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Fine Early Map From One of the Earliest Reports on the Alaskan Gold Fields

Rare early state of Joseph Burr Tyrrell's comprehensive map of Central Alaska and the Klondike Region, published in 1898, which appeared in Sam. D. Dunham's report on The Alaskan Gold Fields and the Opportunities They Offer for Capital and Labor, one of the earliest reports on the gold fields (Bulletin of the Department of Labor No. 16, May, 1898).

The map provides an excellent over view of the various routes to the Gold Diggings, with tables providing statistical information and notes regarding the experiences of a number of the explorers who opened up the route.

  • Yukon and other Routes Distances, Navigable Streams (with notes)
  • Koyukuk River Distances From Konootena River
  • Copper River Distances From Alaganik Explored in 1885 (with extensive notes)
  • Tanana River Distances From Tuklukyet (with extensive notes)
  • Cook Inlet Distances and Notes
  • Yakult Bay Distances and Notes
  • Dalton Trail Distances (and notes on the Variety of Game in Alaska)

Hayes Route from Ft. Selkirk to Taral on the Copper River is shown (Schwatka and Hayes route from Fort Selkirk), as is the Dalton Trail and numerous other shorter trails between rivers in the gold regions.

Some of the notes are quite colorful.  For example, for the Copper River, Tyrrell notes "Mr. Davies the only white man who ahs journeyed from the source to mouth of the Copper River states that his surface prospecting failed to show traces of gold, but indications of copper were strong . . ."

Within the body of the map are notes on the depth and navigability of certain rivers, portage information, speed of the currents in rivers and other details for travelers. Includes a large inset "Map of Juneau."

The map is an early state of the map which would later be published by Tyrrell in Oakland and Washington D.C. The later state, which is printed with color and offered for sale for 50 cents. The later edition includes additional information in the various tables, additional topographical details, soundings and additional place names.  The title information is also siginficantly revised.  both are Photolithographs published by Norris Peters Co. in Washington, D.C.  

While the map shows a copyright to "J. B. Tyrrell," the maker of the map is almost certainly Joseph Burr Tyrrell (1858 - 1957), a Canadian geologist, mapmaker and mining consultant, who was just then making the transition from the Geological Survey of Canada to the gold mining industry. Even more curious is the notation that the map was compiled from US Government and other sources, making no mention of the Canadian Geological Survey.

Tyrell also published a Map of the Klondike Gold Field and vicinity. ... By J.B. Tyrrell in Dawson City in 1899 (one known example -- British Library). The Royal Geographical Society's Geographical Journal for 1899 (volume 13, page 692) lists Tyrrell as a Mining Engineer in Dawson City and notes:

Presented by the Author. This map includes the results of the latest official surveys, and will doubtless be useful to those having an interest in the Klondike Gold Fields. It is apparently reduced by photography from a larger map, with the not unusual result that some of the names are too small to be read with ease.

Tyrelll also published Gold Region Approaches By Copper River and The Dalton Trail . . . , which is recorded in two known examples, plus a third we handled in 2012.

Another of Joseph Burr Tyrrell's contemporary publications was List of plants collected by Mr. J. B. Tyrrell in the Klondike region in 1899, (Ottawa Naturalist for December, 1899, vol. xiii, no. 9, p. 209-218.). Tyrrell published a number of works on Gold Mining, including The Gold of the Klondike, in 1912. Tyrrell also took many photographs of the communities and mining operations in the goldfields. The Tyrrell collection is held by the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library in Toronto. It includes Klondike photo albums, prints, glass plate and cellulose negatives, and glass lantern slides dating from 1898 to 1905. He also acquired the biographical recollections of David Thompson and published them as David Thompson's Narrative . . . in 1916.

Joseph Burr Tyrrell

Originally trained as a lawyer, Tyrrell joined the Geological Survey of Canada in 1881 and led a number of expeditions to Western Canada over the next 15 years. This map of the Klondike Region marks Tyrrell's transition into the gold-mining industry, a career which he would pursue for the next 50 years.

Tyrrell had gone to the Klondike area in 1898. There he recognized the potential for making money which far exceeded his Geological Survey wages. He resigned from the Geological Survey and went back to the Yukon. Once back in Dawson, Tyrrell opened a mining consulting business, despite having no formal training. The business proved quite successful in investigating possible claims. Tyrrell moved his firm to Toronto in 1907 to be closer to his family and take advantage of the cobalt and silver rush taking place in northern Ontario. In 1924, he invested in the Kirkland Lake gold mine in eastern Ontario, finally realizing his fortune.

