THE S.S. PORTLAND STARTED THE ALASKA GOLD RUSH!

Cruise and Social History: The S.S. PORTLAND started the Alaska Gold Rush!

On July 17, 1897, the steamship Portland arrived in Seattle from Alaska with 68 miners and a cargo of “more than a ton of solid gold” from the banks of the Klondike River in Canada’s Yukon Territory. This set off a rush to Alaska and an era of prosperity in King County that lasted for more than a decade

(Left: Seattle residents woke to the sound of newspaper boys hawking an extra edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer with headlines of GOLD)

The article began, “At 3 o’clock this morning the steamer Portland from St. Michael [Alaska] for Seattle, passed up the Sound with more than a ton of solid gold aboard.” The Post-Intelligencer scooped the other Seattle newspapers when its reporter, Beriah Brown Jr., took a tug from Seattle to the Strait of Juan de Fuca and waited for the Portland to pass by. Brown was the son of Beriah Brown (1815-1900), a former P-I editor and Seattle mayor.

The tug, Sea Lion, met the Portland off Cape Flattery, and Brown embarked the inbound steamer and interviewed some of the gold miners. Then the tug headed full speed to Port Townsend. Brown ran to the telegraph operator’s home and roused him and wired the story to the Post-Intelligencer: “A ton of gold is coming to Seattle.”

The Post Intelligencer issued the extra edition before the Portland docked. The news spread fast and by 6 a.m. a crowd of more than 5,000 greeted the Portland when she tied up to Schwabacher Wharf.

The famous “Ton of Gold” that started the Alaska Gold Rush was unloaded here in 1897. The S.S. Portland landed the valuable cargo at this pier ten known as Aschwabacher dock.
Erected National Maritime Day 1957

Among the Portland’s passengers were:

William Stanley, a former Seattle bookseller, and his son, who went to the Yukon valley in 1896 and returned with from $90,000 to $112,000 in gold dust and nuggets;

Frank Phiscator from Baroda, Michigan, who spent just three months in Alaska and disembarked the Portland with from $96,000 to $120,000 in gold;

T. J. Kelly, a Tacoma resident, who returned from the Klondike with $10,000 in gold;

Clarence Berry, a Fresno, California, fruit farmer and his wife, who unloaded off the Portland about $135,000 in gold dust and nuggets.

After all the gold was weighed the Post-Intelligencer’s one-ton estimate turned out to be too low. The actual amount unloaded from the Portland was two tons.

People were immediately infected with Klondike Fever. By 9:30 a.m. the city’s downtown streets were so crowded with people that some streetcars were forced to stop running. Seattle Times reporters, longshoremen, and others quit their jobs on the spot and looked for passage to Alaska.

William D. Wood (1858-1917), mayor of Seattle, who was attending a convention in San Francisco, telegraphed his resignation and headed to Alaska without even stopping in Seattle.

Local merchants quickly sold out of miners’ supplies.

The fever spread across the United States quicker than any virus.

Within 24 hours, 2,000 New York residents attempted to buy tickets for the Klondike, unsuccessfully because the locals had already bought them. Within 10 days, 1,500 persons departed Seattle for the gold fields.

The rush was on.

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About Michael L. Grace

MICHAEL L. GRACE is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. SNOOPY continues to be one of the most produced shows (amateur & stock) in America/Worldwide and has had long running productions in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and in London's West End. There are over 100 individual productions every year. He has written movies for TV, including the award-winning thriller LADY KILLER, various pilots and developed screenplays for Kevin Costner and John Travolta. Besides co-writing and co-producing SNOOPY, he wrote and produced the one-man play KENNEDY. He produced P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD by pulitzer prize winning author James Kirkwood. He wrote the stage thriller FINAL CUT which had productions in the UK, South Africa and Australia. His one-man play, KENNEDY - THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH, was developed for HBO and has starred Andrew Stevens, Gregory Harrison and Joseph Bottoms. He has recently been involved in European productions with CLT-UFA, Europe's leading commercial television and radio broadcaster. He wrote MOWs THE DOLL COLLECTION, THE BOTTOM LINE and LAST WITNESS for German television. While in college and graduate school he worked as a foreign correspondent for COMBAT, the famous leftwing Paris daily, and as a travel writer. He visited more than 50 countries. He struggled as an actor, then joined the enemy and entered the training program at William Morris. He became a publicist and worked for Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, at Paramount and MGM. He followed with a brief stint as a story executive, working in the frantic horror genre period of the early 80s and wrote THE UNSEEN. He went onto write for episodic television and develop series pilots. He was a continuing writer on such series such as LOVE BOAT, PAPER DOLLS, and KNOTS LANDING. He developed screenplays for such major award winning directors as Nicolas Meyers, Tony Richardson and J. Lee Thompson. He has written for all the major networks and studios. He has been hired numerous times as a script doctor, doing many uncredited rewrites on TV movies and features. He is currently writing A PERSON OF INTEREST, a thriller novel, and, IT'S THE LOVE BOAT... AND HOW IT CHANGED CRUISING BY SHIP a non-fiction book dealing with how the hit TV series as a major cultural phenomenon and altered the style of cruising by ship. He was raised in Los Angeles. He attended St. Paul's, USC and the Pasadena Playhouse. He received a B.A from San Francisco State University where he majored in theatre arts and minored in creative writing. He is listed as a SFSU leading alumni. He also apprenticed at ACT - The American Conservatory Theatre. For a brief period he had intentions of becoming an Episcopal(Anglican) priest and attended seminary at Kelham Theological College in the UK. When "the calling" wasn't there, he left seminary and did graduate work at the American University of Beirut. He has guest lectured at USC, UC San Diego, McGill, Univ. of London and the Univ. of Texas on the business aspects of making a living and surviving as a writer, focusing on development hell, in the Hollywood entertainment industry. Grace is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America, the Dramatist Guild and former regional chairman of the Steamship Historical Society of America. He resides in Palm Springs.

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