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Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 26

Grubstake to Grocery Store: Supplying the Klondike, 1897-1907

by Margaret Archibald


This report examines the Yukon trade in provisions and general merchandise during and immediately after the Klondike gold-rush. At the peak of the rush, 1897-98, large American mercantile firms which were experienced in Yukon River trade competed along with other outfitters, wholesalers and distributors for a lasting slice of the Yukon trade. From this outfitting rush grew an enduring hinterland relationship between the Yukon and its primarily west-coast suppliers. Dawson's dependence on the outside world for supplies was total.

Bearing the necessary outfit, each goldseeker who arrived at Dawson in 1898 was a potential entrepreneur. When these tons of goods had been redistributed by the end of the season a recognizable merchant element had emerged. Over the next season supply lines for a more stable market were established and Dawson's merchant community became more specialized and sophisticated, at the same time showing an observable hierarchy and considerable civic spirit. In the long run, the large diversified commercial companies were in the best position to weather that period of rapid post-gold-rush economic reduction which markedly reduced Dawson's mercantile ranks.

Submitted for publication 1975, by Margaret Archibald, History Research Division, Parks Canada, Ottawa, Ontario.

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