, with his smaller paintings now selling in auction for around ten thousand and the larger ones for more than two hundred thousand.  This Laurence was captured on slide by Horace Sykes, without comment on its size or who owns it.

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