Document 14: "The Klondike Year"

"The Klondike Year," in Seattle Argus, December 18, 1897.

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The year 1897 will be known in the history of Seattle as the year of the Klondike, for in that years the weight of depression which had been crushing the city down to the earth and her people into the deep slough of bankruptcy was suddenly removed by an influx of gold from the far North and of gold-seekers from all states and nations. In a single day Seattle burst the bonds of poverty and restricted trade which had held her a prisoner for four years, she leaped into vigorous liberty, straightened her bent back, flashed the fire of hope from her weary eyes and fixed the attention of the world by her proud position in the gateway of the road leading to the golden land of the North. The sudden change was wrought by a fast-swelling stream of gold, which poured into the arteries of her trade, to enrich the impoverished blood. The flow first began from the frozen bosom of Mother Earth on the great Yukon river and its tributaries, but the sight of it, and the news of it, brought forth other streams from the many hidden sources to which the panic ahead driven it, and they all flowed towards Seattle. The current had set strongly towards Seattle, for the people of that city had been working for years and had dug their channels wide and deep, foreseeing what a great stream might flow through them. At first it came only in a little trickle, as the first drippings of water from the snowfields at the opening of spring. But year by year it grew in volume, until now, in this auspicious year 1897, it has become a mighty torrent, filling to overflowing the reservoirs built to store it and the pipes laid to distribute it among the people. For trade, like water, follows the line of least resistance, and when the laws of nature, seconded by the energy of man, have cleared the way for it, flows along the channel thus created, and any obstacles placed in its way in defiance of natural law will give way before it as the ramparts of sand before the incoming tide. Seattle had her trade connections established with the miners of the Yukon basin and the towns of the Alaskan coast; her merchants had learned what they wanted and had equipped themselves to supply it; she was the starting point of the steamship lines running to the Alaskan ports and was the terminus of three transcontinental railroads, all actively competing for traffic and carrying people from a wide stretch of country; her bankers had prepared themselves to buy the product of the mines and exchange it for the coin of the republic; her citizens, driven forth by misfortune, were chief among the pioneers who had been going out for years to dig new fortunes from the frozen earth, and they, loyal to their home and fired by the Seattle spirit, had carried the news of their city's advantages into the remotest regions which they penetrated. In short, Seattle had been wide awake and had made ready to grab the ripening plum when it should drop from the tree.

Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest