By August 1896 there were 45 states and a handful of territories making up the United States of America. For many, the great adventure seemed at an end, with no more areas to conquer. Americans went about their days in a sense of complacency, finding adventure in dime novels and theatrical presentations.
Everything changed that August when Skookum Jim, a Native American of the Dakhl’wedi clan and his brother-in-law, George Carmack, made a major gold strike on Bonanza Creek in Canada’s Yukon Territory. Word spread first to miners working in nearby camps and soon many of the good claims in the area were staked and miners bringing out thousands of dollars of gold each.
Of course news spread more slowly in the pre-television or Internet era, and it wasn’t until July 14, 1897 that those in the continental U.S. got the news. And the news was delivered with a punch. That day, the steamship Excelsior docked at San Francisco. On board were miners bringing $500,000 worth of gold with them. On July 17, miners aboard the Portland came on board at Seattle with $1 million in gold. The rush was on!