Gamblers and Dreamers
264 pages, 6 x 9
Over 120 b&w and colour figures and tables
Release Date:01 May 1998
Release Date:15 Apr 1998
Release Date:01 Oct 2007

Gamblers and Dreamers

Women, Men, and Community in the Klondike

UBC Press

The popular image of the Klondike is of a rush of white, maleadventurers who overcame great physical and geographical obstacles intheir quest for gold. Young, white, single American men carried forwardthe ideals and structures of the western frontier. It was a man'sworld made respectable only after the turn of the century with thearrival of white, middle class women who miraculously swept out thecorners of dirt and vice and 'civilized' the society. Theseimpressions endure despite recent attempts to correct them.

Gamblers and Dreamers tackles some of the myths about thehistory of the North in the era of the gold rush. Though manyinhabitants came and went, Charlene Porsild focuses on the concept ofcommunity commitment to show that many put down roots. This in-depthstudy of Dawson City at the turn of the century reveals that the cityhad a cosmopolitan character, a stratified society, and a definitepermanence. It examines the lives of First Nations peoples, miners andother labourers, professionals, merchants, dance hall performers andsex trade workers, providing fascinating detail about those who lefthomes and jobs to strike it rich in the last great gold rush of thenineteenth century. In the process, Gamblers and Dreamers putsa human face on this compelling period of history.


  • 1999, Winner - Clio Award (North), Canadian Historical Association
  • 2000, Winner - W. Turrentine Jackson Prize, Western History Association
Charlene Porsild could walk the Chilkoot Trail blindfolded. She knows every rock and stone along the way, every acre of fire-scarred earth ... the information she uncovered ... Has challenged myths about the Yukon at the turn of the last century. Vancouver Courier
Porsild ... Exhaustively examined  Dawson census records and carefully considered hundreds of goldrush diaries and personal memoirs. Her conclusions, published in Gamblers and Dreamers: Women, Men, and Community in the Klondike, may force a revision of the popular images ... The inclusion of many fine old photographs make this an especially worthwhile work.  The Beaver, December 1998 / January 1999
Porsild's pioneering work is the first social history of the Klondike gold rush based on primary and archival research. ... Until now, no one has tackled the tremendous wealth of diaries and private papers housed in the various provincial and territorial archives to give a fully rounded picture of life in Dawson City and the gold fields at the beginning of the 20th century ... Excellent illustrations. All levels. W.R. Morrison, Choice
Charlene Porsild was born in the Yukon and raised innorthern Alberta. She teaches Canadian and American History at theUniversity of Nebraska and is the editor of the Great PlainsQuarterly journal. She is a well known expert on the Klondike andhas appeared on PBS for the "Gold Fever" episode of TheAmerican Experience (aired in Canada on May 12, 1997).

Maps and Tables



1. Gamblers of a Hundred Hells and Dreamers from the Seven Seas

2. The Original Yukoners and the Klondike Gold Rush

3. The Thrill of the Chase: Miners and Other Labouring People inDawson

4. The Scarlet Ladder: Work and Social Life in Dawson’sUnderworld

5. ‘Like Flocks of Migrating Geese’: Social Workers andReligious Life in the Klondike

6. Sterling Reputations and Golden Opportunities: The Professionaland Business Sectors of Dawson

7. Women, Men, and Community in the Klondike

Appendix: Quantifying the Klondike




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