Klondike Gold Rush collection donated to UBC

Assembled over 50 years, Phil Lind’s Klondike collection is valued at $2.5 million

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Phil Lind’s family has an unusual rite of passage: hiking up the Chilkoot Trail between two ghost towns dating to the Klondike Gold Rush: Dyea, Alaska and Bennett Lake, British Columbia.

On paper, it doesn’t seem that long, about 53 kilometres. But Lind says it can take four or five days, because it’s a challenging hike through rough terrain, including climbing a 1,100 metre-high mountain.

Lind’s grandfather Johnny Lind did it in 1894, when he went prospecting in the Yukon and Alaska. When gold was discovered at Bonanza Creek in the Klondike in 1896, he was one of thousands of miners who flooded into the region around Dawson City.

Until a railway was built, they all had to hike up the Chilkoot Trail, which sounds unimaginably hard, especially in the fierce northern winter.

“There was a requirement by the Mounties to enter Canada with 2,000 pounds of gear,” said Lind. “So they had to head from the bottom, crawl up to the top with say 50 or 100 pounds, turn around, come back down, and up and down, up and down. Sometimes 20, 30 times.”


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Phil Lind’s grandfather Johnny in the Klondike.
Phil Lind’s grandfather Johnny in the Klondike. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG

Inspired by his grandfather’s time in the Klondike, Phil Lind started collecting gold rush material: rare books and photographs, rare maps and posters, old newspapers and ephemera.

Some items boggle the mind, like a giant panorama photograph of Dawson City in Sept. 1898 that’s stitched together from four separate large prints. When they’re placed together, it’s over twelve-and-a half-feet long and almost two-and-a half-feet high (384 by 74 cm).

Assembled over 50 years, his collection became so extensive it was designated “a cultural property of outstanding significance” by the federal government’s Department of Canadian Heritage.

Lind feels it’s time to share it, and has donated the collection to his alma mater, the University of British Columbia.

“I think British Columbia is the natural repository (for the collection), unless it’s up in Whitehorse, because B.C. is really central to the gold rush story,” said Lind, noting that there were a series of gold rushes in the west, starting in California in 1849 before shifting to B.C. in 1858 and the Klondike in 1896. “It was just a progression.”

The collection includes over 500 books, 1,800 photos and 74 maps, as well as diaries and letters and other personal items from the estimated 40,000 people who went to the Klondike in the late 1890s and early 1900s. The value of the donation is $2.5 million.

“It is a collection of the very first rank, and a very important part of the history of British Columbia and Western Canada,” said UBC President Santa Ono. “It’s a great way for students and faculty from around the world to study this history.”


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Vancouver was one of the cities where people bound for the Klondike would buy their gear and set out from, and the collection includes several photos and booklets of Klondike-era Vancouver. But most of the material is from the Klondike itself, including some amazing photos from the long, brutal winters.

“There is a picture of a fireman in Dawson after the fire in ’99 (in the winter),” said Lind. “Their beards are down to their chest and then there’s icicles down to their waist. I mean … they were just fighting fires! They got soaked in water and they don’t look like they’re human.”

Lind’s grandfather was an experienced placer miner by the time he arrived at Dawson City, and did well.

“He made money, by our standards today a lot of money,” said Lind, a vice-president of Rogers Communications in Toronto.

“But he kept it, that was the difference. A lot of guys made money up there, but they blew it because they thought it was a renewable resource.

“Guys were making a million…

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