________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 18 . . . . May 11, 2001

cover Rush For Gold, The Klondike Gold Rush, 1897. (The People's History of the West).

David Newman (Director). Joe MacDonald & Keith Packwood (Producers).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 1991.
20 min., 7 sec., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9190 110.

Subject Headings:
Northern Canada.

Grades 5 and up / Ages 10 and up.

Review by Kristin Butcher.

*** /4


"The Klondike fever had lasted just two years - from the summer of 1897 when the first news reached the outside world, until the summer of 1899 when word of a new gold strike in Nome, Alaska emptied Dawson.

One hundred thousand people had started north for gold. Only about thirty or forty thousand ever reached the Klondike. Half this number continued their quest for gold and, of these, only four thousand found any. A few hundred found gold in quantities large enough to call themselves rich, but only a mere handful managed to hold onto their wealth. And yet - gold or no gold - for most, the Klondike was the greatest adventure of their lives."

Rush for Gold is one of the videos included in "The People's History of the West" collection. As the title indicates, it chronicles the events of the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897. Snippets of honky-tonk music play in the background as a succession of sepia-coloured photographs from the era fill the screen and the narrator tells of the trials and tribulations of the men who mucked for gold in the inhospitable North. The authenticity of the information is enhanced through the inclusion of anecdotes recounted by the men and women who experienced gold rush fever firsthand.

      It began in mid-1897 when a ship docking in Seattle brought news of a gold strike in Bonanza Creek, Yukon. Like a virus, the hunger for gold infected the masses. Coastal towns, such as Victoria, became economic hives of activity as men scurried to procure mining licenses, supplies, and passage north to gold country. The video accompanies the miners during their sea voyage to Skagway and from there on up the formidable Chilkoot Pass to the their claims. It tells of the many hardships they had to endure: the cold, the unforgiving terrain, food shortages, greed and crime, and even the pitfalls of success. The video explains how mining methods changed during the short two-year period, with one-man claims giving way to much larger company operations. It also chronicles the welcome arrival of the railroad and the development of Dawson City as the hub of northern civilization. But, as quickly as it had started, the Klondike Gold Rush was over. In 1899, word of another strike had the would-be millionaires hurrying to Nome, Alaska, to seek their fortunes there.

      This video would provide an interesting supplement to related social studies units. Closed captioning for the hearing impaired is available through the use of a decoder.


Kristin Butcher, a former Winnipeg teacher, now lives in Victoria, BC, and writes books for children.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364