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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

Appendix J. Retail Prices, Dawson, 1897-1907.

This appendix gives the comparative retail prices for staple commodities in Dawson, in outfitting centres and in the T. Eaton Company catalogues from 1897 to 1907. The information has been gathered from sources almost as widely spread as the bibliography itself, and for this reason, no attempt has been made to footnote specific references. The sources most heavily relied on were the Dawson Daily News (1899-1907) and, of course, Eaton's catalogues for the years in question. In the cases of many commodities there are, inevitably, gaps, and in others there is such a plethora of suggestions as to the "actual" price of an item that the choice is difficult. In the summer of 1898 the market was so erratic that the wide range of prices quoted is quite understandable.

Some attempt has been made to allow for the most obvious seasonal variations by making a rough division of prices into two categories. "Summer" and "winter" might be reasonably interpreted as "shipping season" and "storage season." Even so, there are bound to be variations within seasons. Where such variations are particularly pronounced, two or more figures have been listed in chronological order. Prices during the winter of 1902 show this trend.

"Outside 1897-98" is a general reference to the outfitting centres. Prices in Edmonton, Vancouver, Toronto, Seattle and San Francisco have been used, and while there were great differences among them, the variation is minimal compared to the prevailing prices inside.

The prices of the T. Eaton Company, as quoted in the company's annual catalogues, have been used as something of a reference point. The area which these catalogues covered was such that the prices they gave would have been competitive across the country, and for that reason they may be used here as a sort of national average — although the term is used very loosely. Eaton's lists covered a wide variety of goods in every area. In some cases two prices have been recorded to cover this range.

This appendix covers the following years and areas:

1897-98: outside outfitting centres

1897: Dawson, summer and winter (this was Dawson's "Starvation Winter")

1898: Dawson, summer

1900: Dawson, summer

1902: Dawson, summer and winter and Eaton's catalogue

1905: Dawson, summer and winter and Eaton's catalogue

1907: Dawson, summer and Eaton's catalogue.

Hopefully this selection will serve to show, first, the general trend of retail prices in Dawson between 1898 and 1907; second, the variations in Dawson prices on a seasonal basis, and third, the variation in prices between Dawson and the outside both during and after the rush.

Unless otherwise stated, all prices are given per pound. The following abbreviations have been used:

cs.: case

t.: tin

pck.: package

sp.: spring — that is, the price quoted during the last weeks before breakup. If there was a shortage of this item, the price will be higher than it had been during the winter, on the average; if there had been a glut, it would be lower.

(click on table for a PDF version)

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