His contributions to the history of Canada are well doumented. The Royal Society of Canada awards the J.B. Tyrrell Historical Medal in recognition of Tyrrell's outstanding work in the history of Canada.

Klondike and Yukon Gold Rush

The history of the mining boom in the Klondike and Yukon regions begins in 1896. In August 1896, three people led by Keish (Skookum Jim Mason), a member of the Tagish First Nations, headed north, down the Yukon River from the Carcross area, looking for Keish's sister Kate and her husband George Carmack. The party included Skookum Jim Mason, his cousin, known as Dawson Charlie (or sometimes Tagish Charlie), and his nephew Patsy Henderson. After locating George and Kate fishing for salmon at the mouth of the Klondike River, they ran into Nova Scotian Robert Henderson who had been mining gold on the Indian River, just south of the big dike. Henderson told George Carmack about where he was mining and that he did not want any "Siwashes" (meaning Indians) near him.

On August 16, 1896, the Skookum party discovered rich placer gold deposits in Bonanza (Rabbit) Creek, Yukon. The news spread to other mining camps in the Yukon River valley. Gold was first discovered in Rabbit Creek, which was later named Bonanza Creek. The Bonanza, Eldorado, and Hunker Creeks were rapidly staked by miners who had been previously working creeks and sandbars on the Fortymile and Stewart Rivers.

News reached the United States in July 1897, at the height of a significant series of financial recessions and bank failures in the 1890s. The first prospectors arrived in San Francisco, California on July 15 and in Seattle, Washington on July 17, setting off the Klondike stampede. In 1898, the population in the Klondike may have reached 40,000, which threatened to cause a famine.

The boom brought many interesting people, including William Howard Taft (Camp Skagway #1), who went on to become a U.S. President; Frederick Russell Burnham, the celebrated American scout who arrived from Africa only to be called back to take part in the Second Boer War; and W. W. White, author and explorer.

Most prospectors landed at the Alaskan towns of Skagway and Dyea, both located at the head of the Lynn Canal. From these towns they traveled the Chilkoot Trail and crossed the Chilkoot Pass, or they hiked up to the White Pass and then to Lake Lindeman or Bennett Lake, the headwaters of the Yukon River. Here, the prospectors built rafts and boats that would take them the final 500-plus miles down the Yukon to Dawson City, near the gold fields.

The miners had to carry a year's supply of goods over the passes to be allowed to enter Canada. At the top of the passes, the miner's met Canada's North West Mounted Police at a post that enforced the provisions regulation, as well as customs and duties. It was put in place to avert shortages like those that had occurred in the previous two winters in Dawson City, and also to restrict the entry of guns, particularly handguns, into British territory. Another reason was to keep out of Canadian territory the criminal element which had established itself in Skagway and the other Yukon Ports (then still claimed as British territory), as well as the fears by British and Canadian authorities about a possible armed takeover of the goldfields as an American territory.

Once the bulk of the prospectors arrived at Dawson City, most of the major mining claims of the region were already established. However, any major potential unrest with the idle population was averted with the firm authority of the North West Mounted Police, under the command of Sam Steele.


The map is very rare.  We note no examples of the map offered at auction or in dealers catalogs and only a single example of Dunham's report offered for sale (Scribners, Catalog 124, 1941).

Joseph Burr Tyrrell Biography

Joseph Burr Tyrrell (1858 – 1957) was a Canadian geologist, cartographer, and mining consultant.

He is perhaps best known for his discovery of dinosaur (Albertosaurus) bones in Alberta's Badlands and coal around Drumheller in 1884.

Tyrrell graduated from Upper Canada College in 1876 and received a law degree from the University of Toronto in 1880. Shortly after his admission to practice, his doctor advised him to work outdoors due to his health.

He joined the Geological Survey of Ottawa in 1881, leading or participating in numerous explorations. He led the 1893 and 1894 expeditions into the Northern Barren Lands - down the Dubawnt River - the first visit to the Kivalliq Region Barrenlands by a European since the explorations of Samuel Hearne in the 1770s. Younger brother, James W. Tyrrell accompanied Tyrrell on the expeditions, which included first European contact with the Ihalmiut, an Inuit people, now almost extinct.

In 1894, Tyrrell stumbled upon biographical recollections (11 books of field notes, 39 journals, maps and a narrative) of Canadian overland explorer, cartographer and fur trader David Thompson and, in 1916, published them as "David Thompson's Narrative".

Tyrrell went into the gold-mining business in 1898, a career that would last more than 50 years. He was mine manager of the Kirkland Lake Gold Mine in northern Ontario for many years.