On this date in 1896, gold was discovered in the Yukon Territory in Canada, sparking the Klondike Gold Rush. George Carmack, Skookum Jim Mason, and Tagish Charlie found the gold in Rabbit Creek, near Dawson. They christened the creek “Bonanza Creek,” and word spread among the locals, who staked claims and were soon gathering up the plentiful ore.
The discovery of large amounts of gold didn’t hit the Seattle and San Francisco newspapers for almost a year, but when it did, a hundred thousand people set off for the Yukon to make their fortunes. A few thousand did indeed strike it rich, but the rest made the arduous journey for nothing. There are famous photographs of the long lines of prospectors and their pack animals trekking through the snowy mountains, all of them heavy laden because the Mounties required everyone to bring a year’s supply of provisions. But starvation was not uncommon, and one man reportedly boiled his own boot so he could drink the broth. His story inspired the famous boot-eating scene in Charlie Chaplin’s silent feature The Gold Rush (1925).