After suffering through the 1893 world-wide depression, Seattle took off in 1897 when the steamerPortland groaned into port and expelled a ship full of prospectors guarding sacks full of gold. Headlines and flyers announced the news to the world and sparked the Klondike Gold Rush — a migration that lasted not much more than a year.
The headlong rush to the Yukon came shortly after a depression where many who had found work again felt trapped in office, factory, or low-paying retail jobs. They grabbed the chance to set off for the real frontier, the vast Alaskan wilderness that offered the bold an opportunity to earn their fortunes.
My father, Hans Pederson, a fearless risk taker, joined the exodus. “He was among the first to answer the call of the North when the manhood of the world stampeded toward the arctic and the sparkle of gold,” notes his obituary. He and a partner crammed themselves aboard a ship and joined the throng of prospectors who washed up on Alaskan shores like flotsam on the tides.
He didn’t stay long enough to make his fortune. He returned to Seattle, and during the first half of the 20th century, instead became one of the city’s largest contractors..