The North Gallery
Dawson City, founded by Joe Ladue and named for George Dawson, was at first a village of tents, swamps and mosquitoes. But the wealth generated from mining soon smoothed the roughness away. More women and children arrived, and families rather than single miners became the dominant social force in the community.
People living in Dawson were richer and better equipped than in many other Canadian cities and Dawson was often referred to as “the Paris of the North.” Dawsonites were very concerned that Dawson be “just as good as any southern city,” and took great pains to keep up with all the latest fashions. Architecture in Dawson took on the flamboyance of the late Victorian age with accentuated trimmings, white picket fences and frame houses replacing the log cabins. The Yukon river and the sternwheelers who sailed it were a life line for Dawson bringing supplies and mail.
Much of the payment for goods and services in Dawson was made in gold dust. It was customary to turn your back when paying with gold dust as a sign of trust, but many bartenders were less than trustworthy. They kept their fingernails long to trap gold dust, and would periodically clean the gold out from under their nails by running their hands through their hair, which was well oiled so the gold would stick. At the end of the night they would rinse out their hair and collect their “tips”. These dishonest practices had to be conducted discretely as the North West Mounted Police were bound and determined to keep law and order in Dawson. They did not hesitate to give undesirables free one-way passage on the next boat out. This dreaded punishment was known as a “blue ticket.”
Prostitution was another vice that was tolerated in Dawson, though it too was illegal. The red light district was located between Front Street and Second Ave, and soon became known as “Paradise Alley.” The girls who worked in Paradise Alley were bound to follow strict rules set out by the NWMP, or they would be given a blue ticket out of town. They were not allowed to advertise or solicit business on the street, they could not start work before 4pm, and they were obligated to have a monthly medical inspection.
As quickly as the gold rush began, it was over. Gold was found in Nome Alaska in 1900, and miners left in droves in search of their fortune. Those who stayed were joined by their families and Dawson became a more stable family oriented community. The introduction of large-scale mechanized mining in the form of bucket-line dredges kept Dawson from becoming a ghost town in the years after the gold rush.
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